The Unwinnable War

A much redacted/trimmed version of this article appeared in The Daily Beast on August 17, 2021. This piece has a more expansive discussion of China and the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack on the Indian parliament. It also has a more expansive discussion of the shortcomings of SNTV in producing stable, legitimate political outcomes.

The indelible images of the fall of Saigon featured American helicopters departing from the roof of the US Embassy overflowing with Vietnamese seeking an escape from an uncertain and terrifying future. In 1975, some 125,000 Vietnamese refugees found refuge in the United States as a result of a US-sponsored evacuation program in the wake of the war. The images of the fall of Kabul are darker: Americans occupying the airport in Kabul, focusing upon evacuating their own while terrified Afghans cling to the departing C-17 aircraft. To disperse the crowds of Afghans on the runway, the US army flew attack helicopters lower over their heads. As of August 13, the United States evacuated 1,200 Afghans although that number is likely to rise to 3,500 in coming weeks.

Virtually every American news channel has been focusing upon the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who risked their lives every day to support the US military and civilian mission. This addition to countless more who worked with NATO and other wester embassies and multi-lateral organizations such as the United Nations. Everyone knows that the Taliban has a list of the so-called collaborators, and they are being hunted down and killed along with their families. However, many Americans are in a conundrum. They hear the figures recited: 2,448 US service members killed through April 2021; an estimated 3,846 contractors for whom there is no official count; another 1,444 other allied service members killed; 444 aid workers murdered; 72 journalists20,660 US soldiers have been injured in action; all at an estimated price tag of 2.3–6.5 trillion. What they are less likely to hear are these figures: at least 111,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since 2009 alone, when the United Nations began systematically recording civilian casualties. The Taliban killed so many members of the Afghan National Defense and Security forces in 2016, the American and Afghan governments decide to maintain their death and casualty figures a secret for fear of further eviscerating their morale. President Ghani said that 45,000 Afghan security forces were killed between the time he took office in 2014 and January 2009. Prior to the last two weeks, US officials estimated that about 30–40 were being killed each day. Obviously, the tolls of the injured are many fold this figure. While the war’s price tag looms large, vast majority of those “allocations” returned to the United States economy as much of the civilian and military activities were farmed out to US contractors with massive amounts of corruption, much of which has been committed by US entities and persons.

Rightly so, many Americans are asking whether massive loss of life treasure was worth it. What if I told you that this war, as the Americans fought it, was winnable in the first place and that we lost this war on the installment plan? Here are perhaps three of the American blunders that ensured this defeat.

Pakistan Was Always the Problem….and it still is

The biggest American blunder was going to war with the one country dedicated to undermining American objectives at every turn even while raking in tens of billions of dollars in the fictive guise of supporting them: Pakistan. Pakistan’s perfidy was evident from the earliest days of the war and it continues now, helping its assets — the Taliban — squeeze the democratic life from Afghanistan wherever and however it can.

On 7 October 2001, the United States entered Afghanistan from Tajikistan under the aegis of “Operation Enduring Freedom” with a small force of special operators. Their goal was to shore up the Northern Alliance after their leader, a murderous warlord known as Ahmad Shah Massoud, was grievously injured in the first suicide attack Afghanistan had ever experienced on 9 September 2001. No American pundit anticipated that the Taliban would fall so quickly. Many Afghan Taliban and their clients anticipated that the United States, furious at the Taliban for harboring Osama Bin Laden in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, would succeed and defected pre-emptively in hopes on being on the winning side. As the Northern Alliance took Kabul, the dedicated Taliban who aimed to fight another day headed south and took refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Meanwhile in November 2001 in Kunduz, the Americans granted Pakistan permission to conduct numerous sorties over two days in what is known as the Kunduz airlift or, according to US military personnel on the ground “Operation Evil Airlift.” Pakistani army officers and intelligence advisors who were working with the Taliban and fighting alongside them were trapped in Kunduz following Northern Alliance advances bolstered with US special forces. The United States permitted the Pakistanis to airlift this menagerie of despicables back to Pakistan using US-supplied transport aircraft. Special operators who witnessed this firsthand and with whom I’ve discussed this operation claim that the number of sorties was much larger than was reported. They believe there were dozens of sorties. While the Americans insisted it was supposed to be a limited evacuation of Pakistani military and intelligence operatives, uncountable Taliban and al Qaeda fighters were also ferried out of Kuduz by Pakistan’s “Evil Airlift.” That probably should’ve have been a good signal of what the Pakistanis would do as the conflict progressed. But Pakistan was just warming up.

On October 8, 2001, President Musharraf appointed a close advisor and Taliban sympathizer Lieutenant-General Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai to the Peshawar-based XI Crops. Aurakzai, with ostensible ties to the Tribal Agency of Orakzai, would lead the Pakistani forces deployed on the Afghan border to support the Americans who in December 2001 searching for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora cave complex. According to all-source intelligence reports, Bin Laden was in Tora Bora for several days in mid-December. Aurakzai’s forces were supposed to be playing the “anvil” to America’s “hammer,” by catching and/or killing al Qaeda and Taliban fighters escaping into Pakistani territory. That effort was short-lived.

On 13 December 2001, Jaish-e-Mohammad launched a suicide attack on India’s parliament in New Delhi. Due in large measure to the incompetence of the attackers, they killed nine and injured 18. The Jaish-e-Mohammad was a creation of the Pakistani state and its notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, and was a loyal proxy force of the same. Jaish-e-Mohammad, under the leadership of Masood Azhar, was loyal to the Pakistani hands that fed it even though part of the organization defected and regrouped under various names. It is extremely unlikely that the organization would have conducted such an outrageous attack with such tremendous strategic importance without the explicit go ahead of the Pakistani state. Had the attackers not bungled the assault, countless more would have died. India mobilized for war along the border with Pakistan in what was the largest mobilization since the 1971 war. They would remain in place until October of the following year after provincial elections were held in Kashmir.

The Indian army is a large, bulky, non-agile force. Pakistani generals “could see that India was shifting divisions from as far away as Calcutta, in the east, to the western frontier with Pakistan; it looked like the largest military mobilization in Indian history.” Pakistan’s khaki brass informed the Bush administration that it must swing its forces to the Indian border. Subsequently, Pakistan dispatched more than seventy thousand troops and their equipment — two full corps, or four divisions — to the Indian border. Pakistan left mostly Frontier Corps along the Afghan border. Not coincidentally, the Frontier Corps was precisely the organization that had previously trained the Taliban and myriad other militias that Pakistan trained and dispatched back into Afghanistan since 1974. Despite protests from American diplomats, Musharraf did not waiver. Even though the so-called ratlines or trails which wound through the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan are overdetermined by geography and geology and well-known to Aurakzai, they were conveniently unguarded Under General Aurakzai’s watch, Taliban and al Qaeda operatives “slipped” into Pakistan’s tribal areas. Aurakzai. There is a general consensus that by the end of December 2001, bin Laden escaped Tora Bora and fled to Pakistan where he was eventually killed by US special forces in May 2011 in a garish safe house in Abbottabad, a casual one-mile stroll from Pakistan’s Military Academy, its equivalent to the US West Point Military Academy

It’s hard not to draw connections between the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack and the Bin Laden escape. All of these years, I’ve wondered if the very point of the attack was to provide an excuse for Pakistani forces to leave the border unguarded as their proxies made their way back home to roost. This is all the more plausible because Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Taliban were joined at the hips, share Deobandi “theological” leaning and goose step to the tune of the ISI’s kazoo.

Oddly, despite Bin Laden’s escape with at least Pakistani passive if not active facilitation, the United States congratulated itself for its swift defeat of the Taliban. In fact, the Americans had only routed them. Safe again in their Pakistani sanctuaries, the Pakistan state silently helped their allies regroup and prepare for what would be their reinvigorated offensive in 2005 which would persist until Kabul fell this week. The United States was largely indifferent to the Taliban for many years in large measure because the George W. Bush administration was overly focused upon its Iraqi misadventure and because it narrowly focused upon al Qaeda. For all intents and purposes, al Qaeda had evacuated Afghanistan and sought out various safe houses in Pakistan. However, Washington was generally pleased with Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against al Qaeda because Pakistan regularly coughed up “Al Qaeda Number Threes” conveniently timed for the visits of Bush administration officials. Maybe Pakistan was helping to catch so many al Qaeda terrorists precisely because there were so many to catch in Pakistan?

While President Bush insisted that Musharraf was a loyal ally (pro tip: he wasn’t), the remaining sentient observers grasped Pakistan’s unending perfidious support to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other groups operating against American forces and their. In 2009, in an effort to stem the losses, the Obama administration was strong-armed by his generals to launch the so-called surge. The surge could never have worked for two reasons. First, the numbers were fictional. If we took Field Manual 3–24 on counterinsurgency seriously (and I did not), you would need about 450,000–500,000 troops in Afghanistan. We never had more than 140,000. Second, the surge misdiagnosed the problem: we were losing because of Pakistan. As the American and allied presence in Afghanistan increased, Pakistan became ever-more central. Even though Iran had been extremely helpful to the US and international efforts early on in Afghanistan and even though Iran continued to offer assistance to Washington first Afghanistan and then in Iraq for more than a year, the Bush administration rebuffed Iran and denounced it as part of an Axis of Evil. With Pakistan being central to sustaining the war in Afghanistan, the United States could not find a way of punishing Pakistan for murdering Americans and their allies despite being an ostensible ally.

No matter what Pakistan did, American officials found reasons to excuse Pakistan rather than treat it like the enemy it clearly was. Many believed that there was some magical combination of allurements that could transform Pakistan from the regional menace was and is, into a state that is at peace with itself and its neighbors. President Trump, despite his numerous other outrages, at least understood was Pakistan was and cut off the aid. But even Trump could not bring himself to do what needed to be done: apply every possible sanction against the Pakistani military, intelligence, and political personalities for which we have intelligence (and we slews of it) of supporting the Taliban and other Islamist terrorist groups which have long been the workhorse of Pakistani foreign policy.

Corruption: We built It

Second, only to our failures to properly handle the problem of Pakistan which had been waging jihad in Pakistan since 1974 (not a typo), the second major blunder was corruption. For those Americans who care enough to know that we have spent at least $2.3 trillion in Afghanistan, very few know that because the United States relied upon a complex ecosystem of defense contractors, belt-way banditry, and aid contractors as much as 80 to 90% of outlays actually returned to the US economy. Of the 10–20 percent of the contracts that remained in the country, the United States rarely cared about the efficacy of the initiative. While corruption is rife within Afghanistan’s government, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction repeatedly identifies bewildering corruption by American firms and individuals working in Afghanistan. In many cases, American firms even defrauded Afghans. A military member of the International Security Assistance Force, speaking about this under-discussed matter, explained to Carlotta Gall, “Without being too dramatic, American contractors are contributing to fueling the insurgency.”

It’s a story that Americans don’t want to hear: that we contributed to the massive corruption in Afghanistan. In some cases, it happened because USAID didn’t know how to allocate all the money it was expected to allocate and relied upon enormous institutional contractors and a complicated series of sub-contractors, all of whom took their overhead fees for the privilege of being a booking agency. USAID was drinking from a firehose and oddly didn’t seem bothered by the fact that it was effectively transferring US taxpayers’ money into the bank accounts of institutional contractors who enriched themselves in the process. By the time the leftovers reached Afghan implementing partners, there was neither interest nor ability to monitor those activities. Much of the funds were stolen or spent on poorly executed projects. This is why Asri Suhrke, for example, strenuously argued that less aid is actually more. She argued that fewer, smaller projects executed with less corruption would produce better results. But this was a fast-moving gravy train and everyone wanted to take a ride. The money just kept pouring in and the corruption kept growing. The US knew that corruption was losing Afghan hearts and minds. Afghans quickly became came to resent public displays of generosity when they understood that most of the money went into the pockets of US firms or dodgy Afghans who had little intention of aiding ordinary people. They also understood that the corruption was giving the Taliban grist for their mill of decrying the legitimacy of the Afghan government.

Proponents of the surge steadfastly ignored Pakistan experts and indeed General Stanley McChrystal didn’t even bother having a single competent Pakistan authority on his assessment team that produced the absurd proposal. Unsurprisingly, the surge made the United States more dependent upon Pakistan for ground lines of control (GLOCs) than ever before while doing little to develop genuine alternatives. The Northern Distribution Route could never carry more than 20% of the logistical demands and Russia insisted that it not be used for lethal goods. Given that this route was needed to resupply a war, Russia effectively rendered this route inutile. And even though the United States was perfectly capable of working with Pakistan — despite a well-known history of horizontal and vertical nuclear proliferation and decades of supporting terrorism — Washington could not palate the idea of finding ways of using Iran’s ports and safe road and rail network to supply the US-led NATO effort in the country.

General Stanley McChrystal, in his leaked interim commander’s report, also encouraged the United States to do something about the industrial-strength corruption in Afghanistan. But this was too hard and instead, everyone focused upon his surge idea. To win in Afghanistan — by any metric of winning — the international community had to foster better business practices amongst themselves and amongst their Afghan partners.

However, there is a darker side of the corruption fostered by the US government: it wanted to use corruption as a means of control. It secretly paid Afghans working in the government a secret, and often illegal, the second salary so that those officials would be the eyes and ears of the US government inside the palace. It could use such emoluments to induce desired behavior among compliant Afghans. And when that relationship soured, as it so often did, the United States could denounce that person for being a corrupt, bride-taking ne’er-do-well who traded his country in for personal gain.

The Myth of the Legitimate Leader

If the corruption aided the Taliban’s return to power, so did the failure of Afghanistan’s political system to produce a so-called legitimate leader. Biden officials have been busy the last two weeks castigating Afghan political leaders for “failing to come together” in aid of their country. It’s a nice narrative if, in fact, this was the fault of dodgy Afghan leaders. Unfortunately, the United States and its partners foisted upon Afghanistan a political system that would always be characterized by fragmentation and illegitimacy. How? The Afghan constitution itself was never appropriate for the country. US officials use to quip that we “gave the Iraqis the constitution that Afghanistan got, and we gave the Afghans the constitution that Iraq needed.” Part of the problem was that the United States wanted an Afghan government that would rubber-stamp its objectives. The easiest way of achieving this was to have a strong man as president. The Americans thought that Karzai was going to be their man in Kabul. To make sure that he was, they put several of his staffers on those afore-noted illegal salaries.

In 2003, President Karzai banned political parties. The United States went along with this because, in fact, the United States did not want an effective Afghan parliament to get in the way of its big ideas. Political parties function to aggregate interests as a bloc. If there are no political parties, Afghan politicians would have to form coalitions repeatedly. This was one way of keeping the parliament from getting in the way of the United States. Parties are now allowed to function, however, they are very week institutionally and individuals have little incentive to affiliate with any party. Efforts by civil society actors and NGOs to strengthen parties were hobbled by Karzai who strongly opposed them.

The next internationally-backed recipe for illegitimacy was the way in which Afghan elections are carried out. Elections for national and sub-national elections are not held on the same day. This means that each election is an opportunity for fraud, malfeasance in the election rolls, counterfeit ballots, and a raft of election-stealing techniques that the Afghans perfected often with American and international complicity. Elections for the lowest level of elected positions specified in Afghanistan’s constitution never even happened. So Afghans were not governed by elected officials at the provincial level. Instead, they were governed by strong men appointed by the President.

Then there was the electoral method itself that as much as anything ensured that no leader would have genuine legitimacy: the Single Non-Transferrable Vote or SNTV as the elections aficionados call it. Afghanistan is one of four countries that use this shambolic method of ascertaining the will of the people. That alone should have given the masterminds behind this scheme pause if they wanted to produce legitimate and stable electoral outcomes. Per this system, voters cast a single vote for individual persons unconstrained by any party structure. Even when parties have been allowed to function, multiple persons from the same weak party can contest the same seat. To an American accustomed to a two-party system and generally, only two candidates from which to choose, this may not seem obviously heinous. However, if anyone were to look at an Afghan ballot, there are often hundreds of persons contesting a single seat. This means that no candidate must secure a majority; rather, he or she need only get more votes than anyone else. And parties, such as they are, can win a majority in a legislative body with a small fraction of the overall votes.

Thomas Johnson provides a good example of the dysfunction of this system. He notes in his analysis of elections in 2014 that there were 664 candidates who competed for the 33 seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament (Wolesi Jirga) allocated for Kabul province. A total of 486,111 valid ballots were cast. The chairman of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan and former Vice President and the Minister of Planning in the interim government of Afghanistan, Muhammad Mohaqiq, secured the largest number of votes. Here’s the catch: he only secured 3.6% of the vote! How is it possible that he could legitimately claim to represent the will of Kabul province? Johnson calculated that that 21 of the 33 candidates elected to the Wolesi Jirga from Kabul were elected with less than 1% of the total vote in their district. How can this system produce legitimate and stable electoral outcomes? It can’t. And this was why it was adopted in the first place?

Now What?

