The Habitus of Superiority

BERLIN/LONDON/KABUL | | afghanistan

BERLIN/LONDON/KABUL (Own report) - Afghanistan Experts are heavily criticizing the Afghanistan Conference that opens in London today. The meeting, that for months has been billed as significant, has been insufficiently prepared, the majority of the participants are mainly "concerned with initiating a face-saving retreat" says Conrad Schetter a prominent authority on that country and the West's intervention policy. To set the mood for the conference in London, Berlin has announced that Germany would increase its occupation contingent by 850 troops. The German government's planning is designed to support local militias with military and police measures ("regionalization of security structures"). Through bribery, they hope to immobilize the enemy ("dropout program"). If these plans work, then Afghanistan, following the retreat of the occupation forces, would remain a country ruled by regional warlords, nothing more than the situation following the withdrawal of Soviet troops at the end of the 1980s. The ruthless warfare that ensued between the warlords led soon afterwards to the rise of the Taliban.

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Several prominent experts are harshly criticizing the Afghanistan Conference to open today in London. As Afghanistan Analysts Network specialist Thomas Ruttig explained, this meeting, long billed as supposedly significant "has not been sufficiently prepared" and does not promise any notable results.[1] Conrad Schetter, of the University of Bonn, who is also employed in the Military History Research Institute of the German Bundeswehr and NATO, uninspiredly remarked that "for the majority of the participants, it is less about Afghanistan's long-term reconstruction, but rather to initiate a face-saving retreat."[2] The press has also begun to expose the show character of today's meeting, in which "the main interest of European governments in London" is to motivate the populations of the European countries "to support or at least tolerate these engagements."[3] "Engagement" means the high-casualty war of occupation at the Hindu Kush. The German press also explains that to calm the disfavor in the countries of the occupiers, efforts are made to portray military decision "as imbedded in a political process."


In fact, decisions at the military level have long since been made. Some time ago, Washington had already decided the deployment of about 30,000 additional troops. Berlin has just announced an increase of 850 soldiers to its contingent, whose main task - according to official jargon - consists of training Afghan military personnel. According to the German Defense Minister, Guttenberg, they are particularly supposed to demonstrate a "presence in the region" and "minimize (…) possibilities for Taliban retreat."[4] This clearly indicates that the so-called training programs are to serve the policy of occupation with the support of armed Afghan auxiliary forces. At the same time, 5,000 US soldiers - supposedly also as "instructors" - will be stationed in the German occupation zone in northern Afghanistan. Germany's plan to send more police officers to Afghanistan as "instructors" has met with firm protest by the German police union - because it is to be expected that the alleged "training" activities "in the region" will provoke armed resistance. Concerning Berlin's official jargon, declaring obvious occupation measures as training, the police union chief concludes that "it would be a suicide mission to send police instructors to the provinces to accompany Afghan police."[5]


According to official announcements, German military and police measures are aimed at "regionalizing security structures" in Afghanistan [6] - and therefore are aimed at weakening the central government in Kabul, while simultaneously strengthening the local warlords, who, beginning in 2011, according to the strategy paper for the Afghanistan Conference that opens today, are supposed to gradually be given the control over these armed units. "Regionalizing Afghanistan into autonomous regions" is "the only remaining realistic option" open to the occupiers, who will possibly begin their retreat already in 2011, according to former state secretary in the German Defense Ministry, Lothar Ruehl. Afghanistan's national unity could only "formally" survive.[7] Afghanistan would therefore to a growing extent resemble the Afghanistan of the first half of the 90s, in the aftermath of the Soviet occupation: a warlord regime that can break out into bloody conflicts at any time. The Afghan warlords' brutality, in the early 90s, caused numerous civilian casualties and laid the groundwork for the rise of their opponents, the Taliban.[8]

No Democracy

The transfer of power to the local warlords, who were able to maintain some of their influence under Western occupation,[9] is being prepared by Berlin also in the field of propaganda. Just a few days ago in the yellow press the foreign policy expert Hans-Ulrich Klose (SPD) declared "without the inclusion of the warlords, Afghanistan cannot be pacified." "A Western-style democracy" will not come into existence in Afghanistan.[10] The German Interior Minister chimed in last weekend: it would suffice, if Afghanistan would have "a basic state structure", which would "respect the essence of fundamental rights."[11] Berlin is not only seeking to hand over power to the warlords, it is also participating in a bribery program ("dropout program") aimed at immobilizing some of the enemy, at least temporarily, to facilitate a face-saving retreat of the western occupation forces. But observers are very skeptical. Thomas Ruttig, of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, notes, that a similar program had already been applied years ago. One "cannot even call it unsuccessful; it was a grandiose failure."[12]


Conrad Schetter recently made an eye-opening assessment of the conditions permitting the western occupiers to willfully wage war against the country and, when that is unsuccessful, to just as willfully withdraw, leaving the country under the yoke of warlords. Schetter assessed that "throughout the entire intervention, from the political decision-making level down to the simple Bundeswehr soldier," there is not only a basic "ignorance about the reality of Afghan daily living conditions" but, above all "the habitus of a civilizing superiority". The Afghans are merely treated basically as "objects," just like "savage Indians," who are conceded, "at best, a Karl May type of romanticism".[13] Already back in Karl May's days, Germany was waging gruesome wars against "savages"- in its colonies. Today a virulent "habitus of civilizing superiority" is again raising its head - certainly not only in Afghanistan.

Further information on German Afghanistan policy can be found here: On the Ruins of War, The Greens' local in Kabul, The Retreat Option, Hopeless, To Accomplish a Mission, Perspective of Withdrawal, Paramilitary, Human Intelligence, The Next War, Part of the Problem, Contribution to Operational Command, War Coordination, Southwest Asian War Zone, Killer Teams and Total Loss.

[1], [2] Das letzte Aufgebot; Rheinischer Merkur 21.01.2010
[3] Druckbetankung kurz vor dem Abflug; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 27.01.2010
[4] Zu Guttenberg stellt künftige Afghanistan-Strategie vor; 26.01.2010
[5] Streit in Berlin über die Polizeiausbildung in Afghanistan
[6] LVZ: Guttenberg warnt SPD vor Oppositions-Reflex bei Afghanistan-Politik/Regionalisierung der Sicherheitsstrukturen als deutscher Impuls; 22.11.2009
[7] Lothar Rühl: Ohne gute Optionen; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 21.01.2010
[8] Ahmed Rashid: Taliban. The Story of the Afghan Warlords, London 2001
[9] see also Warlords and Strafexpeditionen
[10] Frau Käßmann sollte Gottes Wort verkünden; Bild 14.01.2010
[11] "Afghanistan muss keine Demokratie werden"; Focus Online 24.01.2010
[12] "Eine militärische Lösung in Afghanistan ist gescheitert"; Deutschlandfunk 26.01.2010
[13] Conrad Schetter: Deutschland muss endlich eine ernsthafte Diskussion über den Sinn des Bundeswehreinsatzes am Hindukusch führen; Märkische Allgemeine 14.01.2010