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Amir Madani Headshot

Afghanistan in Search of a Solution

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After several months of reflection characterized by uncertainty, President Obama decided on sending another 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, thus echoing Bush's stance on the matter. He furthermore announced the beginning of a 18 months withdrawal period. The most important aspect of the announced decision was the revelation of a withdrawal date, which in turn discloses the existence of a strategy. Obama can succeed in putting an end to the concept of a permanent war, without borders and time limits, undertaken by the Bush administration. The planned withdrawal date of July 2011 confirms the idea that this decision was reached mainly for internal reasons as the result of a compromise among various political positions. President Obama is fully aware that he needs to close the Afghanistan as soon as possible in order to keep it from becoming an 'issue' which could help the Republicans in the next presidential campaign. Obama's re-election would be at stake, should the US armed forces still be involved in conflict against the Afghan-Pakistani Taleban with continuous casualties in 2012. The current US President intends to exit Afghan conflict initiated by the Bush administration, without raising a white flag and without admitting that no results have been accomplished in spite of the high cost in lives and supplies. Indeed events show that the Taleban have re-emerged and can also hit the heart of Kabol.

Perhaps Obama has realized that considering the complexity of the conflict, its regional and global implications and ideological-financial Taliban (and al-Qaeda) connections with the deepest souls of the Arab-Islamic societies ruled by absolutist monarchies and lifelong presidencies, the solution of the Afghanistan problem can not be military in nature only. The de facto deployment of new troops is much more than a demonstration of force; it is the implicit admission of an unsuccessful war campaign. It is the escalation of a series of assessment errors, which used force as a political practice and gradually aggravated the problems and intensified various conflicts. The retreat of the US and the international contingencies will mark the failure of three universalisms of our time that used Afghan territory as their own laboratory: Real Socialism, Fundamental Islamism and the Neocon experience under the Bush administration.

Until 2011 the war will continue to cause victims on both sides while, some Pakistani - Saudi circles will continue to support the return of the Taleban to power and India, China, Russia and the Central-Asian countries and Iran will continue to contrast the Taleban each through their own strategic outlook. In Afghanistan the Taleban will persevere in their attempt to emerge as the combatants against foreign occupation. Even after withdrawal, the US will be compelled to be present in Afghanistan. It is in this context that one wonders what future political role Europe will play?

Whatever the developments will be after the evacuation of the international presence, the social-economic problems, stability and above all the urgency of security issues will persist at both local and global levels. In such a context the Taleban and Talebanism as a Afghan-Pakistani-Indian expression of Saudi Wahabism and its high level supporters in Pakistan will continue their political-military endeavour. Parts of the Pakistani ISI (Inter Service Intelligence) generals, keepers of the atomic bomb, who gave birth to Talebanism as a political movement will continue to host Mullah Omar and the other top mullahs from the Taleban vertex and to promote their gatherings on Pakistani territory with the intent of negotiating their return to power or at least to attain a key role in future of Afghanistan. If no new political decisions are made at a global level to contain the Taleban threat, the tribal zones will continue to lure jihadists from across the world and from some of the 13000 religious schools (Dini Madras) of the Deoband mould that continue to turn out several thousands of Taleban every year. These Taleban are organic to or in line with the al-Qaeda dictates used throughout the world: from Kashmir to Europe, from Kabul to New York. All of this occurs under the aegis of a number of Pakistani army settings that apply unimaginable violence against the civilian Pakistani society. In these settings and despite the considerable efforts of civilian government (Zarari-Gilani) parts of the Pakistani army, in collusion with Taleban, presides over the bazaar of nuclear material, armaments and the drug trade.

In the new setting with greater stability created after the international troop withdrawal from Afghanistan a fundamental question will be addressed: What solution should be pursued in order to contain risks and guarantee stability and security? In order to find a possible solution it is necessary to go back to the original cause of the conflict based on a combination of erroneous politics and a series of evaluation errors.