Last night, during his address to the nation, President Biden doubled down on this criminal retreat that abandoned our Afghan partners to fend for themselves. Callously, he reiterated the same canards: that we couldn’t stay forever, that the Afghans need to fight for themselves, that Afghans need to find unity amidst diversity, and other nauseating bromides meant to serve as a salve on a nation’s heavy conscious. Know this. All of this is a lie. We never gave the Afghans a fighting chance.

PS: If you’d like to do something to help Afghans, consider the options listed here:

1. Sign this letter from Scholars at Risk urging Secretary Blinken to undertake a select set of clear, doable tasks to offer a modicum of security to Afghan scholars, researchers, and public intellectuals whose lives are now in great peril.

2. Donate to the organization of your choice raising funds to get SIVs here, find them homes, and provide basic home furnishings. These are the orgs to which I have donated so that you know I’m putting my money where my mouth and fingers are: and

3. Many of us with day jobs are writing op-eds or media for which we are paid, I’m donating ALL proceeds I receive to help Afghans. Obviously, if you’re a struggling writer, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. But most doing this have day jobs. This is pocket money for us. But with the average OpEd fee, you can help a dozen Afghans. Do I sound preachy? Yes. I won’t apologize.

4. If you’re offering your “hot takes” because you have something to say, be cognizant that many who read your well-intentioned hot takes on “empire” or whatever, fall on those of us who have worked in Afghanistan as offensive&triggering. Remember that many of our students have served in various capacity whether in the United States, Europe, Australia, India and of course Afghanistan and beyond. Do you want to make them think you’re a heartless ass with your ill-informed and posturing “hot takes”? Do you want your colleagues to think you’re a heartless ass with no actual experiences or understanding to underpin your “hot takes.”

5. Don’t just recirculate the tired wisdom of the grand white men of strategic grand strategery WHO GOT US INTO THIS MESS. Instead, LISTEN to the Afghans on Afghan twitter. Even if they write in Dari or Pashtu, Google translate does a fair job. LISTEN MORE to them.

6. Don’t recycle/ legitimize Pakistani talking points that: The Taliban freed Afghans; Pakistan is the REAL victim here; that this was US imperialism when the most enduring imperialists have been the Pakistanis. They’ve been trying to subjugate Afghanistan since the late 50s.

7. Finally, if you are a US citizen reach out to your congressional representation. If you are American, you find your 2 senators and house rep here: If you are not a US citizen and your soldiers or civilians worked alongside Afghans, reach out to your parliamentary reps. We may not get the outcome we desire, but we don’t have to it here bitching when we CAN take steps.

America’s Leadership Has Presented False Choices in Afghanistan

Note that an edited, and much-abbreviated version of this appeared in Foreign Policy on 16 August 2021. This extended piece has more details.

U.S. President Biden has abandoned the Afghans to fend for themselves against the Taliban. By following a course of policy established by his ignominious predecessor, President Donald J. Trump, Biden has defiantly asserted that he does not regret his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan even after provincial capitals are falling like dominos to the Taliban and even as Kabul itself expected to fall within weeks. The United States begged the Taliban for assurances that they will not attack the US Embassy as the United States callously scrambles to evacuate US personnel, leaving our long-standing Afghan partners to fend for themselves as the Taliban hunt them down and their families. American officials are busy offering sanctimonious repines that justify America’s exeunt from the country. They have announced to American and international audiences that the time has come for the Afghan national security forces to seize the reins of their nation’s defense; that Afghan leaders must unite and fight for their country; that the United States has done enough. This is rank nonsense and President Biden knows it. The United States did not do enough and even enabled the current onslaught.

What makes this current situation more unforgivable is that Biden did not come to this situation unaware. Unlike President George H. W. Bush, who genuinely was befuddled by the region and historically ignorant, the Obama administration in which Biden served benefited from a raft of experts including the former CIA analyst Bruce Reidell and long-time South Asia watcher Peter Lavoy, who was the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia, among numerous others.  Prior to the 2008 election, there were numerous assessments about the war in Afghanistan and the myriad ways in which Pakistan was undermining US efforts there. Obama’s incoming team, led by Bruce Reidell, spear-headed the so-called assessment of assessments and offered refreshingly blunt insight into the perfidy of Pakistan in aiding and abetting the Taliban and undermining US efforts, despite benefitting handsomely from American emoluments.  Despite this benefit of wisdom and knowledge, Biden continued several courses of policy that has led to the current sanguinary crisis for Afghanistan’s citizenry.

It’s Pakistan: Stupid

President Biden, like the earlier president he served, knows that Pakistan is the major force behind the Taliban. Without Pakistan’s unstinting support for the Taliban, this group would be a nuisance rather than an effective fighting force. The United States, far from doing enough to assist Afghanistan, has steadfastly refused to do the one thing that it could have and, indeed should have, done long ago: apply a raft of targeted sanctions against those in Pakistan’s deep state which have continued to provide every possible amenity to the Taliban, and other brutal Islamist militant organizations, despite receiving billions in American overt assistance 2001. 

It’s hard to imagine a country more perfidious than Pakistan. Despite claiming that Osama Bin Laden was not in Pakistan for over a decade, he was found hiding in plain sight in garish if spartan safehouse in Abbottabad, a leisurely stroll from Pakistan’s premier military academy in Kakul (the equivalent to the US West Point). Mullah Omar, the cycloptic founder of the Taliban movement, likely died in a Pakistani hospital. Pakistan’s ties to the Jalaluddin Haqqani Network have been known and enduring. During the last twenty years, Pakistan has continued to recruit, train, and mission numerous other Islamist terrorist groups operating in India and Afghanistan. It has feted terrorist leaders as national heroes. . Pakistan even requested the United Nations to permit the leader of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Hafez Saeed (an UNSC-designated terrorist), to access their frozen accounts for basic expenses. Pakistan was directly responsible for the death of American soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan, along with our NATO and non-NATO allies, and most importantly our Afghan partners and their families.

Rather than accepting the blinding truth that Pakistan was not a friend much less an ally, the United States remained convinced that Pakistan was too dangerous to sanction, too dangerous to punish, too dangerous to hold to account. For decades, Americans have wrung their hands about the Pakistan problem. They rehearsed the fears that Pakistan may collapse, provide nuclear weapons to terrorists, provoke an escalatory war with India that could result in the deliberate or accidental use of nuclear weapons all the while coddling Pakistan, while aiding and abetting the further development of its nuclear arsenal and militant assets which Pakistan uses to coerce the international community.

In 2009, instead of taking coercive measures against the single most important state to the revivification of the Taliban, the United States launched the so-called surge which resulted in a massive expansion of troops as well as defense contractors (aka “mercenaries”) as well as government and non-government civilians that comprised the so-called “civilian surge.” Without developing viable ground-lines of resupply independent of Pakistan, this surge created an even deeper dependence upon Pakistan at a time when the United States was losing the war precisely because of Pakistan.

Part of the problem was the American failure to understand the perduring nature of Pakistan’s quest to render Afghanistan a vassal of Rawalpindi, the real capital of Pakistan.  Americans thought that Pakistan was only responding to India’s presence in the country and, as a result, the United States at times pressured India not to antagonize the Pakistanis in hopes of mollifying the khaki clique in Rawalpindi.  Another myth, which Pakistan itself fosters, is that Pakistan did not begin its forays in Afghan affairs during the Soviet Invasion and at American prompting and funding. In fact, Pakistan had been using Islamist organizations like the Jamaat-e-Islami to influence Afghan affairs since the 1950s. AT the time, Pakistan had legitimate concerns: Afghanistan rejected the legitimacy of the Pakistani state that emerged from Britain’s decolonization of the Raj in 1947; sought to disencumber itself from the 19th century treaty which demarcated the Durand Line as the border between the two states; nursed Pashtun nationalism; and even invaded Pakistan in Balochistan and in several Tribal Agencies in the 1950s. Moreover, Afghanistan supported violent insurgencies in Balochistan for decades.  

Pakistan found the opportunity to retaliate violently in 1973 when President Daoud ousted his cousin, King Zahir Shah, and began an aggressive suite of modernizing reforms under Soviet tutelage and encouragement. Afghanistan’s regressive clergy and associated Islamists resisted Daoud’s efforts to mainstream Afghanistan and Daoud responded to the obdurate Islamists brutally. As Islamists fled into Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto established an ISI (Pakistan’s formidable internal and external intelligence agency) cell in 1974 tasked with rendering them into effective militia groups for undertaking operations in Afghanistan.  Pakistan’s third military dictator, General Zia ul Haq continued with this policy after he ousted Bhutto in a coup, which resulted in the latter’s death.  General Arif, who served as President Zia’s Chief of Army Staff and who was familiar with Bhutto’ stratagem observed that “Of her own free will, Pakistan adopted the… option to protect her national interest and to uphold a vital principle” by providing “covert assistance to the Mujahidin.”  Abdul Sattar, who served as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister between 1999 and 2002, similarly opined that because “the Mujahidin would be fighting also for Pakistan’s own security and independence,” Pakistan “continued to support the Afghan resistance…providing it modest assistance out of its own meager resources.” Long before the Russians crossed the Amu Darya on Christmas Day 1979, the ISI, working with the Frontier Corp consolidated more than fifty resistance groups into the seven major so-called mujahedeen groups which would later fight the Soviet forces.

Failing to understand the enduring nature of Pakistan’s quest to render Afghanistan subservient to its interests, Americans consistently found expedient reasons to excuse Pakistani malfeasance. Without experiencing significant costs for its persistent efforts to squash Afghanistan’s emergence as a viable and independent state, Pakistan will continue along these efforts. For this reason, long ago, the Americans and the international community needed to impose sanctions upon Pakistani individuals and institutions, just as it did in Iran.

“The US Has Spent More in Afghanistan Than It Did To Rebuild Post-War Europe”

Another popular repine among Americans that despite spending more in Afghanistan than it did during the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War and yet, none of those gains are irreversible.  This has certainly encouraged American bitterness about its commitments to what has been the longest war in American history. However, this understanding too is flawed. First and foremost, the United States and its partners were adamant about building a sprawling Afghan state, despite the lack of human and economic resources to sustain this effort. Under the Soviet Union, Afghanistan was a rentier state nearly completely dependent upon Soviet Aid.  However, the government that the United States build was much larger than that built by the Soviets; however, the Afghan state is capable of paying even fewer of its bills.  Currently, about 80 percent of the Afghan budget is paid for by the United States with little prospects of improvement. One of the lessons of the departure from the Soviet Union was precisely this: the dependence upon Soviet aid. When the Soviet Union could no longer provide that aid, the Afghan government collapsed.

 While government capacity across all of the ministries is low, lack of capacity in the Ministries of Defense which oversees the military forces and the Ministries of Interior, which oversees the police, are perilous. This author has followed US and international efforts to build effective Afghan fighting military and police institutions for much of the last twenty years.  While some will prefer to take refuge in the claims that these inadequacies are due to Afghan shortcomings, this too is unfair. From the beginning, the United States and NATO partners struggled to develop efficacious training programs much of which were executed through contracting firms under the ostensible guidance of American, German or other partner militaries. Training concepts and doctrines changed often as different parts of the recruiting and training mission came under different contractors and national oversight.  The United States consistently sought shortcuts such as opting to train “Afghan local police,” whom Afghans more accurately called militias. Unlike training Afghan police, which was more resource intensive and provided by contractors, training of these militias was less so  but still dependent upon contractors. Americans, risibly, tried to justify equipping militias by applying Afghan names to these militias, such as arbaki, which implied these latest efforts were rooted in Afghan historical practices rather than a quick and dirty effort to make a reliable and accountable police force on the quick.

The United States was adamant that the Afghan military use American weapons rather than Russian weapons, which tend to be easier and far more cost effective to use, maintain and resupply.  Chronic illiteracy and innumeracy plagued these efforts. In contrast, the Soviet Union trained thousands of civilian and military personnel either in the Soviet Union or other Eastern European countries. Ironically, many of our most effective Afghan partners were those who had been trained by the Soviets. As American fighting forces withdrew from ground operations, Americans continued to supply air support and other important missions such as casualty evacuation. If the American and NATO failings are evident in training the Afghan police and army, the failures to build a competent and capable Afghan Air Force is even more so.

The United States insisted upon the security architecture for the country but has been retrenching from its willingness to pay for this architecture. Even though it was widely understood that the efficacy of Afghanistan national defense and security forces was the key to preventing the onslaught currently witnessed, the United States has actually diminished is support for the same. Since 2014, Washington provided about 75% of the $5 billion to $6 billion per year which was needed to fund the Afghanistan national defense and security forces while the remainder of the tab was picked up US partner nations and some modicum from the Afghan government. However, for FY2021, the US Congress appropriated $3 billion for Afghan’s fighting forces, the lowest amount since FY2008. This diminution of US support came even while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said clearly that his government cannot support its army for even six months without American financial aid.

While much of the American expenditures pertained to defense, the United States has ostensibly invested in other sectors of Afghan governance. As of June 30, 2021, the United States has spent about $144.98 billion in funds for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan since FY 2002, including: $88.61 billion for security (including $4.60 billion for counternarcotics initiatives); $36.29 billion for governance and development (including $4.37 billion for counternarcotics initiatives);  $4.18 billion for humanitarian aid; and $15.91 billion for agency operations. While these numbers are staggering much of US investment did not stay in Afghanistan. Because of the heavily reliance upon a complex ecosystem of defense contractors, belt-way banditry and aid contractors, between 80 and 90% of outlays actually returned to the US economy. Of the 10-20 percent of the contracts that remained in the country, the United States rarely cared about the efficacy of the initiative. While corruption is rife in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction repeatedly identifies bewildering corruption in the US system.  The organizations culpable of this corruption strangely yet are allowed to continued receiving US contracts.

The Shambolic Peace Process

Perhaps the third most egregious ensemble of things that the United States did to the Afghan government was strong-arm it into “peace talks” with the Taliban. More than anyone, the Afghan government understood that the Taliban and their handlers in Rawalpindi could not be trusted to honor their commitments, such as they were.  The spectacle of the “peace talks” was important to President Trump and later President Biden as they were essentially a process of negotiated American defeat which would create a fiction of power transition that would cover what would otherwise be depicted as an ignominious American defeat. Those familiar with the process understood that there was genuinely nothing to discuss: the Afghan government is committed to constitutional rule of law including elections, howsoever problematic while the Afghan Taliban was committed to overturning the constitution and it opposed elections as non-Islamic. This was a convenient position to hold as the Taliban could never win significant elections if they did contest them. As the sham peace talks faltered, in March 2020, the Trump administration threated to withhold $2 billion in assistance if the Afghan government didn’t return to the negotiation table.  Equally, appalling, the United States forced the Ghani government to release more than 5,000 hardened Taliban prisoners at the Taliban’s request in recompense for the hundreds of government officials taken captive by the Taliban. Many of those individuals have been leading the current offensive against Afghanistan’s provincial capitals.  The United States also pressurized President Ghani to post-pone or even cancel the 2019 presidential elections in a bid to mollify the demands of the Taliban that the government must be dissolved as a condition of peace and replaced with an interim government in which the Taliban had a stake.  Ghani refused rightly. There was no consensus on what Afghanistan’s future governance system would look like. Even now the Taliban claim that they will relent from their military onslaught if Ghani is removed. Given the American desire to have a more orderly descent to disorder, I would not be surprised if the Americans are currently pressing Ghani to do so instead of pressing Pakistan to call of their hyenas.

Worse yet, the Taliban used the spectacle of the peace process as a recuperative retreat to revivify and emplace their forces while stashing weapons as the awaited the US withdraw and the concomitant opportunity to sequentially assault a garland of Aghan provincial capitals as they prepare for the final assault on Kabul.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The US government has done too little too late to save Afghanistan from an entirely preventable fate.  Many Americans view the events of the last few weeks as a fait accomplis and rationalizing this catastrophe by claiming that the Taliban no longer pose a threat to US interests or those of our friends or allies. Nothing could be further from the truth. The worst has yet to begin. To consolidate their hold on Afghanistan, the Taliban will continue with a blood bath of revenge killing targeting those who have served the country in the national security and defense forces; civilian bureaucrats and politicians who oppose the Taliban; those who worked with the United States, NATO, multilateral organizations and civil society organizations. The fate that awaits Afghanistan’s women and girls is too horrendous to contemplate. The United States has not prioritized providing visas for the tens of thousands of Afghans who worked with the United States who are entitled to Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). This dereliction of duty of care is staggering. More than 300,000 Afghan civilians have worked to support the US mission over the last two decades. However, a mere, 16,000 Afghan SIVs have been issued since 2014. At present, there are more than 18,000 applications in the pipeline in addition to countless thousands of Afghans who are ineligible for an SIV who are in dire need of protection owing to their association with Americans.

It is never too late to sanction Pakistan. While such coercive measures to impose costs upon Rawalpindi for its relentless support of the Taliban’s killing machinery should’ve been undertaken early in the war effort, such measures are still useful both for punitive reasons but also to curb ongoing support. If the Americans couldn’t muster the   intestinal or other fortitude to sanction Pakistan when its proxies were murdering us, how will it do so when they are primarily murdering Afghans.

