Afghanistan: Before the Fall

Tariq Ali

A friend in Afghanistan reminded me of what might have been had the West used Najibullah, the Afghan president abandoned by the Soviet Union, as their pawn rather than green-lighting the Pakistan-backed Taliban take-over of the country. In this last desperate interview with the New York Times in March 1992, a few months before he was toppled and hanged by the Taliban, Najibullah warned:

If fundamentalism comes to Afghanistan, war will continue for many more years... Afghanistan will turn into a center of world smuggling for narcotic drugs. Afghanistan will be turned into a center for terrorism.

Najibullah was a former head of the secret police and had sent many to their deaths, but everything is relative, especially with hindsight and especially in Afghanistan. It might have been a different story if...


  • 24 August 2010 at 12:37pm
    Oliver Rivers says:
    "It might have been a different story if…" what?

    I'm all for suggestive ellipses, but I wonder if the bottom half of this post has gone missing.

    • 24 August 2010 at 3:01pm
      semitone says: @ Oliver Rivers
      The clue is in the first sentence. If "the West used Najibullah, the Afghan president abandoned by the Soviet Union, as their pawn rather than green-lighting the Pakistan-backed Taliban take-over of the country."

      It's a shame Tariq didn't write that, actually. If he had, his article would have been in sonata form. That would have been neat.

    • 25 August 2010 at 11:38am
      Oliver Rivers says: @ semitone
      Well, a rather basic one. The recapitulation should vary or develop the exposition, not just repeat it.

      There's a whole lot missing here. If the Americans had chosen to prop up a different crook in the 90s, as opposed to waiting a decade and then installing the crook they're propping up now, then--what? Things might actually look pretty much the same. Perhaps we'd be ten years closer to a stable, non-fundamentalist Afghanistan, or perhaps we'd just have had ten more years of corruption in Kabul plus Taliban insurgency.

    • 25 August 2010 at 1:34pm
      semitone says: @ Oliver Rivers
      You're right, oliver and I'm sorry if I seemed flippantly rude. You will probably turn out to be the king of Sweden.

      But if the lrb is going to be the best magazine of its kind, why can't it have a better blog? If it's going to have writers like Tariq Ali (who presumably doesn't come cheap, and who definitely has strong opinions about lots of things, including Afghanistan) why can't it get him to write proper, informative blog posts?

      Oliver's comment that there's a whole lot missing here seems to apply to the whole blog, not just Tariq's castrated sonata.

    • 25 August 2010 at 3:32pm
      Joe Morison says: @ semitone
      Perhaps he doesn't get paid for the blog - his pieces in the paper are brilliant. I think it's legitimate to use the blog to sound off and drop random thoughts.

  • 24 August 2010 at 7:35pm
    Joe Morison says:
    I'd never have thought of there being much sympathy between the views of Tariq Ali and Saki, but i've just read the following in 'The Chronicles of Clovis':

    "Where I think you political spade-workers are so silly," said the Duke, "is in the misdirection of your efforts. You spend thousands of pounds of money, and Heaven knows how much dynamic force of brain power and personal energy, in trying to elect or displace this or that man, whereas you could gain your ends so much more simply by making use of the men as you find them. If they don't suit your purpose as they are, transform them into something more satisfactory."

    • 25 August 2010 at 7:24am
      Imperialist says: @ Joe Morison
      Characteristic political pragmatism.

      To quote Reginald, "Never be flippantly rude to any inoffensive grey-bearded stranger that you may meet in pine forests or hotel smoking-rooms on the Continent. It always turns out to be the King of Sweden."

    • 25 August 2010 at 2:55pm
      Joe Morison says: @ Imperialist
      Oddly enough, that's also a sentiment Tariq Ali might agree with.

  • 25 August 2010 at 3:21pm
    Joe Morison says:
    We seem to be in the grip of a temporal anomaly.

    • 25 August 2010 at 6:35pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ Joe Morison
      Why temporary? feels sort of permanent to me.

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