Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia

Descent into Chaos: The United States & the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan & Central Asia - Ahmed Rashid In a recent news briefing invalidating American criticism of the anti-extremists campaigns in Pakistan; asserts the Pakistani Army chief that the army (Pakistani) has broken the “backbone” of Islamist militants in the country. Gen. Kayani’s high claims on the resourceful operations against the militants were met with ambiguity by political critic, as the country is consistently shaken by terror attacks with a dominant insurgency stirring on the Afghan-Pak borders.Central Asia is a recent example, where the crucial roles of hard and soft powers were cluttered and mismanaged, resulting in the reproduction of terror fertile lands. The roles of hard power (military or any form of coercive authority) and soft power (Soft power can be wielded not just by states, but by all actors in international politics, such as NGOs or international institutions) are critical in risk management areas and the lackadaisical attitude can be detrimental. So, when Rashid emphasizes on Central Asia being the “Terrorism Central” and the most volatile sector propagating terrorist philosophers; the probability certainly should not be disregarded. The Central Asian panorama houses nation –states troubled with political and economic disparities with highly porous borders. It is the most under studied and significantly overlooked area in counter-terror policies. Ethnically diverse, impecunious milieu, geographically tedious and politically corrupt makes it one of the muddled impenetrable landscapes.Chiefly scripted in Musharraf era, it raises question as to why and how Pakistan trickled down to becoming a militant haven.Hounded vastly by troubled bureaucratic governance and the ISI clandestinely supporting terror outfits for strategic benefits is “decapitating political elites and drowning the country in blood”, as Rashid aptly puts it. Moreover, the age-old question of Kashmir that looms in the vulnerable grounds of India-Pak relations does little to hinder the growing terror susceptibilities. Over the years the frequent failure of peaceful strategic talks between the two countries has only fuelled the insurgency in the periphery of Central Asian domain. Rashid speaks as a concerned citizen struggling to find peaceful resolution to the terror pandemonium and laments on missed opportunities that would have helped in curbing the alarming menace. Probing validity of the Iraq War over the actual menace festering at the Afghan border appears reasonable enough to detect the incompetence of imposed foreign policies. The lack of communication and information between the United States, NATO and other major European countries thwarted the reconstruction empowering the people of Afghanistan. On this note, the author claims that at the end the rebuilding of Afghanistan was left to CIA and the Department of Defense; which I found was a bit frenzied. Also, President Karzai’s total dependence on the United States and other major financial institutions to re-build Afghanistan seemed immature. No shameless amount of money can stabilize a structure when the groundwork itself is crippled with treachery and misguidance. Although the concluding passages of the book emphasizes on the fact that the Afghan government must be able to deliver a stable legislative configuration reasonably free of tribalism and bribery; yet it questions the integrity and responsibility of Karzai as a President and a leader to his countrymen. Most of the Asian political landscapes thrive in nasty web of corruption. The influx of foreign currency embracing fraudulent modus operandi of bureaucrats, drug/warlords, ministers and tribal chiefs becomes a deadly unison of political supremacy. The lack of foreign policies and the chaotic nation building in Afghanistan resulted in fertile terror pockets and sheltered dwellings of several extremist leaders. The vicious cycle of opium and heroin trading in the tribal regions of Afghanistan further crippled the economic propelling the landscape in the arms of terrorism. Poor farmers are duty-bound to opium farming by the tribal drug lords as they would rather feed their family than die of hunger. The worst part is when the fertile lands are sprayed by the military; the penurious conditions compel the populace to join various extremist organizations. It is a no-win situation. Terming Uzbekistan as the power keg in defining the role of terrorism in Central Asia and the affinity of terror to proliferate in any kind of political vacuity, it is about time that the political elite of high tier nation-states keep an a vigilance as Islamic extremism flourishes not only in the underprivileged places but also among the erudite and political mind sets