Second, the United States should reconsider its hasty withdraw of military forces. There were only a few thousand in place and this figure was sustainable. (Compare the US commitment to Israel or South Korea, by way of contrast.) Without US assets on the ground, drone strikes cannot be effective, even if the bases are found from which to fly sorties outside of Afghanistan or Pakistan.  The United States needs to stay involved in Afghanistan, providing air strikes. It is not too late to pound the Taliban forces.

Third, the United States government must at once stop its efforts to undermine the Ghani government. He is all we have. Instead of treating his government as an obstacle, his government should be seen as a critical partner in staving off the Taliban.

Finally, it does not matter if no credible democracy recognizes a Taliban government forged through the barrel of Pakistan-supplied guns. Threats of withholding aid to a Taliban government are absurd for two reasons. First, the Taliban has what it needs: support from China and Pakistan. China is the largest foreign investor in Afghanistan. But it requires stability to get its investments out of Afghanistan’s soil and into Chinese and other global markets. The Chinese have never had a problem with the Taliban and they still don’t. The Chinese had signed a memo with the Taliban in the weeks preceding 9/11 under which they agreed to provide economic and technical assistance, among other contacts dating back to at least 1998. The only ones who will suffer any such refusals to provide assistance with be the ordinary Afghans, who have already suffered enough.

The United States walked out of Afghanistan in 1990 and made Pakistan the custodian of Afghanistan’s future. We saw the outcome of this horrible decision. However, ever unable or unwilling to internalize the lessons of the past, the United States is yet again handing the Afghans over to Pakistan. When the Taliban once again transform Afghanistan into a a base of operations for a raft of modern Islamist terrorist organizations operating in and beyond the region, Washington will only have itself to blame.

PS: If you’d like to do something to help Afghans, consider the options listed here:

1. Sign this letter from Scholars at Risk urging Secretary Blinken to undertake a select set of clear, doable tasks to offer a modicum of security to Afghan scholars, researchers, and public intellectuals whose lives are now in great peril.

2. Donate to the organization of your choice raising funds to get SIVs here, find them homes, and provide basic home furnishings. These are the orgs to which I have donated so that you know I’m putting my money where my mouth and fingers are: and

3. Many of us with day jobs are writing op-eds or media for which we are paid, I’m donating ALL proceeds I receive to help Afghans. Obviously, if you’re a struggling writer, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. But most doing this have day jobs. This is pocket money for us. But with the average OpEd fee, you can help a dozen Afghans. Do I sound preachy? Yes. I won’t apologize.

4. If you’re offering your “hot takes” because you have something to say, be cognizant that many who read your well-intentioned hot takes on “empire” or whatever, fall on those of us who have worked in Afghanistan as offensive&triggering. Remember that many of our students have served in various capacity whether in the United States, Europe, Australia, India and of course Afghanistan and beyond. Do you want to make them think you’re a heartless ass with your ill-informed and posturing “hot takes”? Do you want your colleagues to think you’re a heartless ass with no actual experiences or understanding to underpin your “hot takes.”

5. Don’t just recirculate the tired wisdom of the grand white men of strategic grand strategery WHO GOT US INTO THIS MESS. Instead, LISTEN to the Afghans on Afghan twitter. Even if they write in Dari or Pashtu, Google translate does a fair job. LISTEN MORE to them.

6. Don’t recycle/ legitimize Pakistani talking points that: The Taliban freed Afghans; Pakistan is the REAL victim here; that this was US imperialism when the most enduring imperialists have been the Pakistanis. They’ve been trying to subjugate Afghanistan since the late 50s.

7. Finally, if you are a US citizen reach out to your congressional representation. If you are American, you find your 2 senators and house rep here: If you are not a US citizen and your soldiers or civilians worked alongside Afghans, reach out to your parliamentary reps. We may not get the outcome we desire, but we don’t have to it here bitching when we CAN take steps.

Should I be flattered or irked that my HINDI article was plagiarised…by a HINDI-language journalist?

Photo of Jitendra Bhardwaj, available at

Spoiler Alert: I’m Furious

I’ve recently resolved that I wanted to make a concerted effort to communicate the findings of my research into political and military affairs of South Asia in the languages of persons who are most affected by the things I study. I have spent years working in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi and thus I have begun to submit work in those languages to vernacular press.

A colleague of mine at the Gateway House passed on my piece to Amar Ujala, a Hindi newspaper to see if they would be interested in running. I would have been happy to modify it as needed.

While they did not publish the piece, one of their “journalists” named Jitendra Bhardwaj (pictured below) lifted it, added additional material to it, then claimed it as his own. I wrote to Mr. Bhardwaj on Facebook, tagging our mutual friends, and asked that he rectify this ethical violation by adding me as a co-author. This was actually a generous request given that I should have been the FIRST author given that most of the prose and intellectual capital in this “article” was mine. Of course, this hubristic individual demurred and even tried to bully me by insisting that I am in error in accusing him of unethical content. He explained that to avoid any controversy, he’s asked that it be pulled. (See the screenshot of this exchange.) Why would he prefer that it be pulled rather than give due credit?

In this post, I demonstrate how he stole my work. This is an object lesson to anyone I catch doing it.

Screenshot of our exchange on Facebook:

What is Plagiarism

According to Oxford University, plagiarism entails:

“presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional. Under the regulations for examinations, intentional or reckless plagiarism is a disciplinary offence.”

In this essay, I demonstrate how Mr. Bhardwaj not only stole he essence of the work (as he has no previous history of writing on this issue), but he also reworded my words without attribution and, in places, even used my exact wording, also without attribution. He does quote me on occasion, but this is not a sufficient acknowledgement of my work and indeed it gives the illusion that he interviewed me, which is a further ethical violation.

Here’s the Analysis that Proves He Plagiarized My Work.

In his opening paragraph, he writes:

“साउथ एशियन पॉलिटिकल एंड मिलिट्री अफेयर की अमेरिकी विशेषज्ञ सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर का कहना है कि पाकिस्तान द्वारा खालिस्तानी समूह तैयार किए जा रहे हैं।“

Here he attributes to me my own work but uses the verb ” कहना,” (which means “says”) which implies that he interviewed me. He does this in the first paragraph.

He then goes on to use my language making only one insignificant change.

In his article:

“विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के हवाले से ऐसी खबरें आती रही हैं कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तानी सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।”

This is virtually identical to what I wrote:

“विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।”

In his article, this appears:

“लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी लेते हुए कहा था कि भारत ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा।“

I wrote:

“लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।

He then gives the impression that we spoke. He writes:

“बतौर सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर, भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों की भी यही चिंता है कि क्या ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ हकीकत में खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर तो नहीं बन जाएगा। ऐसी चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं।”

But in fact, he has simply plagiarized from another part of my essay in which I write:

“लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं|”

 Again, he implies that he spoke to me and that I merely augmented his knowledge rather than my writing being the sole source of the same:

“एनआईए द्वारा पंजाब में पन्नू की कई संपत्तियां जब्त की गई हैं। साउथ एशियन पॉलिटिकल एंड मिलिट्री अफेयर की अमेरिकी विशेषज्ञ सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर के अनुसार, करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है, क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरुनानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी। सिख संगत इस बात को लेकर खुश है कि वह पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर माथा टेकने के लिए जा सकेंगे। भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ हकीकत में खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर बन जाएगा।”

In fact, he has simply plagiarized this entire section from my essay, omitting some details:

“करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन सिखों के पहले गुरु, नानक की 550वीं जयंती के तीन दिन पूर्व 9 नवंबर, 2019 को किया गया था।  विशेष अनुमति प्राप्त सिख तीर्थयात्री, सिखों के दो प्रमुख धार्मिक स्थल – भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर सिख धर्म का सबसे पवित्र स्थल, डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतापुर साहिब के बीच की 9 किमी (5.6 मील) की दूरी तय कर सकेंगे। गुरुद्वारा श्री करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरु नानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी |

बड़ी संख्या में सिख इस बात को लेकर खुश हैं की वे पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर मथा टेकने के लिए सफ़र कर सकेंगे| लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं|”

Again, he cites my name to further the illusion that we spoke:

सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर के मुताबिक, पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभग समाप्त हो गई थी। पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है। भिंडरावाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्रीहरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के एतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में भिंडरावाले को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं। ये घटनाएं जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच हुई हैं। लालक़िला पर उपद्रव के बाद अब पन्नू संसद सत्र के दौरान किसानों को उसका रहा है।”

In fact, he has simply plagiarized my own words again. He has made negligible revisions to my words. This is what I wrote; however I provided a chart that summarized the results of data my colleagues and I collected and analyzed.

“पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभाग समाप्त हो गई थी लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है।  भिंडरांवाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्री हरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में  बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में  भिंडरावाले  को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं और कई और जिन्हें सुरक्षा बलों ने बाधित किया है। (नीचे चार्ट देखें)।“

Here again, he plagiarizes my prose with impunity and without shame. In some cases, he changes the wording but in many more cases he just ripped me off. Whereas, I provided a link to the article which formed the basis of my assessment, he does not. Here is what appeared in his article:

“पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की रणनीति का एक हिस्सा है। दरअसल, जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोल कर भारत पर एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है। पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी, जब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते। चिंता का दूसरा कारण यह है कि ‘इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आईएसआई, पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी डायस्पोरा) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अकसर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है। यहीं से पाकिस्तान ने एक अन्य जंग भी छेड़ रखी है। यह जंग ड्रग्स को लेकर लड़ी जा रही है।”

This is what I wrote in the article that was sent to his paper:

“इसके अलावा, विद्वान और विश्लेषक पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के स्पष्ट स्वीकारोक्ति के बारे में चिंतित हैं, जिसमें विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।  लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।“ पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी ज आंतरिक ब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते।

चिंता का एक और कारण यह है कि “इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आई.एस.आई., पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी” डायस्पोरा “) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अक्सर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है।

                इस से मज़ीद, पाकिस्तान एक और तरह की जंग छेड़ रहा है और यह जंग ड्रग्स के खिलाफ लड़ी जा रही है.”

He then continues to plagiarize my work on the Punjab’s drug addiction:

“साल 2015 में अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया था। इसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में क़रीब दो करोड़ अस्सी लाख लोग ड्रग्स के आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एलईटी) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओं में सहयोग और सांठ-गांठ जारी है। वहां पर खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाई में अहम सदस्य रहा था। सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर कहती हैं, पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश करने की तैयारी कर रहा है। दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों का पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वह बेहद अहम हो गया है। खासतौर से भारत सरकार को ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ के संदर्भ में गहराई से सोचना होगा।“

This is what I wrote. Note that again, he has simply stolen my verbiage with a few notable differences. Whereas, I provide a link to the source upon which my claim is based, he doesn’t:

2015 में, अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया जिसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में 28 मिलियन लोग आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एल. ई. टी.) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओ में सहयोग और साँठ गाँठ जारी है | इसके अलावा, कई पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाइओं में अहम सदस्य थे

                पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश बनाने का अभिरोचन  सरल है: लश्कर और दीगर इस्लामी समूहों के इस्तेमाल करने का कारण, पाकिस्तान के ऊपर  लगातार अंतर्रराष्ट्रीय दबाव लगाया जाता है| इसलिए, दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों को पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वे बेहद अहम हो गया है|”  

My QuestionS FOR the Editors of Amar Ujala

So what exactly is his contribution to this article? And if my words were worthy of being stolen by him in such measure, why didn’t he simply propose that we co-author the piece and thank me instead of stealing my work?  Surely, his editor saw his piece and knew the similarities to the one I submitted including extended verbiage often with little or not modification. This is straight up plagiarism and I’m sure he’s a dude and because he thought he wouldn’t be caught. Also, what kind of a lousy Hindi journalist STEALS the verbiage of a person who is writing Hindi as a non-native writer?

Here is my analytical piece Which my colleague sent to his paper

खालिस्तान की वापसी?

सी. क्रिस्टीन फ़ैर

            करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन सिखों के पहले गुरु, गुरु नानक की 550वीं जयंती के तीन दिन पूर्व 9 नवंबर, 2019 को किया गया था।  विशेष अनुमति प्राप्त सिख तीर्थयात्री, सिखों के दो प्रमुख धार्मिक स्थल – भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर सिख धर्म का सबसे पवित्र स्थल, डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतापुर साहिब के बीच की 9 किमी (5.6 मील) की दूरी तय कर सकेंगे। गुरुद्वारा श्री करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरु नानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी।

            बड़ी संख्या में सिख इस बात को लेकर खुश हैं की वे पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर मथा टेकने के लिए सफ़र कर सकेंगे| लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं| 

            पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभाग समाप्त हो गई थी लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है।  भिंडरांवाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्री हरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में  बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में  भिंडरावाले  को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं और कई और जिन्हें सुरक्षा बलों ने बाधित किया है। (नीचे चार्ट देखें)।

लेख-चित्र १: जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच प्रति वर्ष पुष्टि की गई घटनाएं (संदिग्धों को छोड़कर)

            इसके अलावा, विद्वान और विश्लेषक पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के स्पष्ट स्वीकारोक्ति के बारे में चिंतित हैं, जिसमें विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।  लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।“ पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी जब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते।

            चिंता का एक और कारण यह है कि “इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आई.एस.आई., पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी” डायस्पोरा “) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अक्सर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है।

            इस से मज़ीद, पाकिस्तान एक और तरह की जंग छेड़ रहा है और यह जंग ड्रग्स के खिलाफ लड़ी जा रही है. 2015 में, अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया जिसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में 28 मिलियन लोग आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एल. ई. टी.) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओ में सहयोग और साँठ गाँठ जारी है | इसके अलावा, कई पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाइओं में अहम सदस्य थे

            पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश बनाने का अभिरोचन  सरल है: लश्कर और दीगर इस्लामी समूहों के इस्तेमाल करने का कारण, पाकिस्तान के ऊपर  लगातार अंतर्रराष्ट्रीय दबाव लगाया जाता है| इसलिए, दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों को पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वे बेहद अहम हो गया है|  


Fiction by C. Christine Fair

He could have taken their dilapidated car to the co-op. It would’ve been quicker, but he rather savored the idea of an excuse to be outside for an extra 40 minutes. It was one of those six days in Chicago when one could enjoy walking a few blocks. At any moment, the city could bloom into a humid heat that made even a short stroll unbearable.         

With his partially full jute tote in hand, his feet grew heavier as he neared their building. He dreaded walking through their door. No matter what he did or did not do, she would greet him with that minacious grimace. She would, as always, insist he got her requested items wrong. Even when he wrote them down and read them back to her, she still insisted that he scribbled them incorrectly either because he didn’t care anymore or, worse, he deliberately wanted to demonstrate his disregard for her.           

He sat on the stoop staring at the bag and its pathetic contents watching a young couple make out at the bus stop across the street. They too were once young and hungry for each other. He felt the need to smoke. Just one, he thought. He forced himself to remember his dad, stented and dying in that hospital bed as his lung cancer ravaged him. Halfway through his Camel, he heaved an anxious sigh, rubbed it out and put a stick of gum in his mouth. He considered taking the elevator but taking the stairs would buy a few more moments of peace. He felt as if he were hauling his own corpse up the four floors.           

He muttered perhaps out loud “Why don’t I leave her? What the hell is wrong with me for staying?” He turned his head to see if anyone had heard. This simple question stumped him. Maybe it was their shared loss of that first pregnancy. That day, she took the Number 6 bus home because he could not think to drive their then-new car to pick her up from the office. She didn’t bother calling him when she lost the second. He was self-absorbed and distant when she needed him, when she dreamt of sinking into the filthy depths of Lake Michigan like a rock.         

How do you walk away from a shared grief that runs deep in your bones? When even you are ashamed for letting her take the bus home after feeling your baby slip out of her body and into that toilet. Twice. What did she think as she looked at those ethereal mass of bloody flesh before she flushed them away with her dreams of motherhood? How did she manage to return to her desk, collect her things and board the bus with her soiled pants? How could she forgive him when he couldn’t?  She must hate him as much as he loathes himself.         

He reached their floor and turned left towards their flat. The wood floors of the hallway groaned beneath his weight. He put his ear to the door to listen for her. Had she fallen asleep with her magazine? He wanted to flit inside, offload the groceries into the fridge and sneak off to his office and lock the door and open the bottle of scotch he hid in his file cabinet for such days.         

He tentatively inserted and turned the key and opened the door as inaudibly as possible before softly closing it. As he slowly turned around, he saw her standing there, with her legs akimbo and arms crossed. He felt absurd. She surely watched him trying to slink in without her notice. She had been crying. Her blurred mascara rendered her a rabid racoon. Her swollen eyes were a transparent ice blue, which made them simultaneously exquisite and haunting.         