According to Fahim, a warrior chief, who was a friend and counsel to the assassinated leader of the Northern Alliance, Shah Masud, the causes for the return of the Taleban to the scene are to be sought in a series of errors committed after the installment of the first coalition government led by Karzai. Fahim states: "Following the attack on the Twin towers, the Bush administration decided to intervene against the Taleban regime and hence sent emissaries to Panshjhir to meet with us. We had been fighting the Taleban for years". Fahim said (BBC interview with Babrak Ehsas 19 Oct 2009) he had met with Tom Franks (US envoy) on board his plane in Tajikestan where he told him that once the Taleban's first line had been defeated there would not have been any further resistance because the Taleban were supported by foreign powers and did not have any rear guard or support in the territory.

This proved to be the succession of events. The Northern Alliance did not meet any resistance on any of the four fronts, Tokhar, Mazar, Sharif, Taleghan and Kabul, after having broken through the Taleban lines up to Kandahar. There was a hasty defeat even at Kandahar, which was the Taleban headquarters. "In Kabul where the Taleban had their strongest defense they fell in one night." After the quick fall of the Taleban dominance, the coalition government was born as a result of an accord between the tecnocrats and the combatant leaders (Mojahedeen). According to Fahim: The six months of provisory government and the two years and a half of transitory government went by untroubled and without visible signs of the Taleban or their cronies, al-Qaeda. According to Fahim, "after the rapid fall of the Taleban government any other probable accord or understanding regarded an agreement between the US, the foreigners and Pakistan with its tribal zones. These tribal zones were no longer an Afghan question since they were outside the Afghan border and of no concern to us." In all likelihood the Talebans' return to the Pakistani and Afghan scene is rooted in the "eventual accords" taken beyond the Afghan borders by Bush's Neocon US and the Saudi-Pakistani coalition."

According to Fahim, the agreements between Karzai's technocrats and their international supporters (the USA+ EU) who wanted to promote "the great democracy" and excluded the combating leaders from the vertex of power - the Mojahedeen--by defining them as "warlords" led to the Taleban and their associates al-Qaeda's growing strength and their return to the scene. Fahim makes no reference to basic rights, which were not respected always by the Mojahedeen. This could be without a doubt one of the reasons, if not the main one, for al-Qaeda's return. However, Fahim - who is, notwithstanding all negative and positive aspects, a Mojjahedeen himself - is included in the category of warlord. However, Fahim notes the following three essential points:

  • The necessity to respect national sovereignty even if in a limited way, allowing for the problem to be contained. The idea of national sovereignity in itself strikes the Taleban and their associated al-Qaeda as a regional phenomenon. Yet by lashing out with terrorism they manage to operate in a worldwide theatre.
  • It is necessary to discern the true power of the warrior chiefs who have very strong bonds with their territory and who constitute a network of safety and equilibrium within the framework of their local socio-economy.
  • The fact that the Taleban are not rooted in the territory, as they would like to sustain. They were born and thrive in the absence of security and a system which can guarantee socio-economic equilibrium. It is also a fact that the Taleban can be easily defeated on a military as well as on a political basis.

It is not difficult to understand that even a subsequent real democracy, which is a more solid foundation for any form of security guaranteeing rights must initiate from the bottom and emerge within this framework.

Starting with these three points, which express the Afghan reality through the voice of a notable Mojahedeen, it is possible to arrive to the thoughts and proposals of Abdolatif Pedram, a young leader with democratic convictions. Pedram studied in Europe and was one of the candidates at the last presidential elections. Pedram declared (in an interview with Davood Gharizadeh BBC , 15 august 2009), that it is necessary to accept and to promote the acceptance of the Durand Line, which separates Afghanistan from Pakistan. He is considered to be the most courageous leader in Afghanistan today. He sustains federalism, seen as an average to long term modern democratic solution which is compatible to the Afghan reality and world stability. According to Pedram this does not mean the return to the scene of the warlords. In fact, when entering into a democratic process, the Mojahedeen, warlords and warrior chiefs would have the right like anyone else to be elected, but due to their protracted age it would be difficult to aspire a second mandate. Pedram states: "It is necessary to deal with the Taleban in a federal framework and carry out elections also in their regions. They would administrate their own region, if they were to obtain the majority of votes." Furthermore, he adds: "We do not ask that the Taleban give up the government. It will be the people in the south to either accept or not accept the rigid rules of the Taleban. The alternative would be to bomb the entire south of the country thus enabling the Taleban to transform the war into a patriotic war." As stated by Pedram, the international forces should abandon the south and subsequently the north as requested by the Taleban. At a certain point, due to the high cost of lives and supplies the withdrawal seems to be an inevitable step. Several essential points surface from Pedram's words:

