“The year which is now ending has been the year of the military defeat of Daesh [ISIS], to which Italy gave a significant contribution through training and the stabilization of particular areas. I am proud of it.”
This was a statement by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, given Thursday morning. Meanwhile, the Khorasan branch of the Islamic State (which, according to Gentiloni, has already been defeated) was claiming responsibility for the suicide bombing that left at least 41 dead and dozens of injured Thursday morning.
The terrorist attack happened none other than Kabul, in Afghanistan, a country where Italian soldiers have been present for many years, and where stability is still a far-off goal, despite what the politicians and military strategists are claiming.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and General John Nicholson, head of the NATO mission in this Central Asian country, had given assurances a few months ago that 2017 would be the year of the defeat of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, namely the “Province of Khorasan,” formally recognized by the central authority in Raqqa at the beginning of 2015. This has taken root mainly in the east of the country, near the border with Pakistan, and in Kabul, where one finds veteran armed militants as well as younger ones, ideologically attuned to the Jihadist Salafism found in the propaganda of the “Caliph,” which is foreign to the Taliban, who are tied to the Deobandi movement.
The promised “defeat” did not happen at all. Many years earlier, in 2001, the then-president, hailing from Texas and a fan of permanent war, had offered reassurances that overthrowing the Taliban regime, guilty of having sheltered Osama Bin Laden, would lead to the disappearance from the Afghan territory of terrorist groups, fanatics of Jihad, and those championing “holy war” against the “crusaders.”
Friday, the State Department is confirming that in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, one can find the greatest number of jihadist groups on the planet.
Something did not go as planned. But the rhetoric is always the same: General Nicholson is claiming significant successes on the military front at regular intervals, as did his predecessors. Italy is limited to the role of a transatlantic subaltern, proffering such ritualistic repetitions of “Yes, sir!” that they become embarrassing gaffes.
A few days ago, in an interview with the daily newspaper La Repubblica, Roberta Pinotti, the Italian Minister of Defense, argued that “for many years now, Italy has had the leadership of the PRT, which is the center that coordinates the reconstruction of the entire southwestern area of the country. We cannot abandon this role, because it would be a show of poor responsibility.” In reality, the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Herat has been inoperative since March 2014. The responsibility of a minister is to know what they are talking about, to inquire, evaluate the facts, and then make a decision.
But when the matter at hand is whether to use armed force, no one seems to go through this process. Least of all Donald Trump, who gave carte blanche to his military on Afghanistan. Is there a new threat by the Islamic State in the country? Just drop the “mother of all bombs,” and the problem is solved—at least according to how the U.S. president thinks.
The bomb was dropped on April 13, in the Achin district in the Afghan province of Nangarhar—11 tons of explosives over a tunnel complex. This is foreign policy reduced to the exercise of force and domination. It is the idea—already obsolete in the late 20th century, and by now completely discredited and contradicted by history—that military force is the ultimate guarantor of global security. It is the belief that realism is equivalent to militarism, to flexing one’s muscles, to making a show of anger. This paradigm is not only obsolete, but ineffective and counterproductive.
The only truly effective path goes in the opposite direction, towards building a global post-militarist framework, and “a conception of a world order premised on nonviolent geopolitics,” in the words of the professor of international law Richard Falk. It would be a world order that would guarantee full rights to everyone, not just to those privileged enough to be born in the Euro-Atlantic space. These are the very rights that people claim are being protected by armed force, all the while being denied by laws, procedures and policy decisions.
Afghanistan is an example of this, illustrating it in dramatic fashion. Many European governments believe that the country is now safe, especially its capital, Kabul. As a result, the repatriation flights have started again for those Afghans whose asylum requests will no longer be granted by E.U. member countries. But if Afghanistan is really safe—the Afghans are asking themselves—what are all the foreign soldiers doing there? And if it isn’t, aren’t repatriations illegitimate after all?
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