Her tongue coiled up like an asp, preparing to strike.  “Where were you all this time?”         

He put his hands in his pockets and looked uneasily towards their wizened cat basking in the last remnants of the afternoon sun. He explained that he went to the grocery store, as she had requested.         

“Well. Isn’t that interesting? You went to the store. What did you buy…at the store?” She lowered her voice menacingly as she articulated “at the store.”         

His gut churned as he explained that he bought those apples and oranges she wanted. This was her “fetch me a rock” exercise, which she used to torment him. She’d tell him “Get me a rock.” When returned with a rock in hand, she’d grouse that the rock wasn’t igneous or she’d gripe that it was, in fact, igneous. It was either too smooth or too rough; too big or too small. And so, he waited for the questions about the kind of apples he bought. Did he buy the Fuji apples she had been craving all week or the tasteless, mealy Red Delicious apples which were ubiquitous and cheap these days? Were the oranges those uninspiring navel oranges she detested as of Wednesday evening or did he procure the juicy clementines she enthusiastically mentioned this morning?”

So, you didn’t buy my bananas?” she asked almost sinisterly, as if she had caught him in some nefarious plot.           

Thinking on his feet, he wondered to himself whether she asked him to buy bananas. “Is she fucking with me again? For fuck’s sake, I cannot keep track.”         

Looking back at the cat, he stammered, “So, um… about those bananas. I didn’t forget. Not at all. But can you believe those assholes were out of bananas? What grocery store is out of god-damned bananas?”         

“No. Actually. I cannot believe they were out of bananas,” she said as she walked towards the phone and picked it up. Glowering at him, she asked 411 to connect her to the 55th Street Co-Op.         

He stood there terrified as he awaited the verdict and the miserable night that awaited them both.

This was first published in Sandstone Journal in June 2021.

Prime Minister Modi’s Demonetization Policy Exacerbated Violence in Kashmir

 C. Christine FairDigvijay Ghotane and Parina Patel

There have been many reported links between protesters pelting stones at security forces in Kashmir and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), with Indian intelligence reports that stone-pelters were paid money by the ISI, and often went on to become militants. This was an important motivation behind the demonetisation of currency notes by the Indian government in 2016. However, this raises the question: has demonetisation really curbed stone-pelting?

On 9 April 2017, Major Gogoi, an Indian Army officer with the 53 Rashtriya Rifles, stationed in Srinagar, garnered accolades at home and criticism abroad when he bound a young Muslim Kashmir man, Farooq Ahmed Dar, to his jeep to shield his forces from stone-pelting protestors. According to Gogoi, he received a distress call from an Indo-Tibetan Police (ITBP) team alerting him that some 1,200 persons had surrounded the ITBP personnel as well as polling staff in the Utligam polling station (40 km from Srinagar) during the violence-marred by polls for the Lok Sabha. The incident again cast a dubious light upon India’s handling of the terrorism and insurgency plaguing the Union Territory (then a State) and gave its state and non-state foes alike fodder for their anti-India information operations.

Stone pelting has become an iconographic means to protest the Indian government in Kashmir since 2008.[1] While scholars and activists often characterise stone-throwing as a form of non-violent protest,[2] the tactic has killed and injured many civilians as well as security forces in Kashmir.[3] One popular explanation for the increasing stone-throwing tactic by Kashmiri youth has been financial support from Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). In 2016, after the death of a young and popular militant leader, Burhan Wani, Indian intelligence claimed that Pakistan was paying Kashmiri youth Rs. 500 to throw stones as part of the Rs. 100 crore ($13.6 million) that the organisation expended in the past year to fuel violence in Jammu and Kashmir.[4] In 2017, captured stone-pelters confessed that the ISI paid them some Rs. 5,000 to 7,000 ($68-$95) per month in addition to clothes to throw stones at security forces.[5] Moreover, the Indian Army asserted that “83% of all youth who become militants start with throwing stones for Rs. 500 and therefore needed to be stopped.”[6]

Motivated in considerable measure by these narratives about Pakistani-sponsored violence in Kashmir, on 8 November 2016, the Indian government rendered 86% of the nation’s currency valueless overnight in what was known as demonetisation.[7] The government defended this move on several grounds including a desire to nudge the country towards greater digitisation, to enervate the black market, and to disable Pakistan-supported violence. The government oddly claimed success in the latter objective despite robust evidence against it: 2018 was in fact the deadliest year in a decade.[8]

Even more puzzling is that many Indians, who otherwise denounce the policy, believe that it curbed violence in Kashmir despite evidence to the contrary. A nationally-representative survey of 2,100 respondents found that more than 70% believed that demonetisation “played an important role in curbing terrorism as it has dealt a huge blow to the funding of terror in states like Jammu & Kashmir as well as left-wing extremist violence across several states’ even while the same survey evinced respondent doubts that the policy achieved its other objectives.[9]

There is very little room for doubt that Pakistan sponsors various kinds of violence in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, and it is most likely true that some stone-throwers are compensated. But it is unlikely that all do so because of Pakistani remuneration or that these payments are their only or primary motivation.[10] While the truth lies somewhere between India’s maximalist claims of Pakistani culpability and Pakistan’s blanket claims of innocence, Kashmiris are caught in the middle.

To assess Delhi’s assertion that demonetisation curbed stone-throwing in Kashmir, we assembled a novel district-level dataset of daily stone-pelting events between 1 August 2013 and 31 December 2017, along with other explanatory variables that may account for stone-pelting, such as: opportunity costs, weather factors, whether the day is Friday or whether the day occurs during Ramazan, whether the district is rural or urban, and whether the district is comprised mostly of Muslims or non-Muslims.

Because of the enduring nature of this conflict, we limited our scope of inquiry to 1 August 2013 through 31 December 2017. Expanding this timeline would necessitate controlling for major events in India and Pakistan bilateral relations as well as significant developments in relations between J&K and the central government. We also sought to limit our scope of inquiry to one year after demonetisation because we presume that Pakistan—sooner rather than later—developed counter-measures to thwart the demonetisation policy even though we are dubious about India’s claims on the salience of this factor.

Since our extensive efforts to find extant data – which included filing multiple Right to Information requests – foundered, per force, we assembled a novel dataset of stone-pelting events for this study using three different sources including: data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) which included 603 stone-pelting incidents over 532 observations; the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP) included 357 stone-pelting incidents spanning 239 observations; as well as a manual search of four Kashmir-based, English-language dailies (i.e. Daily ExcelsiorGreater KashmirKashmir Observer and Kashmir Times) for stone-pelting occurrences, which yielded 126 observations of stone-pelting. Note that we ensured that no event was double counted. Our final dataset contained 797 observations of stone-throwing from August 1, 2013 until December 31, 2017 which we depict timewise in Figure 1 and district-wise in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Trends in Stone-pelting Source: In-house tabulation of data
Figure 1: Trends in Stone-pelting
Source: In-house tabulation of data
ChristineFair_Picture 2
Figure 2. Stone-pelting Incidents by District
Source: In-house tabulation of data

While one may be tempted to simply analyse the trend lines in Figure 1 and look at the quantum of stone-pelting events before and after the policy of demonetisation, such an exercise would not be adequate. After all, increases or decreases in stone pelting could be caused by unusual weather trends (temperature and precipitation), the occurrence of Ramazan, features of the districts (urban/rural, population composition), economic opportunity costs imposed by stone pelting and possible subsequent arrest, or a combination of some or all of these variables. Thus, to accurately discern the impact of this policy upon stone-pelting we must also control for other factors that likely influence the occurrence of stone pelting. The best methodology for this is regression analyses wherein our dependent variable is the occurrence of stone pelting on a given day in a given district and our control variables include whether or not the data on stone pelting falls before or after demonetisation as well as district averages for the aforenoted controls. We also ran similar models wherein we controlled for the killing of Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016 which catalysed considerable unrest.[11]

Additionally, because we could not estimate the binary variables for demonetisation and Wani’s death simultaneously, we estimated the same model (Equation 3) using three different time periods to disentangle the effects of demonetisation policy and Wani’s death. The first period is before Wani’s killing (1 August 2013 until 8 July 2016). The second period is after his death but before demonetisation was enacted (9 July 2016 until 9 November 2016). The third period is after the demonetisation policy was enacted (10 November 2016 to 31 December 2017).[12]

In none of these models do we find any empirical support for the Indian government’s claim that demonetisation reduced stone-pelting; rather, we found that stone-pelting increased after demonetisation even after controlling for other confounding factors such as temperature, precipitation, economic opportunity costs, and demographics of the district among other variables.  Stone pelting also increased after Wani’s demise, all other variables held constant. We also found that stone-pelting was most common in urban, more densely populated, Muslim-dominant districts; on Fridays and during Ramazan; and on warmer days, all else constant. This is generally consistent with expectations about target density and the roles of Friday prayer and possibly Ramazan in both decreasing the organisational cost of mobilisation but also the opportunity costs of doing so.

The most illuminating variable is our proxy for economic opportunity costs of stone-pelting (the price of onions). The Indian government justified demonetisation by the assertion that Pakistan instigated unrest by paying stone-throwers daily and monthly sums as well as clothes and other in-kind goods. Prior to Wani’s killing, people seemed sensitive to opportunity costs. If the Pakistanis were inundating the region with significant amounts of cash, we should not expect to observe this sensitivity. After Wani’s death and prior to the onset of demonetisation, opportunity costs correlate with stone-pelting consistent with the possibility that people are so enraged that they simply do not care about the economic repercussions of protesting.

As noted above, we also ran regressions having divided the sample into the three periods. In the third period, corresponding to the post-demonetisation period which lasted 13 months, we find no relationship between opportunity costs and stone-pelting with other variables accounting for the observed variation in stone pelting. In this period, if the government’s claims about Pakistani support were valid on a large scale, we should have seen a negative correlation between onion prices and stone-pelting because the large notes purportedly supplied by Pakistan were now useless.

Understanding the real impact of demonetisation upon stone pelting is important for several reasons. Indians who believe this narrative that all disturbances in the troubled state are an artifact of Pakistani manipulation necessarily view Kashmiri discontent as illegitimate despite the various sources of data that attest to sustained grievances among Kashmiri Muslims, particularly in the valley.[13] The official discourse depicts Kashmiris as “misguided youth” who are “guided by remote control from across the border” and “working under a well-thought-out long-term plan of Pakistan to create a situation where people would not participate in any election in the future.”[14] Prime Minister Modi himself, while addressing an audience in Srinagar in November 2019, has described the stone pelters as “misguided youths who are under the influence of false propaganda from a foreign power” and elaborated that “every stone or weapon picked up by the youth of this state is only meant to destabilise their own state.”[15]

Such characterisations render the stone-pelters the primary obstacle to development and democratisation in the state rather than state failures and as such there is no concomitant moral requisite to engage Kashmiris on the sources of their disaffection.  Consequently, this characterisation of the stone pelters and their motivations shrinks any political space throughout India to consider their grievances within any constitutional or political framework.

This piece was published on June 22, 2021 by Gateway House India.


[1] Parthasarathy, Malini. 2010. “Understanding Kashmir’s Stone-pelters.” The Hindu, August 4.

[2] Pressman, Jeremy. “Throwing stones in social science: Non-violence, unarmed violence, and the first intifada.” Cooperation and Conflict 52, no. 4(2017): 519-536.

[3] There are no comprehensive and/or reliable estimates available. In 2018, the Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir informed the upper house (Rajya Sabha) that between 2015-2017, there were 4,799 stone-pelting incidents in which 17 protestors and two security personnel were killed. However, this report doesn’t indicate whether the protestors were killed by the stone-pelting or by the security forces themselves (Rajya Sabha, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs. “Unstarred Question No-556.” Answered on February 7, 2018.; “4,799 stone- pelting incidents in J-K in 2015-17; 19 killed.” 2018. Financial Express,   February 7.

[4] Bhalla, Abhishek. 2016. “Pakistan funded terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.” India Today, July 15.

[5] Pathak, Sushant and Jamshed Adil Khan. 2017.“Stone-pelters on Hire in Kashmir.” India Today, March 29.

[6]“‘Stone-pelters today, terrorists tomorrow’: Army’s grim message to J-K.” 2019. Hindustan Times, August 2.

[7] Doshi, Vidhi. 2016.“Cash for queues: people paid to stand in line amid India’s bank note crisis.” The Guardian, November 27.

[8] Slater, Joanna and Ishfaq Naseem. 2018. “2018 is the deadliest year in a decade in Kashmir.” The Washington Post, December 23.

[9] Das, Prajanma. 2019.“De-mon-niversary: 70% Indians think demonetisation helped control terror, says study.” Edex Live, November 8.

[10] Ganie, Mohd Tahir. “‘All I got is stones in my hand’: youth-led stone pelting protests in Indian-administered Kashmir.” Social Movement Studies 20, no. 1 (2021): 115-123.

[11] For more details see C. Christine Fair, Digvijay Ghotane & Parina Patel (2021) Did India’s demonetization policy curb stone-pelting in Indian-administered Kashmir, Small Wars & Insurgencies, published online May 25, 2021.

[12] For more details see C. Christine Fair, Digvijay Ghotane & Parina Patel (2021) Did India’s demonetization policy curb stone-pelting in Indian-administered Kashmir, Small Wars & Insurgencies, published online May 25, 2021.

[13] International Crisis Group. “Raising the Stakes in Jammu and Kashmir, Report 310.” August 5, 2020.

[14] Sahay, Mohan. 2017. “Kashmir politics: Not a stone’s throw away.” Economic Times, May 5.

[15] “Modi in Srinagar: Every stone picked by misguided youth hurts Kashmir.” 2019. Business Standard, November 21, 2019.

The Revenge of Farkhunda

C. Christine Fair

There was nothing notable about the Afghan woman known as Farkhunda Malikzada while she was alive. No one would have read about her in local or international papers. She wasn’t a politician, a grass-roots organizer, or one of few liberal activists demanding more rights for women and children in a country that has steadily marched back in time since the 1970s when women in Kabul sported miniskirts, sipped wine and pursued their professional and personal dreams in a beautiful city surrounded by snow-kissed mountains.

Instead, Farkhunda was a devout Muslim who was disquieted by superstitious accretions she observed in the Islam practiced by most Afghans. She wore a black hejab covering her head and a long black coat which would have been more common in an Arab country than in Afghanistan where women tend to wear the ubiquitous blue burqa.

But, in death, Farkhunda became a stark reminder of American failures to cultivate robust democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights in Afghanistan despite: occupying the country since late 2001; spending more money, in purchasing power parity, on this country of 37 million than it did rebuilding post-World War II Europe; fighting the longest war in American history; and losing thousands of American and allied soldiers, civilians and contractors and more than 157,000 Afghans. Despite the squander of life and treasure, the dark influence of the Taliban endures undaunted.

Few Americans had heard of the Taliban or its reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar before the terror attack of 11 September 2001. Despite continuous military action by the United States and its NATO allies in the country searching for him, Mullah Omar died in 2013 in Pakistan from complications related to hepatitis. He was likely sixty years old at the time of death. He founded the Afghan Taliban in 1994 as a movement of students who were studying in Deobandi (a South Asian Islamic interpretative tradition) seminaries in Pakistan. In fact, the name “Taliban” means students. There are few confirmed photos of Mullah Omar. The most common image is that from 1993 which depicts his missing right eye. He lost it while fighting the Soviet Union, which had occupied Afghanistan between December 1979 and February 1989. He required this photographic evidence of injury to claim compensation from the Afghan government. At the time, he was an American ally as the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, supported the so-called mujahideen’s effort to oust the Russians from the country.

After founding the Taliban in 1994, the movement swiftly seized control of most of Afghanistan by 1998, with the unstinting financial, military, and political support of Pakistan. By 1998, the world increasingly became aware of the Taliban’s unusual cruelties and crimes against humanity. Men were threatened with death if they did not grow their beards. They were severely punished if they failed to ensure “their women’s” compliance with the Taliban’s strictures. Girls were no longer allowed to study. Women were forbidden from working, which immiserated countless widowed mothers whose menfolk had died in the decades of warfare. When the Taliban adjudged that a woman or girl had violated any of their draconian diktats, the Taliban stoned them to death in soccer stadiums where crowds were encouraged to attend the gruesome spectacle.

Farkhanda is just one victim from among countless others and deserves no more or less pity. Perhaps it was the public nature of her inhuman murder that garnered international attention and prompted many to wonder whether Afghanistan would escape its own past. Perhaps it was just a fluke of timing or the result of particular hue and cry from critical diplomats that made her lynching seem uniquely cruel.

Whatever the reason, we know that on 19 March 2015, the 28-year-old woman had an altercation with a mullah (a Muslim preacher). In Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, mullahs rarely have completed the religious education required by curriculum (Dars-e-Nizami) in the seminaries (madrassahs). Thus, all too often they propound local superstitions rather than the prescription and proscription in the Quran. Indeed, few of these uneducated ulema can read the Quran with understanding as it is written in early seventh-century Arabic. According to the woman’s father, Farkhunda quarreled with the mullah over the common-place practice of exploiting unlettered woman by selling them, often expensive, amulets at shrines. Heterodox Islam frowns upon such rituals and some devout Muslims even believe they constitute shirk (apostasy) as they ascribe mystical powers to inert objects and to those who distribute them when Allah alone has such attributes.