  • The need to recognize the border marked through the Durand Line. This will define national sovereignty and confine the problem. Federalism would then work to further restrict the Taleban problem and to confine it to the south of Afghanistan. That is to say that first of all it is necessary to Afghanistan-ize the problem and subsequently to southern-ize it.
  • The democratization of Afghanistan through vote and true democracy as a condition for peace. To Pashtunize the anti-Taleban struggle in order to remove the patriotism flag from the hands of the Taleban.
  • The continuation of the international aid is essential to combat poverty. Combating the war economy and corruption by civilizing and democratizing the economy.
  • With the acknowledgement of the Durand Line, Pedram Afghanisizes the problem. He Pashtunizes the anti-Taleban struggle by designating the south of Afghanistan to the Taleban and thus obtains the support of the democratic Pashtun groups. These groups exist and operate in silence even though they are terrorized by the incredible Taleban violence which is taking place. Summarizing Pedram's and , Fahim"s opinions it is possible to trace an outline for a solution. However, this solution would necessitate a charismatic, emblematic figure capable of persuading the Afghan people to manage their own dissensions and ethnic balance, in the period following the withdrawal. In the first phase, Abdullah Abdullah could undertake this position. Pashtum father and Tajik mother, he was a long time Shah Massud advisor and has already served as foreign minister in the first Karzai government.

    Abdullah Abdullah's position is considered by most of the non-Pashtun population (Tagik, Hazarah, Ubzbek, Nuristani, Turkmen ...they constitute together 60% of the national population) to be the heir to the charismatic Shah Massud. By acknowledging the Durand Line he supports this solution. Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from running for a second electoral term against Karzai due to the lack of democratic guarantees and de facto became the leader of the opposition to the current government of Karzai. Abdullah Abdullah's democratic convictions are a fundamental principle in the eyes of the international community. After his withdrawal and later refusing a ministerial position, Abdullah made a meaningful appearance with journalists, wearing a green tie (to demonstrate -probably- his own conviction and affiliation with the Iranian civilian society's democratic movement which bears the green colour as it symbol).

    The achievement of this democratic solution is possible but difficult to accomplish. It will be possible only if certain guarantees are enacted and with international support. Everyone and above all democratic Europe should be interested in this solution. Support should arrive from Obama's democratic America, India, Russia, China, Iran, the democratic fringes of the noble Pashtun people and above all from the democratic forces in Pakistan. In order to curb the local Taleban and their supporters in the military hierarchy, the Pakistani forces have long expressed the need to counter the Saudization of Pakistan by Pashtunizing the anti-Taleban struggle. Therefore, in order for any type of politics to be sustained and upheld in the Afghan reality, international supervision and support are necessary along with the international community's commitment to:

    • Define and accept the Durand Line and bring the disputes to a national dimension, thus Afghanisizing the conflict.
    • Accept the local power of the prominent local people in order to attain true security.
    • Designate the south to the Taleban and in the event of their possible victory in those regions, accept Taleban control in an autonomous south (southernization). Pashtunize the anti-Taleban movements, in order to circumvent any further conflict and to remove the patriotism flag from the hands of the Taleban.

    The last London conference on Afghanistan is fundamentally aiming to find a way to bring the Taliban into the fold of central power. Yet similar efforts in the past have failed and it does not seem likely that these efforts will bear fruit in the future either. The Taliban, moments after end of the conference, refused to meet with, even, the UN representatives. The only way possible for bringing an end to Taliban as political movement is to put pressure on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to begin democratic reforms in thier countries , as well as supporting the Pashtoon democrats struggle.