During the argument, the mullah falsely accused her of burning a Quran. It was a common but deadly tactic to silence critics. Those who overheard the allegation immediately decided that she must be killed. She was beaten with bats, stomped upon, and driven over by a car after which her body was dragged by a car and then immolated. 

Her real crime? She had the temerity as a woman to challenge superstitious practices propounded by ignorant male clerics. The trial that ensued against the police that failed to protect her as well as the participants in the murderous frenzy was galvanized by domestic and international outrage and sought to protect Afghanistan’s image rather than obtain justice for the atrocity. Her family repined that the true culprits, including the one who ran her over with his car, were never charged.

There are several ironies in this tale of Farkhanda. On the one hand, it was the tenure of the Taliban which empowered these “lumpen mullahs” to deploy the religion they so poorly understood as a weapon to silence detractors, especially women. But Farkhanda was no “Gloria Steinem of the Hindu Kush.” In fact, her interpretation of orthodox Islam was much closer to that of the Taliban than the amulet-hawking mullahs who are often criticized by the very Deobandi clergy which produced the Taliban’s ideology. However, even though her arguments against useless talismans would have pleased Mullah Omar, the temerity of a woman to speak to a mullah, a man, and impugn him would have signed her death warrant.

Mullah Omar’s followers believe that upon arrival in heaven, he would enjoy the endless pleasures of the celestial maidens who have been untouched by man or djinn.

In this piece titled “Farkhanda’s Revenge,” I instead imagine Farkhanda waiting for him at the doorstep of heaven and quarrelling with him just as she did the other mullah. I take solace imagining that brave woman insisting that Mullah Omar justify her heinous slaughter for defending orthodox Islam against its defilers. If she could, this is exactly what she would have done. Maybe this is Farkhanda’s legacy?

Carol Christine Fair is an American artist and scholar. She is professor in the Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Her work is primarily focused on counter-terrorism and South Asian topics.

Text and art copyright 2020 Christine Fair

A version of this essay was published by Vox Populi on December 19, 2020.

Bob’s Bass Turd

C. Christine Fair

In the recovery room, I was groggy but anxious for Dr. Hurley to come in and tell me what he found or didn’t find in this most recent invasive and humiliating exam. I had lost count of the myriad barium studies, endoscopies, colonoscopies, and the exotic and costly drugs that came onto the market for this inscrutable disease called “irritable bowel syndrome.” “Syndrome,” I learned, is a weasel word that was invented to placate insurance companies demanding a diagnosis howsoever useless. It’s a clinical confession that while there are a bunch of symptoms, there is no meaningful explanation for them and no effective treatment for the underlying, unidentified cause. It’s the medical equivalent of throwing turds on the wall to see which ones stick. My chest clenched as I heard him speaking around the corner in not-exactly hushed tones. When he finally pulled back the curtain and offered a milquetoast greeting, I concluded from his rumpling forehead that he had nothing useful to offer this time either.

“Lucy, we’ve done every possible test. Repeatedly. Frankly, in my view, we’re treating the wrong end of your problem. The symptoms are in your gut. But the problem, in my opinion, is in your brain. You present with an extensive, well-documented experience of several kinds of childhood trauma. We are increasingly learning that what you’re experiencing is extremely common among adults with your history. I’m sorry. I really am, but I can’t help you. You need to see a psychiatrist, perhaps a behavioralist. I strongly recommend that you find someone who specializes in PTSD. I can keep throwing drugs at your gut. I can make you have bowel movements. I can control your acid reflux. I can mitigate the nausea. But fixing this problem requires the skill of someone who can fix your brain and you will probably need meds for that too.”

“So, Dr. Hurley, do you have any suggestions or referrals for such a shrink? Preferably, a doc who will accept my insurance…” Dr. Hurley curtly interrupted. No doubt he had rehearsed this many times before with other patients like me. “No. No one. Given my burgeoning patient base with these problems, I should.” I glowered at him with my best “What-the-Actual-Fuck” face and left. I long ago concluded that doctors suck. My dogs have better healthcare and better coordination across their varied providers. Physicians are basically lesser talented veterinarians who get away with specializing in one organ system of one species. It’s absurd how little they get away with knowing about entire human bodies.

Driving home, I was steeping in rage. Partly, I felt helpless in the assigned task of finding someone to fix my brain. But also because there is a cast of characters—many of whom are dead now—whose grotesque cruelties apparently haunt my body like somatic poltergeists. How the fuck am I supposed to exorcise these assholes lurking about my guts and head?

When I got home, I crawled into bed straightaway. My dogs followed suit. My agile girls leapt upon the bed and packed around me like insulation from a world against which I have long waged war. My old girl, Saphy, curled up on her dog bed at the foot of mine. This was the singular place where I felt safe from the present and my past and these wretched shits lurking around my body as unwanted now as they were then. And in that space between being awake and asleep, Bob floated into my mind. Ordinarily, I would stop my brain right then and there. But this time, I let Bob’s bullshit wash over me.

*     *     *

Bob was my first non-memory. I knew his absence without ever knowing his presence. In the negative space he occupied, my life slowly piled up, one angry and confused ossifying sediment at a time until, finally, I grew into the image of his nonexistence. At times, his non-memory lingered in the background like quietly spewing elevator music. But at times, like now, it roared like an eardrum-shattering cacophony.

The first time I acutely felt his nonmemory occurred at John’s General Electric family picnic sometime after he became a journeyman. John was my mother’s husband and he worked on GE’s factory floor, which required steel-toed shoes. He preferred dark brown wing tips, which disguised the industrial nature of his enormous footwear. At size thirteen, his feet in those shoes reminded me of the sleek speedboats I sometimes saw on Sylvan Lake. In the oddly verdant park in Fort Wayne, the employees’ kids raced in burlap potato sacks, struggled to push their siblings along in wheelbarrow races, and raucously tossed bean bags into their cornhole targets. The adults played croquet or stood around drinking. Most gulped Pabst Blue Ribbon from steel cans with pull tabs, which, despite the well-known dangers, they wrenched off and deposited into their cans before drinking. How many times had I wished that John would choke on one of those tabs? He never did.

Things became awkward when John’s colleagues expected an introduction to his motley miserable ensemble. After exchanging the manly gestures of reciprocal head nods and random gesturing with their cans of beer in the air, John would pick up Joey, my little brother, and run his calloused hands through his impossibly blond hair. When his co-worker lingered awkwardly while looking in the direction of my mom and me, I instinctively clung to mom’s legs hoping she’d protect me from what would come next. I felt my stomach seize up with cramps. I imagined becoming a wizened dandelion whose feathery seeds floated away on the breeze unnoticed before I had to hear it. Again. John would stumble onward with a bit of a stutter “Um…. Well… This is my wife Sandy. That’s her kid.” Reduced to a “that,” I didn’t even merit a female pronoun. Breaking into the conversation, Mom offered cheerfully, “Her name is Lucy.”

When the young, miserable couple fought—and that was often—John frequently hollered about a certain “Bob’s bass turd” and accused her of marrying him for a “meal ticket to pay for Bob’s bass turd.”

I wasn’t too sure about what a “bass turd” was. Grandpa Austin liked to fish for bass and he’d often take me with him. In my little mind, I presumed it had something to do with those bass that Grandpa liked to catch with me by his side and their small fish turds. I comforted myself with the knowledge that my family deployed toilet humor lovingly. John had nicknamed Joey “the pot licker” because he lapped up the cool condensation from the toilet bowl.

I furiously tried to stitch together the words, the sounds, the feelings and unfeelings from these various interactions with these people and the world they—and I—inhabited. I knew that I had a mother named Sandy, a brother named Joey, and that Joey and I had the same mom. We also shared Grandma and Grandpa Austin, who were our mom’s parents. Mom also had a sister and two brothers who were our aunt and uncles.

But John’s family was murkier, harder to parse. There was no love for me among his clan. No one kissed me or hugged me goodbye. Rarely did anyone ask how I was or how school was going. They always and only cared about Joey.

And, of course, there was John and the unmemory of that unseen Bob who had a mysterious bass turd, whom I eventually discerned was me.

I was pretty confident that I didn’t have a father. There was no one I called “dad” and there was no one who called me “my daughter” or even “my kid.” Whereas Joey called John “dad,” I addressed him as “John.” Frankly, I avoided going near him because he was a mean son-of-bitch who usually didn’t hide his disdain for me. As a grown woman, I learned that my mere existence reminded him that another man knew my mother’s body before he had and that he knew this “Bob” from childhood and detested him for more reasons than I would ever understand.

My last first-grade assignment pulled everything into horrendous clarity. At the fag-end of the school year, Father’s Day loomed. This holiday was as enigmatic to me as Ramazan or Diwali. As the heat soared in our fan-less, un-airconditioned classroom at Abbot Kinney Elementary School on the South side of Fort Wayne, our teacher giddily heralded an exciting end-of-year project: “You are going to make a Father’s Day Card!”

My heart sunk. I felt the pang of diarrhea sweep over me as often happened in moments of such terror.

I approached Mrs. Bentley to go the bathroom. I made it just in time. As my tiny body emptied itself into the toilet like one of those frightened sea cucumbers that I learned about from an afterschool television show, I deliberated upon my dilemma. As a diligent student who took all tasks big and small with great earnestness, what would I do? What could I do?

I returned to the classroom and stood by Ms. Bentley’s desk and waited for her to ask what I needed. With tears of shame and indignity pooling in my eyes and my stomach loudly hollering, I sheepishly whispered “Mrs. Bentley, I don’t have a father. What do I do?”

In 1974, Mrs. Bentley could probably be forgiven for her presumptuousness. And, in her defense, she did seem a bit flummoxed as if this problem had not previously arisen. She queried somewhat plaintively, “Well, Lucy, can’t you make a nice card for your mother’s husband, John? Isn’t he your stepfather?”

This confused me even more. “Mrs. Bentley, what are stepfathers and what do they do?”

Growing exasperated with this unanticipated challenge, Mrs. Bentley offered several bromidic suggestions. “Well, Lucy, they love you. They hold you when you’re sad. They take you to the doctor when you’re sick. They help your mom raise you. So, they are basically a dad.” She said all of this with smug confidence as if she had resolved this impasse. “Um, Mrs. Bentley… Well, John isn’t like that. He hits me. Yanks me by my hair. Also, he calls me names and kicks me with his big shoes. Is John still my stepfather?”

Mrs. Bentley gave me a faint and unpersuasive smile. She said, with gentle encouragement, “Just do your best, Lucy. You always do.”

On those words, I set about the assignment. I selected a brown piece of construction paper and a picture from a magazine of what appeared to be a loving and dashingly handsome man holding who was likely his own toe-headed daughter on his lap. They both smiled with perfect teeth and with matching sky-blue eyes. They were impeccably dressed. They looked absurdly happy as the photographer snapped them mid-laugh. I took a modest collection of gold stick-on stars, some gold glitter, and a small bottle of glue.

Back at my desk, I wondered what a picture of John and me would look like. I was chubby, with wild mouse-brown hair, bespectacled, and wore boys’ hand-me-down clothes and shoes. I stood around like Winnie the Pooh with my potbelly protruding. On special occasions like Easter, mom sewed me dresses that were inspired by Little House on The Prairie. John was tall and lanky. His spindling arms and legs seemed oversized. He reminded me of an emaciated gorilla. His glasses never stayed on his flat nose and his butt crack frequently peaked out of his pants that struggled to catch hold of his narrow, bony hips. I couldn’t imagine plopping my chubby self on his rangy lap like the father and daughter in that picture.

Pushing that impossible image out of my mind, I tried to focus on the task at hand. I folded the paper horizontally and made a near-perfect crease. I wielded my scissors to cut out the man and girl precisely. I applied just the right amount of glue that would hold the enviable father-daughter duo in place without unsightly glue squishing out onto the paper and spoiling the front of the card. I thoughtfully placed a small number of stars over their heads as a sure sign that someone in heaven thought highly of these two because they were impossibly beautiful, happy, and loved.

Inside, I drew a thin heart in glue and deftly, yet abstemiously, cast the glitter upon the glue. I waited patiently for my glittery heart to dry. Then, I removed my Crayola sixty-four count pack from my desk and pondered the colors that went best with the brown card and gold stars and faint gold heart. I withdrew the rarely used gold crayon and, as best as I could in my still largely unlettered hand, wrote:

Dear John

Happy Stepfather’s Day.

Bob’s Bass Turd,


Mrs. Bentley made her usual rounds to check on our progress. She congratulated me on the care with which I folded and decorated the front of the card. Encouraged, I enthusiastically and with an open face, proffered her the card to examine. My innards ached for her approval.

Mrs. Bentley was nonplussed. She nodded her head noncommittally and moved onto Ronald Oliver’s desk. Ronald could never do anything right. He had a dad and had no reasonable excuse to be making such a hash over there. He spilled glitter all over the place and gave himself a dusting of glitter on his gray polyester pants. He couldn’t cut straight. Hell, he couldn’t even fold the damned paper properly. He even managed to get glue all over his glasses, which resembled boogers streaking across both lenses. While I was annoyed with him, I was even more jealous. I wanted a dad too.

At the end of class, I began trudging home with that card in my bookbag with the plan that I would toss it in a dumpster. I took the longest possible route home. I circled superfluous blocks and I stopped to greet the various dogs behind their fences. I dallied about looking for flowers that were in bloom to smell. Eventually, I turned down the alley behind our backyard with the dumpster in sight. Suddenly, mom bolted out of nowhere like a banshee, in a crazed fit of rage. She hurtled towards me with wrath in her amber eyes and grabbed me before I could reach the gate. I felt her nails digging into the flesh of my arm. My arms were covered in scabbed-over or scarred half-moons from past episodes.

“Goddamnit, you little fucker! Why can’t you just be normal? Why do you always have to embarrass me? Go get me a switch. Now,” she thundered.

I dreaded those moments when she became a monster.

While I wasn’t sure what I had done to deserve this, I suspected it had something to do with the card and I knew not to give her lip or even ask why I was in such trouble in moments like this. I also appreciated the peculiar predicament of obtaining a switch for her. If it was too small, she’d furiously whip me with whatever she found lying around, be it a hairbrush, a shoe, some random pipe, or sometimes she’d just wail on me with her fists until she was exhausted. If I picked an unnecessarily big branch, then I was inviting excessive punishment when a smaller one would have sufficed. I brought her what I assessed to be the Goldilocks stick and she did her needful.

After she had her catharsis and let go of my bleeding arm, I ran straight to my room and clambered into the upper bunk in the bed I shared with Joey, who slept below. I curled up with my blue baby doll and whimpered. I asked an increasingly useless god why I was alive given that no one wanted me. I prayed that I’d fall asleep and never wake up. I didn’t come down for dinner and no one came to get me.

At some point in the night, mom softened and maybe even felt remorse for thrashing her hapless, wretched daughter who understood so little of their shared fuckery. She approached the bunk. Her eyes softened and she stroked my tear-soaked, tangled hair. I thought perhaps she too had been crying. She explained that Mrs. Bentley called to discuss her concerns and that this was very, very embarrassing for her. Then, she too began to sob loudly. “Lucy, I’m doing my best. I don’t know what else to do. I can’t make John love you. But you had no goddamned right to tell Mrs. Bentley anything about our home. You have no respect for me or the sacrifices I make for you.”

Even as a young girl, I knew that she was trying to make me feel sorry for her. And it worked. I felt bad that my existence imposed this hardship on her. If only I had died like baby Johnny, she’d be happier. I tried to look at her. But I couldn’t see her clearly. My eyes were swollen from crying and my glasses were smeared from tears and sweat and my mother’s fingerprints from the whooping as she tried to get a firmer grasp on me. I pleaded with her to explain, “Why am I Bob’s bass turd? What is a bass turd and what did I do to be that? And who is Bob anyway?” My bones thirsted for these truths.

In an empty gesture, she patted my head and warily uttered in a hushed voice as she walked out of the room, “I don’t know, Lucy. I just don’t know.”

*     *     *

Lying in bed, I drew Daisy pup to my chest and held her tightly as my stomach contracted and its contents burst up like a volcano in the back of my throat. I waited for it to pass and drifted back to an uneasy sleep, fearing that I would never be able drive these devils from my entrails.

This was originally published in Lunch Ticket, Issue 18: Winter/Spring 2021.

Budreaux The Conqueror

By C. Christine Fair, August 2019

In the summer’s weary end is when

I most miss my brindled, piebald boy

After the sunflowers’ faces, upturned

Reaching towards the sky

Become parched and resigned to die

When he’d uproot and seize

Their crusty stalks like a lance

In his magnificent jaws

And charge across the yard

Like a triumphant conqueror

Vanquishing the last glint of a retreating sun

Originally published in The Bark.

America’s Unrelenting War on Women

As a young feminist studying South Asia in 1990 America, it was de rigueur, for American feminists to decry the “barbaric” abuses from which “third world women” needed to be liberated.  Sati, which became resurgent in Rajasthan briefly, along with female feticide and infanticide and dowry deaths were their cause célèbre as were the Taliban’s use of death by stoning to execute Afghan women for various crimes real and imagined.  The enforced hijab in Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the latter’s ban on female drivers all drove American feminists over the edge as did—and does—female genital mutilation (FGM) practices by some Muslim communities “in Africa.” (Apparently no one can be bothered with specifying a particular country when it comes to Africa.)

This  hot wash in “white saviorism” never sat well with me because American women have never been as liberated as they imagined.  White feminism was always imbued with the class, race and geographical entitlements of its proponents which prevented them from knowing that even in America, many of the practices they decried as the problems of “over there” were in fact practiced within the United States. Few Americans know today that child marriage is practiced in the United States, that is not criminalized by federal law and is permitted in many states. In fact, according to data from 41 states, between 2000 and 2015, more than 200,000 minors were married.

Coming from a blue-color family in rural and peri-rural Indiana, I was annoyed by the “overthereism” of white feminism. For one thing, two of my cousins (by marriage) were child brides. Lean, one of these cousins, was more or less my age and we spent the summers swimming and doing girl stuff. Then in the summer in 1983, Lean was married, with court permission, to a man well into his twenties. She was from a town called “Mongo,” Indiana which was essentially a village where a high school education was an accomplishment she would not achieve. Her sister followed suit several years later. No one in my family seemed terribly aghast by this, except my mother and me.  Throughout Lean’s wedding, I wanted to vomit. My mom kept jabbing me to stop making faces during the ceremony. In any circumstances this would have been statutory rape. But when legitimized by a pastor, child rape becomes matrimony.

Nor did I have the luxury of presuming that boy preference was a curious practice of exotic countries. Afterall, my stepmonster routinely opined that he had no intention of saving money to send me to college so that I could “find a husband.” He furthered that since we were poor and could only afford to educate one of the kids, “it made sense to educate the boy.” My mother fought long and hard to educate me.  My mother saw that I had no other prospects for a happy life than education. Unlike my brother, I was unattractive, overweight and bespectacled. I preferred books to boys and I revolted against the abusive patriarchy that was firmly rooted in our rural Indiana culture and which claimed the happiness and physical safety of every woman I knew who was married. My grandmother was elated when my abusive grandfather died. My mother used to tell how she fantasized about castrating my first stepmonster and she was constantly in tears over the boorish behavior of my second. Mom stayed married for the reason my grandmother did: economic dependency upon lousy men. And my aunt, after whom I am named, stayed married to her violent and alcoholic husband for the same reason. When she finally left him, he murdered her. I had enough evidence in hand that nothing good would come from matrimony.

This worried my mother. There was no precedent for a woman existing in our family without a man taking care of her. And the suffering that went with matrimony was part of that price. But to her credit, my mom fought hard for the only future I demanded—one in which I made my own future independent of any man. But mom never shied from telling me the truth: she never wanted a girl.  Raising girls were precarious and risky. Their success in life was too indeterminate unless they were popular and pretty and I was neither. Boys’ futures, she felt, were more predictable. She was not cruel. She was forthright and pragmatic. Just as I am today. There was no place in that horrible archipelago of rural hellholes from which I escaped to be the woman I wanted to be. And this was not India or “Africa.” It was Indiana. The same state from which our current Vice President hails along with five others.

While the United States has long been a terrible place to be a woman for many women, it’s getting worse not better. In contrast, many countries I study –including Pakistan—is making strides to make lives for women better. But in the not in the United States. American legislators refuse to pass laws that make it illegal to pay women less for the same work. And once again our basic right to decide whether and when to have children is being taken away. 

The right to abortion is one that I hold dear because of personal reasons.  My biological father impregnated my mother under false pretenses and unmarried in 1967.  Abortion was illegal and thus the exclusive privilege of wealthy women who could travel abroad or pay someone to provide a safe, but still illegal, abortion in the United States. Poor women who had illegal abortion risked their lives and many died from sepsis or blood loss. So my mother ran away, by bus, to Arizona where she lived with my aunt Carol—after whom I am named. Had abortion been legal, my mother could have imagined a different life than that inscribed for women with “illegitimate” children.  There may have been a future for her that didn’t rely upon being married to a “meal ticket.” She may have been a more capable provider for her future children. In this statement I am reaffirming the value of my mother’s life rather than undervaluing my own.

While Roe V. Wade,the landmark supreme court case from 1973, conferred upon women the right to choose, proponents of traditional while-male-dominant patriarchy fought tooth and nail to squash this  right as soon as we got it. The ability to plan our fertility has been the cornerstone of our ability to pursue higher education, gainful employment, and marriage by choice rather than compulsion. And it is this access to economic justice that has enabled women to walk out from abusive or unhappy marriages or not marry at all.

While the racism of the contemporary Republican party is much appreciated abroad because it is so gobsmackingly obvious, it is also waging a war on women and our bodies. While the white male Republicans fear ethnographic change and the loss of their race privilege, they also fear women and the erosion of their gender privileges despite the facts that women consistently earn less than men for the same work and that white men still occupy the most lucrative and important positions in the public and private sectors.  The fear that white men will one day be unable to run roughshod over everyone else is the same fear that Trump both stoked and exploited to become the president. While it may seem paradoxical that white women have allied with white men to protect their own race privileges and cruel power that conservative orthodoxy bestows upon women who happily police other women and people of color, this has always been the inherently non-intersectional character of white American feminism.

To eviscerate our hard-fought gains, the Republican party has endeavored to roll back access to affordable birth control as well as pharmaceutical and surgical abortion. It has stacked our courts with misogynistic conservatives in hopes that a court dominated by such rubes will over-turn Roe v. Wade. In the meantime, Republicans hollowed out abortion access by terrorizing physicians who perform the procedure. They waged legal cases throughout the country to endow fetuses with rights at the expense of women’s civil liberties. They made every possible effort to restrict how, when, and where abortion is provided. They have imposed waiting periods and, in some states, they force women to pay for expensive trans-vaginal ultrasounds in hopes that after seeing their snowy fetus, they will change their minds. They have sought impose absurd standards upon the clinics themselves and distance to hospitals and have argued that doctors must have surgical rights at hospitals even if here is no hospital nearby that will afford those rights and even though the procedure is safer than many other procedures. (Many hospitals in the United States are Catholic and they do not permit abortion. Thus this requirement is a back door means of eroding access to surgical abortion.) Indiana has passed a law that requires the products of conception to be buried or incinerated separately from other surgical waste, which is merely intended to increase the cost of an increasingly costly procedure.

Due to the concatenating impacts of these varied efforts, today, there are many states in which surgical abortion, for all intents and purposes, is unavailable. In such states, there are so few abortion providers that women must undertake lengthy and expensive journeys—sometimes to other states—and endure the commonly-imposed three-day waiting period and other burdens such as the trans-vaginal ultrasound. This in addition to several hundreds of dollars to pay for the procedure, which cannot be subsidized with federal monies. All of this requires days of missed work and arranging childcare. Such restrictions disproportionately affect America’s most vulnerable women who tend to be poor and/or persons of color.

Recently, some nine states have passed legislation to further restrict access. Several of these have passed so-called “heartbeat” bills that criminalize abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, after most women even know they are pregnant. In most circumstances, these laws cruelly and deliberately exclude exceptions for rape and incest. The penalty for securing an illegal abortion under these laws actually exceeds the penalty for rape and incest or even actual murder of a human being. The laws themselves reflect an asinine lack of scientific understanding of the chemical process that gives the illusion of a “heartbeat” as there is no fetal heart at six weeks.

Despite prosecuting this relentless war on our body agency in the name of “life,” other Republican policies bely any genuine interest in either increasing the quality or quantity of Americans’ lives. They oppose universal and affordable health care for the same fetuses they fetishize and the mothers who care for them as well as their families. Republicans nearly universally oppose education budgets that would provide for quality education at all levels, which is the most effective way of ensuring equal access to opportunities and outcomes. They reject efforts to expand civil liberties and are actively rolling back those already attained. Whereas the Republican party of the past freed American slaves, the party of today is most known for its racism and bigotry. Most cynically, they smother even the most modest restrictions upon the ability purchase military-grade weapons and munitions, even though on a near-weekly basis America’s children are butchered in school shootings. They support the death penalty without any effort to reconcile this with their “pro-life” positions and they do so despite the well-known fact that the use of the death penalty is driven by racism and that many African American men have been framed for crimes they did not commit resulting in the execution of innocent men. Poor people in general are more likely to get the death penalty because they cannot afford competent legal representation.  

In short: once that fetus becomes a child, it is on its own. Its odds are best if it’s a white, Cis-male. While that demographic comprises only 30 percent of the population, it command the best access to opportunities and outcomes.

More galling yet, some protect the parental rights of rapists when their victim becomes impregnated from their criminal conduct.  In other circumstances, sex offenders are not permitted to be around children. Recently, in Alabama—one of the most backwards states in the Union which has passed the most draconian law essentially outlawing abortion—ordered a woman to permit her rapist visitation of the child that resulted from his assault on her. She will be ordered to spend forty-eight hours in jail for every visitation she declines.

Given Republicans’ discernable lack of interest in life-saving or life-improving policies in any other policy domain, it is fairly clear that their interest in denying women the ability to plan our fertility is abjectly not about life rather about denying us the right to live our lives fully and to our potential with dignity.

In 2015, before the “Trumpocalypse,” the United Nations sent a fact-finding team to investigate the state of American women and were horrified by what they found. The “myth-shattering” mission noted that American women are lagging in rights.  More recently, UN  Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore did not mince her words when she declared the onslaught against abortion rights as “extremist hate” and “torture.”

As other countries in the world, like India, continue to make strides in empowering women, perhaps the disempowered American Woman, reduced to fetal incubators, will become the next posterchild of feminist movements that are steaming ahead elsewhere. I look forward to the day when crowds of “third world” women gather outside of American embassies and consulates demanding that that the US government stop its relentless war on women and children.

A shorter, better edited version of this essay appeared in The Print on June 18, 2019.

Hindi Blog Post #1: Discussing My Latest Book on the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

Here I discuss LeT and my newest book, In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba with Pranay Kotasthane, Head, Research The Takshashila Institution.

प्रणय कोटस्थाने के साथ मेरा साक्षात्कार , जिसमें, हम लश्कर-ए-तैयबा पर अपनी नई किताब की चर्चा करते हैं।


आपकी नयी किताब  In their Own Words, लश्कर जसै आतंकवादी संगठन  का घरेलू राजनीति में क्या स्थान है, इस पर चर्चा  करती है | तो इस एपिसोड में हम LeT को एक संगठन (organisation) के रूप में गहराई से समझने की कोशिश करते है|

१. हर संगठन  का एक vision, mission statement होता है – LeT का क्या है?

लश्कर-ए-तैयबा का एक पुस्तिका है  जिस में  वह् वर्णन  करता है कि वह् क्या करता है और क्यों।

ईस पुस्तिका  का नाम  है “हम क्यों जिहाद कर रहे हैं।”

इस पुस्तिका में, कई सिद्धांत/ उसूल  प्रस्तुत किए गए हैं, खास तौर  पर, यह दो:

२. हर हाल में, पाकिस्तान के भीतर, किसी भी प्रकार की हिंसा (या आतंक) सख्त़ मना (निषेध) है।

इससे कोई फर्क नहीं पड़ता अगर कोई मुजाहिद समझता है कि कोई  व्यक्ति “खराब मुस्लिम” है , और कुफ़्र और मशरिक (यानी जो शिर्क करता है) और मुनफ़िक़ (यानी जो खिलफ़त करता है) या कलह फैलाता है।

३. जिहाद सभी मुसलमानों के लिए अनिवार्य है, यानी फर्ज़्। यह आवश्यक (जरूरी) है कि हर एक मुसलमान जिहाद में शरक़त (Bhag lena) करने के लिए तैयार हो।

इसका मतलब नहीं है कि कोई बंदूक उठाकर कश्मीर  सीधे चला जाए। शायद एक भाई घर पर रहे पारिवारिक व्यवसाय की देखभाल के लिए ताकि दूसरा भाई कश्मीर जाकर काफिरों से लड़ सके।  लश्कर ए तैयबा के अनुसार दोनों जिहाद में हिस्सा ले रहे हैं।

लश्कर का मानना (तर्क/ख़्याल) है कि जब पाकिस्तानी बाहरी दुश्मन से लड़ना बंद कर देंगे, तो वे एक-दूसरे पर हमला करना शुरू कर देंगे और इसी तरह पाकिस्तान को तबाह करेंगे।

४. इस संगठन  की शुरुआत कब और कैसे हुई?

यह संगठन  १९८० के दशक के अंत में शुरू हुआ,सोवियत संघ के अफ़ग़ानिस्तान   को  छोड़ने से पहले।

लश्कर से पहले, दो अलग-अलग संगठन  थे। एक संगठन , ज़कि-उर्-रेह्मान लखवी  का, दूसरा हाफ़िज़ साईद का। १९८४ (1984) में, लखवी ने  सेनानियों का एक समूह इकट्ठा किया, जो सब अहल-ए-हदीस थे।

तकरीबन  एक साल के बाद्, लाहौर में, लाहौर इंजीनियरिंग विश्वविद्यालय के इस्लामिक अध्ययन विभाग के दो प्रोफेसरों ने जमात उद दावा स्थापित किया।

ये दो प्रोफेसर हाफ़िज़  मुहम्मद साईद और जफ़र इकबाल थे। जमात उद दावा, मूलभूत रूप से, तब्लीघ  और दावाह पर ध्यान करते थे।

लगभग १९८६ (1986) में, लखवी का मिलिशिया और साईद  का JUF विलय हो गया और इस नये तन्ज़ीम का नाम मार्कज़्-उद-दावा-वाल-इरशाद (एम.डी.आई)था।

एम.डी.आई. के तीन कार्य थे: जिहाद , तब्लीघ, दावाह (यानी मुसलमानों को अहल-ए-हदीस पंथ में परिवर्तित करना)।

२००२ में, जैश-ए-मोहम्मद के संसद पर हमला करने के बाद, लश्कर और अन्य आतंकवादी समूहों को “प्रतिबंधित” कर दिया गया था।

मगर , प्रतिबंध प्रभावी होने से पहले, आई. एस. आई. ने (यानी पाकिस्तान की सबसे ख़तरनाक ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसी ने) समूहों को उन्नत चेतावनी दी थी, जिस से वे नए नामों के तहत फिर से अस्तित्व में आये ।  २००२ से, लश्कर को “जमात उद दावाह” कहा जाता है ।

. इसके sponsor/shareholders कौन है?

उस प्रश्न (prashna/ सवाल ) का आसान उत्तर (जवाब) है: पाकिस्तानी  सेना और इस की ख़ुफ़िया एजेंसी आई. एस.आई।

६. इसमें भर्ती (recruitment) कहाँ  से और कैसे होती है? क्यों नौजवान इस कररयर को चुनते  है?

ज़्यादातर लश्कर के रंगरूट (या नए  सेनानियों) पंजाब के लगभग १० जिलों से ताल्लुक  रखते हैं।

वे अलग-अलग कारणों से जुड़ते हैं ।  कुछ ऊब चुके हैं और साहसिक कारनामे की तलाश कर रहे हैं।

कुछ बेहद धार्मिक हैं और मानते हैं कि जिहाद जरूरी है।

दूसरे  कश्मीर में मुसलमानों की मदद करना चाहते हैं, क्योंकि  वे विश्वास करते हैं कि वे मज़लूम हैं।

कई मामलों में, उनके माता-पिता उन्हें जिहाद के लिए जाने पर  हौसला बढ़ा देते हैं क्योंकि जब उनका बेटा शहीद हो कर अल्लाह से मिलता है,  वह अल्लाह से अनुरोध कर सकता है कि  मरने के बाद उन्हें स्वर्ग  (या जन्नत) में जाने दे।

इस के अलावा, जब उनका  बेटा शहीद हो जाता है, तो समाज में परिवारों की स्थिति बढ़ जाती है।

७. इस संगठन का समाज में वजूद क्या है?

“जमात उद दावाह” और “फ़िलाह इन्सानियत फाउंडेशन ” के नामों के तहत, वे पाकिस्तान के भीतर बहुत सारे सामाजिक कार्य करते हैं। उदाहरण के लिए,  वे सामान्य स्कूलों का निर्माण करते हैं (मदरसे नहीं,हालांकि मदरसे भी बनवाए), चिकित्सा सेवाएं प्रदान करते हैं, कुओं को खोदते हैं और भूकंप (ज़लज़ला), बाढ़ (सैलाब), चक्रवात (साइक्लोन), सूखा (खुश्क) दौरान और बाद में राहत सेवाएं उपलब्ध करते हैं।

८. इस संगठन  को कैसे निपटाया जाए? क्या पाकिस्तान में ऐसी ताकतें हैं जो इस तरह के संगठनों का ख़ात्मा करना चाहती हैं?

दो कारणों से, इससे निपटाना  असंभव है।

सबसे पहले, पाकिस्तानी सेना को बाहरी और आंतरिक सुरक्षा के लिए इसकी आवश्यकता (सख़त ज़रूरी) है।

दूसरा, अगरपाकिस्तानी सेना इससे प्रयोग में न लाना चाहती हो, तो भी ऐसा करना बहुत मुश्किल होगा और शायद नामुमकिन।

भारत के पास दो विकल्प (चुनाव) हैं। सबसे पहले, इसे सहन करना जारी रखें।  

दूसरा, इसकी क्षमताओं को कम करने के लिए गुप्त संचालन कर सकते हैं, मगर अगर भारत ऐसे करे, तोयह बिल्कुल महत्वपूर्ण है कि यह गुप्त रहे ।यदि सरकार इन कार्यों के बारे में बहुत शोर करती है, तो  पाकिस्तान को जवाब देने पर मजबूर हो जायेगी और भारत एक युद्ध शुरू होने का जोखिम बुलाता है परमाणु युद्ध के जोखिम के साथ।

It’s Out! In Their Own Words Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba

Here’s an amuse-bouche of  In Their Own Words Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (Hurst, OUP). As always, I am grateful to Saira Wasim for her exquisite work that graces this cover. Check out her other inspiring paintings here:

Please note that I will donate my personal profits to the Government of India’s Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross-Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory, as well as Save the Children India. Over time, I may adjust the charities to which I donate, although I will remain committed to donating to non-religious/non-proselytizing organizations in India that do relief work. Thank you in advance for supporting these institutions through your purchase of this book.

Copies may be purchased here:

Via Hurst:

Via Oxford University Press:

Via Amazon:

The South Asia and US editions will be coming out shortly.

Potential Reviewers: If you would like to review this volume, please email me at with the Subject Header: “I’d like to review In Their Own Words.”


This project is the culmination of research I unwittingly began in Lahore in 1995 when I was a doctoral student studying Urdu as well as Punjabi through the renowned BULPIP (Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan, currently known as the Berkeley-AIPS Urdu Language Program in Pakistan). As a student of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, I frequented Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore, where I first encountered booksellers purveying the propaganda of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), which now operates mostly under the name of Jamaat ud Dawah (JuD). I began collecting their materials that year and continued to do so during subsequent visits over the next couple of decades until I was ultimately deemed persona non-grata by the country’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).

Due to the ISI’s assessment that I am a “nasty woman,” I have been unable to return to Pakistan since August 2013, but astonishingly, I was able to continue gathering materials for this effort through inter-library loan. Since 1962, American libraries have procured books from South Asia through the so-called PL-480 program, named after the eponymous public law which allowed the US Library of Congress to use rupees from Indian purchases of American agricultural products to buy Indian books. In 1965, a field office was opened in Karachi to oversee the acquisition of Pakistani publications. While the PL-480 program was long since discontinued, The Library of Congress continues to use the same institutional infrastructure to purchase these publications under the guise of a new program called the South Asia Cooperative Acquisitions Project.

I am deeply indebted to the Library of Congress and the other libraries across the United States which purchased these publications through this program and made them available to scholars through their institutions’ inter-library loan programs. I am particularly beholden to Georgetown University’s Lauinger Library, which never failed to produce a book I requested. The University of Chicago and the Library of Congress were the primary sources of these books and I am grateful that they continue to obtain and lend terrorist publications. As one US government official wryly noted when I explained my new sources of materials, “there is no better way to keep terrorist literature out of the hands of would-be terrorists than putting it in a library.”

I am also extremely indebted to Georgetown University, which has supported my work unstintingly since I joined the Security Studies Program in the fall of 2009. The University and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University subsidized the writing of this book through a year-long leave through sabbatical and a senior research leave. Moreover, the School of Foreign Service provided invaluable financial support that enabled me to collaborate with Safina Ustaad, who did most of the translations used in this volume. (Ustaad and I are publishing a subsequent volume that contains these translations via Oxford University Press, entitled A Call to War: The Literature of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.) The School of Foreign Service also subsidized a related and ongoing project in which I am studying the battle-field motivations of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba fighters. Through that funding, Ali Hamza translated a 10 percent random sample of the over 900 fighter biographies I collected, the analyses of which I present in this book. I am also grateful to the Security Studies Program, my home program within the School of Foreign Service, for generously subsidizing other aspects of this project, such as my work with Abbas Haider and other ongoing collaborations with Ali Hamza. Both Haider and Hamza translated some materials (under my guidance and quality assurance) which I have analyzed herein. Ali Hamza has been a superb colleague and collaborator over numerous years on several quantitative and qualitative projects alike. I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a gracious and talented colleague.

I also benefited tremendously from fellowships with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) in New Delhi, which hosted me as a senior fellow in the summer of 2016, the Gateway House in Mumbai during the summer of 2015, and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington DC, which hosted me as a fellow in the summer of 2017. I remain obliged to Jayant Prasad, Rumel Dahiya, and Ashok Behuria at IDSA, and Sally Blair at the NED. Don Rassler and the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point also provided important resources for the quantitative aspects of this project while I was a fellow at the CTC. It was a privilege to work with Don and the other members of that team including Anirban Ghosh, Nadia Shoeb, and Arif Jamal to whom I am deeply beholden. I would also like to express my gratitude to Oxford University Press which graciously allowed me to compress, update and draw upon significant portions of Fighting to the End: The Pakistani Army’s Way of War (2014) as well as Taylor and Francis which granted me permission to draw heavily from a 2014 article in the The Journal of Strategic Studies (“Insights from a Database of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Militants,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 37, 2 (2014), pp. 259–290.)

As this volume is the culmination of years of research and consultation, it would be remiss were I not to mention the superb community of scholars with whom I have discussed this project and data. Those who have been generous with their time and insights include: Daniel Byman, Bruce Hoffman, Jacob Shapiro, Praveen Swami, Ashley Tellis, Arif Jamal, Maryum Alam, the late Mariam Abou Zahab, Jaideep and his colleagues, and numerous others who met with me over the years in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Seth Oldmixon deserves a special mention. Oldmixon is one of the most under-valued assets in the community of South Asia analysts. He has a hawk’s eye for details as he has scoured social media feeds and publications of militant organizations, reads the South Asian press more diligently than most intelligence analysts I know and has an extraordinary ability to recall events, identify persons and their associations.

I am also profoundly indebted to my husband, Jeffrey Dresser Kelley and our ever-evolving pack of canine associates, who have patiently, and at times, less patiently, abided my months away from home with grace and aplomb. They also endured long periods of my inattention as I sought first to comprehend the huge number of sources I processed for this volume and then drafted this book, which took much longer than I ever anticipated. They have foregone vacations and grown tufts of gray hair wondering when—or if—it would ever conclude.

Michael Dwyer at Hurst has been equally patient and supportive of this project. Without his belief in this project, there would be no project at all. Saira Wasim, one of the most intrepid and dauntless artists I have had the privilege of knowing, deserves extraordinary mention. Wasim has generously lent her courageous art to this cover and to that of my last two books. Wasim, masterfully subverting the tradition of the Mughal miniature painting, valorously confronts and interrogates the perversions and defeasances in Pakistani and international politics alike as well as the culpable dastards. When I have writer’s block, I peruse her body of work for inspiration. Her work is literally worth a million words.

Finally, I am aware that most readers who will buy this book will do so because of the hideous crimes this organization has perpetrated, mostly against Indian citizens. Thousands of Indians have been murdered by LeT, and if not for the group’s lethal effectiveness, no one would care about it. The biographies of the martyrs weighed heavily upon my conscience as I studied their declared intentions to slaughter an enemy about which they knew nothing but lies propagated by the organization and the Pakistani state, leavened with rare fragments of truth. Because my ethical commitments preclude me from profiting from the deaths of thousands, I will donate any personal proceeds from this book to charitable organizations that assist victims of terrorism. Because Lashkar-e-Tayyaba mostly murders Indians, I will donate my personal profits to the Government of India’s Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims of Terrorist/Communal/Left Wing Extremist Violence, Cross-Border Firing and Mine/IED blasts on Indian Territory, as well as Save the Children India. Over time, I may adjust the charities to which I donate, although I will remain committed to donating to non-religious/non-proselytizing organizations in India that do relief work. Thank you in advance for supporting these institutions through your purchase of this book.

एक्सपर्ट एनालिसिस:पाकिस्तान जिस तरह खालिस्तानी समूहों को पनाह दे रहा है, उससे लगता है करतारपुर कॉरिडोर कहीं खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर न बन जाए

वॉशिंगटन, अमेरिका5 दिन पहलेलेखक: क्रिस्टीन फेयर

तारीख 9 नवंबर 2019, जब गुरु नानकदेव जी की 550वीं जयंती से 3 दिन पहले करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन हुआ, तो सिखों में खुशी की लहर दौड़ गई कि अब वे पाकिस्तान स्थित करतारपुर साहिब जाकर माथा टेक सकेंगे। बंटवारे के दौरान भारत और पाकिस्तान के बीच बंटे सिखों के 2 प्रमुख धर्मस्थलों- भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर बसे डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतारपुर साहिब को इस कॉरिडोर ने फिर से जोड़ दिया, लेकिन भारत की सुरक्षा स्थिति पर नजर रखने वाले एक्सपर्ट्स को चिंता है कि ये कॉरिडोर कहीं ‘खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर’ में तब्दील न हो जाए। उनकी चिंता बहुद हद तक जायज भी है।

पंजाब में 1992 में हुए विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान का हिंसापूर्ण आंदोलन लगभग खत्म हो गया था, लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और इसके सबसे प्रमुख आतंकवादी नेता जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को फिर से जिंदा करने के प्रयास किए जा रहे हैं। भारत में भले ही खालिस्तान के लिए मुखर समर्थन ना हो, लेकिन कनाडा, ब्रिटेन और दूसरे पश्चिमी देशों में रह रहे सिख डायस्पोरा और बाकी जाट सिख समुदायों में इस हिंसक और क्रूर आंदोलन का समर्थन जारी है।

भिंडरावाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, खालिस्तानी साहित्य और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र स्थल श्री हरमिंदर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारे के आसपास के बाजारों में बेचे जा रहे हैं। भारत के कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों के साथ भिंडरावाले की तस्वीरों को भी शामिल किया गया है। भारत के लिए सबसे चिंता की बात ये है कि हाल के सालों में कई खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं, जिन्हें सुरक्षाबलों ने रोका है।

मैंने और मेरे सहयोगियों ने जो रिसर्च किया है उसमें सामने आया है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं। ये घटनाएं एक जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच हुई हैं।भारत-पाकिस्तान के सुरक्षा हालातों पर नजर रखने वाले एक्सपर्ट और स्कॉलर सबसे ज्यादा चिंतित पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के सार्वजनिक बयानों को लेकर हैं। जिनमें उन्होंने कहा है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तानी सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।

पाकिस्तान में 1991 के बाद से कई बार केंद्रीय मंत्री रहे राजनेता शेख राशिद ने चुटकी लेते हुए एक बयान में कहा, ‘भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को हमेशा जनरल बाजवा के दिए गए गहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतारपुर कॉरिडोर खोलकर भारत पर जोरदार प्रहार किया है।’

भारत के लिए चिंता की एक और बड़ी बात ये है कि पाकिस्तानी खुफिया एजेंसी ISI ने प्रवासी सिखों यानी सिख डायस्पोरा के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है। ISI हमेशा से ही भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी अलगाववादी समूहों का साथ देती रही है। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामी आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओं के बीच सहयोग और साठगांठ जारी है।

पाकिस्तान लंबे समय से खालिस्तानी समूहों को मजबूत कर रहा है और पनाह भी दे रहा है। इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ मिलकर पाकिस्तान के साजिश रचने का उद्देश्य भी साफ है। पाकिस्तान पर लश्कर और दूसरे इस्लामी आतंकवादी समूहों का इस्तेमाल करने की वजह से अंतरराष्ट्रीय दबाव भी बनाया जाता रहा है। अब बदले हुए सुरक्षा हालात में पाकिस्तान के लिए खालिस्तानी समूह बेहद अहम हो गए हैं। हो सकता है पाकिस्तान जिन समूहों का लंबे समय से विकास कर रहा है, उनका इस्तेमाल अब शुरू कर दे।

This piece published in the Dainik Bhaskr on 10 September. Note that this was the article originally plagiarized by a dubious joker, as I detail here:

What America did to itself after 9/11

Like many Americans, 9/11 is a day I won’t forget. I was 33, living in West Los Angeles, trapped in an abusive relationship and too underpaid by RAND to move out on my own. As had become my habit, I was sleeping on the futon with my dog, Ms Oppenheimer. As I was waking up, I saw the news coverage of the first tower falling. I thought it was a movie. Like many Americans, the trajectory of my life changed for both the good and the bad.

Prior to 9/11, I was a research associate at RAND. I had fled the University of Chicago’s toxic environment and was trying to recover from the myriad traumas I had experienced there while also trying to finish my PhD in South Asian languages and civilisations remotely. Before 9/11, I worked on numerous projects for the Office of the Secretary of Defence, among other clients, but rarely did I work on South Asia. One of my clients was killed in the Pentagon attack, but I never closely interacted with him. RAND was closed for several days. Its office in Virginia was right across from the Pentagon and many of my colleagues witnessed that crash first hand. When we returned to the office, I had already been contacted by various US government agencies and I casually mentioned this to a colleague. Within 15 minutes, RAND’s then vice-president Natalie Crawford came to me and asked how much it would take to keep me. She also wrangled money to help me finish my PhD. The overnight raise helped me find a new home and begin a life free of abuse with my dog. It’s terrible to say that 9/11 altered the trajectory of my life in a positive way. But it did.Opinion |PB Mehta writes: What 9/11 unleashed on us

But there were costs. I didn’t set out wanting to be a scholar of Islamist terrorism. I studied Punjabi literature in graduate school and my intellectual interest lay in the politics of the Sikh diaspora, particularly the mobilisation of Khalistan. It would be decades before I could return to the subject. Overnight, all of my language work and time in Pakistan would be harnessed to study this threat that few Americans even knew existed.

As someone who often worked in policy circles and for government clients, I watched in horror as the US government sought to reduce a very complex challenge to “scalable projects”. I watched as my government and fellow citizens began to view Muslims as a threat to our very way of life. I watched how a complicit media and pusillanimous members of Congress did nothing to stop the Bush administration’s invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq even though the justifications for doing so were rank lies.

The US Congress, keen to seem interested in and capable of protecting us, passed the ironically named The Patriot Act in late October 2001. It gave the government widespread powers of surveillance and severely compromised civil liberties. Yet Americans acquiesced to the sacrificing of their freedoms in exchange for an ephemeral perception of security.

As America went to war in Afghanistan, it hoovered up young men without the ability to discern who was an actual combatant from who was just a person caught in the wrong place at a life-changing time. We set up prisons in Guantanamo and Bagram and other dubious places across the world where persons were held without habeas corpus while being subjected to torture which the Bush administration referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The CIA hired dubious contractors to develop these torture methods and paid these so-called “torture teachers” $80 million. The US Congress would eventually conclude what had already been known: Torture is not effective and the testimony extracted under torture did not help capture Osama Bin Laden.

It’s impossible to know how many people were detained across the known eight black sites, where the United States deposited captured persons. Many of those persons were innocent but were captured due to faulty intelligence, mistaken identity, or other absurd errors. The Bush administration even paid bounties of $3,000-$25,000 for anyone who would hand over a “possible terror suspect.” Of the 780 persons who were detained at Guantanamo, there were only eight convictions. Today 39 people are still held at the facility. They have never been charged with a crime, much less been tried.

I also believe that the so-called war on terror spawned the fascistic, hate-filled xenophobia that is destroying the body politic of my country. The Republican Party learned that fear and anxiety motivate voters. Trump perfected baseless fear-mongering to fan the flames of white males who fear the loss of their privilege and then harnessed it for political gains. Those who espouse these beliefs are not a minority. They are about half of this country and the entire Republican Party has sought to placate these boors, who harbour the insane belief that when women, racial, religious and ethnic minorities enjoy the full suite of rights enshrined by our constitution, white men must suffer a loss of rights. It’s as if they see rights as a pizza: More for us means less for them. For these Americans, Trump and the white male supremacist xenophobia we empowered were all that could block the browning of America. In this insane zeal, his supporters in and out of the US government attempted a coup on January 6.

I don’t know what Bin Laden envisioned to be the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. But I can say confidently that Bin Laden didn’t destroy America. America destroyed America.

This column first appeared in the print edition on September 11, 2021 under the title ‘America destroyed America’. The writer is a professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University. She is the author of In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War.

The Rise of Global Idiocracies

The media we watch informs our opinions, often for the worse. In 2003, a Gallup Poll revealed that solid majorities of Americans supported President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, which was in stark contrast the opposition to the war held by global polities. The invasion and the disastrous occupation that ensued continue to haunt the United States. It wrecked our economy, trashed our standing as a country that upholds rule of law, generated global suspicions about American intentions towards the Muslim world, undermined our relations with key allies, and created the very conditions that gave rise to ISIS. Despite the fact global publics resoundingly rejected the war, a majority of Americans supported it. Fifteen years later, Americans remain divided on this war despite the volumes of information about it and its motivations. In March 2018, another national poll of American adults found that while 48% believed the use of military force was wrong, 43% supported it use.

Americans Were Asked Three Questions

In 2003, one year after the invasion, several researchers wanted to understand the bizarre beliefs Americans espoused about the war. The researchers asked Americans three basic questions, to which the answers were clearly “no” — Has the United States found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation? Has the US found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? And whether or not they agreed that world populations supported the war, opposed it or were evenly balanced. The team found that Americans, on average, were misinformed. A majority of Americans surveyed repeatedly in 2003 believed that Hussain was working with al-Qaeda. In fact, Hussain and al-Qaeda were sworn enemies.

Depending upon the month surveyed, anywhere between one in three and one in five believed that the United States found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, when, in fact, there were no such weapons to be found. Even though global opinion was decidedly opposed to the war, about one in four thought global publics supported it, while about one in three thought they were “evenly balanced”. Across all American adults surveyed, only one in three had no misperceptions. Unsurprisingly, those who had such misperceptions were more supportive of the war than those without.

The Source of News Matters

How did Americans come to be so ill-informed about a war of such enormous consequence? It’s reasonable to posit some role of the media they consumed. The team also asked respondents where they got most of their news. Of the 3,334 persons asked, 19 per cent primarily obtained their news from print media while 80 per cent cited non-print means. Respondents were then asked about the specific news network they primarily use to obtain “information.” Because consumers of public radio and public television were so few, they were combined into one category.

However, what was surprising is that among CNN viewers, 55 per cent had one or more misperceptions. In comparison, 71 per cent of CBS news consumers, 61 per cent of ABC consumers, 55 per cent of NBC consumers, and 47 per cent of print news consumers had one or more misperceptions. (Note this survey did not include MSNBC, which caters to consumers on the American political left.)

The team also examined the average rate of misperceptions. While Fox came in with the highest rate of misperception (45), the other media outlets had roughly the same rate of execrableness. CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC, and Print Media has misperception rates of 36, 31, 30, 30 and 25 respectively. Consumers of public media (NPR and PBS) were the least likely to be ill-informed on these three issues with an average misperception rate of 11.

Other studies have come to similar conclusions: global media which have a responsibility to inform are failing in their most basic charge.

My Personal Experience

As a scholar, I am curious about the causal pathways that account for the failures of important media houses to inform their publics. Personally, I have had about 20 years of my own experiences that have helped shape my understanding of these failures. Here are a few insights from my own participation in news programs that span North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

It should be no surprise that Pakistan television shows have been particularly problematic for me: a scholar who had dedicated much of her career to unpacking the strategic culture of a country that is the single-most contributor to instability in South Asia. There was a time when I did do Pakistani television shows because Pakistan’s deep state generally viewed me as someone who is not in anyone’s pocket. I have a reputation as a fierce and blunt critic of any policy or country that I deemed as deserving criticism.

However, one experience in Pakistan was particularly telling. Sometime around 2010, I was doing a one-on-one interview with a female anchor of a popular show on Pakistan’s MSNBC. The anchor asked me “Why can’t the United States be a friend to Pakistan like China?” I answered in my typically blunt way “You mean, fail to bail it out of any war it starts, provide loan aid with heavy interest rates instead of grant aid and enough weapons to encourage to pick a fight with India but not help you when a fight happens?” I had not completed my final sentence when the host immediately and abruptly went to an unplanned commercial break. She told me plainly that I could not speak of China in this way. I told her plainly, “Then don’t ask me questions about China.”

‘Editorial Positions’ Are usually Missionary

For many years, I had experienced the “editorial positions” of television networks — notably of the BBC and Al Jazeera — on drones. Neither channel would indulge any position, however grounded in data, which supported the drone program in Pakistan as I did. At one point, during an Al Jazeera programme, the co-host, Mehdi Hassan, actually said “forget about the data”. For some time, I was persona non grata at the network for repeatedly calling out Al Jazeera’s fictions about the programme.

And as many confrontations I have had with what passes for news among Pakistan’s channels, I had had my own experiences with the circus of buffoonery that so often characterises India’s own migraine-inducing television channels.

However, two recent experiences stand out because of their momentous consequences. On 26 August, 2021, I did an interview with Bloomberg Asia on the developments in Afghanistan. When the panel asked me about the most likely source of income for the Taliban, I began to explain China’s support to the movement that predated 9/11 and which continues to date. One of the hosts, Rishaad Salamat, immediately tried to shout me down and claimed that these assertions were merely speculation. Naturally, I stood my ground and maintained that these assertions are facts for which I have substantiating evidence.

In hindsight, it was clear that the network was worried about irritating China, which has gone to great lengths to silence any uncomfortable truth about its atrocities at home and abroad. In fairness, I don’t have high expectations of journalistic integrity from a network dedicated to the global elite’s wealth accumulation.

The Philippa Thomas Fiasco

Of more concern is my recent interview with Philippa Thomas of the BBC. Ms. Thomas is a popular newsreader on the network and I had been interviewed by her before. She is one of countless many persons who are hired to read the teleprompter with enthusiasm while interviewing guests, while never cultivating any substantive expertise.

Ms. Thomas set the tone by addressing me as “Christine.” Does she usually address her guests with the familiarity of a brunch companion? Throughout the interview she made numerous unprofessional grimaces which one expects from a balatron like Tucker Carlson.

As is apparent in the clip, every question Ms. Thomas posed was pre-loaded and sympathetic to Pakistani official–if farcical–claims. Whether I sought to explain Pakistan’s historical 7-decade-long effort to subjugate Afghanistan, its long-standing reliance upon Islamist terror groups as tools of foreign policy, or even its well-established rent-seeking strategy of claiming to be the fireman instead of the arsonist it is, she interrupted me and repeatedly asserted that Pakistani officials would, of course, disagree with me. Oddly, several Pakistani officials who had previously been on the network had confessed to doing exactly as I charged.

Surely, if there had been a Pakistani official present, they would have offered their preferred storyline of perpetual victimhood. And indeed, such officials are frequent guests of the BBC. No matter what absurd falsehood they assert, they are not interrupted. And certainly, no newsreader would ever say things like “Well, of course, if we had a scholar on Pakistan’s strategic culture, they would reject these claims”. It’s preposterous to even even consider it.

Most shockingly, she abruptly cut off the interview when I reminded her that Pakistan has long-relied upon a menagerie of Islamist terrorists to prosecute its foreign policy goals. As she turned her attention to her viewers, she concluded with another maniacal facial contortion more suitable for a farceur than a BBC newsreader.

Britain’s Domestic Politics Tied With BBC?

I’ve been left pondering that interview and the comportment of Ms. Thomas. Was Ms. Thomas simply a rank simpleton or ignoramus? I must reject that explanation because the premises of her questions reflected a deep familiarity with Rawalpindi’s narrative. Also, she seemed astutely aware of the kinds of things that would irritate Pakistan’s Derp State. I also reject the conspiracy theories popular in India that the BBC is “anti-Hindu”. The BBC does spend a lot of time covering uncomfortable events in India, but too many Indians would rather blame the international coverage of atrocities than the perpetrators of such atrocities.

Instead, I suspect that this shameful episode has more to do with the domestic politics of the news outlet. The BBC is a publicly owned institution and a long-cherished institution at that. But in the context of British electoral politics, this does not ensure fair and accurate programming. In fact, it ensures, specific blind-spots and one of those blind spots is Pakistan. In 2019, fifteen candidates of Pakistani descent were elected to parliament. This reflects the electoral significance of British Pakistanis. And British Pakistanis are important swing voters in key constituencies. Thus this electorate is and will remain important for both the Conservative and Labour parties.

British authorities have long known that segments of the British Pakistani community have deep and significant ties to terrorism. However, they have struggled to not be seen as targeting those communities because of presumed backlash from British Pakistanis specifically or British Muslims more generally.

Britain’s flagship counter-radicalisation project PREVENT goes to great lengths to obfuscate one of its most important target audiences. Britain, like the United States, has long known that Pakistan ultimately is behind the deaths of its soldiers and civilians. And like the United States, it has resisted publicly chastising Pakistan for its support to terrorism generally or the Taliban and Haqqani Network specifically. Why? The United Kingdom has long worked with the ISI to obtain information about the activities of its citizens when they visit Pakistan. In this cold calculus, British soldiers signed up to be blown up. But civilians riding Britain’s metros and buses didn’t.

It is very likely that the BBC wants to avoid any political fallout for programming presumed to offend the sensibilities of this important swing electorate.

The Birth of Idiocracies

While it’s easy to be outraged that the BBC is happily carrying out Pakistan’s information offensive, we need to ask ourselves, is there any network that is any better across the board? As I reflect upon my own experiences as a public intellectual but also my experience as a scholar who has sought to understand how media informs the public, I have come to the conclusion that the greatest threat to democracies everywhere and a secure and peaceful world is, in fact, such media houses.

Motivated by their parochial politics and demands for revenue, they misinform the global polities on issues pertaining to war and peace, climate change, the current pandemic, the salubrious benefits of vaccines or wearing masks, or simply shaping a polity to vote for one candidate over another. In short, the global polities have been reduced to idiocracies and we have only ourselves to blame.

A version of this essay was published in The Quint on 7 September 2021.


How Afghanistan was lost on an Installment Plan

By CHRISTINE FAIR | August 2021

On 7 October 2001, the United States entered Afghanistan under the aegis of “Operation Enduring Freedom.” The invading party was a small group of special operators entering Afghanistan from Tajikistan. Their goal was to shore up the Northern Alliance after their leader, a murderous warlord known as Ahmad Shah Massoud, was grievously injured in the first suicide attack Afghanistan had ever experienced on 9 September 2001. The Americans did not expect that the Taliban would fall quickly, but they did. Nor were the Americans able to deter the Northern Alliance from storming Kabul, which they did. And, in these fateful weeks, the United States ensured its eventual defeat in a war that would stretch out for nearly twenty years and which would become the longest war in America’s history.

In the early weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, then Pakistan President Musharraf was forced to reckon with the reality that Pakistan would have to break with its long-time proxy the Taliban, even if it was temporary. In exchange for his cooperation, Musharraf had three early expectations from Washington. First and foremost, he wanted the Americans to prevent the Northern Alliance from taking Kabul. As an analyst at RAND, I had a ground-floor view of American decision-making in Afghanistan and the shocking ignorance about Afghanistan among American policy-makers. Few understood that from Pakistan’s point of view, the Northern Alliance was an Indian proxy just as the Taliban were a proxy of Pakistan. In fact, Ahmad Shah Massoud did not die in Afghanistan; rather, he died in an Indian field hospital in Tajikistan.

Second, President Musharraf wanted some American efforts to resolve the so-called “Kashmir Dispute,” from which the US government had long washed its hands. Secretary of State Collin Powell gave some life to this expectation but this expectation too was smashed on the rocks of reality.

Third, Musharraf wanted to ensure the safety of Pakistan’s “strategic assets.” While Washington never acted against Pakistan’s program as it did against Iran’s program and even while Washington never did anything to punish Pakistan for AQ Khan’s illicit nuclear arms bazaar, it did force Pakistan to reconsider its strategic requirements as the United States tumbled ahead with the bomb-friendly so-called Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement and equally important agreements on satellite launch and other space programs. These agreements were intended to bolster India’s strategic assets as Washington believed that a rising India would be able to assist in the management of China’s pugnacious rise in the region and the international system.

But Washington also failed to understand the perturbing nature of Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan, and it ignored very early signals that Musharraf had in fact done a U-turn on its U-turn on the Taliban. In fact, Pakistan’s duplicity could be evident as early as December 2001 when Jaish-e-Mohammad executed — thankfully ineffectively — a suicide attack on India’s parliament building. India mobilized for war with the full encouragement of the US Ambassador in Delhi, Robert Blackwell. Blackwell was a political appointee who was close to US President George W. Bush. While Blackwell was nudging the Indians towards war, the US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain was doing her level best to keep the Pakistanis engaged on the western border where Pakistan was supposed to be the anvil to the US hammer in Afghanistan. As the Americans, with their Northern Alliance allies pushed the Taliban and their al-Qaeda associates south, they fled to Pakistan’s tribal Areas. Nonetheless, as India mobilized the largest force deployment since the 1971 war, Pakistani forces reoriented from the west to the east. The standoff remained for months. A second peak of this crisis occurred in May 2001 when terrorists associated with the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba slaughtered the wives and children of Indian army personnel at Kaluchek. Again, both countries teetered on the brink of war.

Meanwhile, on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the Pakistanis did little to stop the Taliban and al-Qaeda from ensconcing themselves in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Many Americans familiar with Pakistan and Afghanistan at the time (including this author) believed that Lt. General Ali Jan Aurakzai, the extremely important XI Corp Commander, in fact aided and abetted the fleeing Taliban. This was entirely within the performance envelope of the Pakistan army. Many American special operators witnessed first-hand the audacious “Kunduz Airlift” during which Pakistan made dozens of C-17 sorties to rescue their Taliban associates and their ISI trainers.

By 2005, the United States and its NATO allies were under the delusion that major combat operations had ended. As political officer with the United Nations in Kabul in 2007, I also saw firsthand the shocking discussions among NATO military leaders during which they actually debated whether or not Afghanistan was undergoing an insurgency. Many of the absurd questions and policy approaches that the US stumbled into in Iraq were now tripping them in Afghanistan. To anyone with at least two neurons firing, it was obvious that the Taliban were on the offensive after enjoying a recuperative spell in Pakistan.

To this observer, it seemed apparent that this effort would fail as early as 2005. The reason for this was simple: the United States had been so focused upon al Qaeda that the Taliban were a secondary — if not tertiary — concern. And Pakistan delivered on al Qaeda. Whenever a US official travelled to Pakistan, there was always a freshly caught “al Qaeda #3” on offer. However, once Afghanistan was largely free of al Qaeda — because it had shifted to Pakistan — the US and NATO began focusing upon nation building and defeating the Taliban. However, this required a substantially larger deployment footprint in Afghanistan. This “deployment footprint” not only included American and NATO soldiers, it also included an ever-expanding armada of defencse contractors (more commonly known as “mercenaries”) as well as civilian aid workers, who in turn were protected by the said mercenaries. With American enmity with Iran never seriously in abeyance, the only means of supplying this ever-expanding circus of war fighters, war profiteers and do-gooders was through the ground lines of control in Pakistan. These included air routes for very sensitive items but generally all of the logical supply went through Pakistan.

In fact, I used to marvel at this well-oiled profit machine. Any genuine insurgent with an iota of sense could have made US and NATO operations impossible simply by positioning themselves at the two crossing points in the Khyber Pass and Chaman. The vast majority of the trucks were carrying fuel. The Taliban needed only to explode the first truck in the convoy and the last. However, that happened rarely as mostly the truckers did it themselves as an insurance fraud. In fact, very little pilferage occurred either on the Pakistani side. As many of us noted, the amount of pilferage and destruction was kept to a minimum: just enough to keep the Pashtun trucking mafia satisfied and below the threshold which would force the Americans to shift to air supply.

Why was this? Because the Taliban were never an insurgent group. They were and are a wholly owned subsidiary of Pakistan. This war in Afghanistan has been greatly beneficial to Pakistan. Not only did Pakistan receive copious subsidies to support the war in Afghanistan, it was never penalized for continuing to undermine it.

In 2009, when the so-called COINistas coerced President Barack Obama to implement the so-called surge, this author was one of the few who opposed the surge. I did so not because I am a peacenik; rather because I understood that the reason why we needed the surge was the extensive sanctuaries that the Taliban had in Pakistan as well as every possible amenity the proxy outfit required. To defeat the Taliban, the United States had to develop a coercive policy that imposed serious punishment for continued support of the Taliban rather than a policy of unending blandishment and perquisites. The surge would only increase the dependence upon Pakistan. And, as this author predicted, the surge failed to achieve anything but modest gains which were reversed as soon as the soldiers left.

How could a few thousand foreign troops achieve what nearly 400,000 could not?

As the Americans are “severing and sauntering” their way out of Afghanistan, Afghans see the writing on the wall. While talking heads seem surprised that the Taliban never fulfill any of their problems, the Afghans understand that they never would. The reason is simple: the Taliban think they had already won.

This piece was originally published in South Asia on 5 August 2021.