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جمعہ، 13 مئی، 2011

Bin Laden Is Gone -- But Afghanistan Can Still Be Lost

The Afghans have an old proverb. "The world will not find rest just by saying, peace". They should know .They`ve been suffering war for so long that they are probably justified in wondering whether the death of Osama bin Laden will really mean an end to the fighting that has been tearing their country apart.

Nearly 10,000 Afghan civilians have been killed in the past four years alone -- and that’s not to mention the thousands of other victims before 9/11. So many Afghans were disappointed when U.S. President Barack Obama failed to acknowledge their plight in his remarks after bin Laden’s death.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was quick to pick up on the slight. He said, “Afghanistan has endured countless sacrifices in the war against terrorism…. I hope the U.S., Western countries and the world as a whole may honor and recognize these sacrifices of the Afghan nation.”
There is no question that most Afghans were relieved to hear of the Al-Qaeda leader’s demise. But the collective sense of relief is tempered by anxiety that the United States and its allies, having dispatched the man who brought them into Afghanistan in the first place, may now be plotting an all-out disengagement from the country.
The worry among many Afghans is that the United States will seize the opportunity to make a quick peace with the Taliban, push for their inclusion in the Kabul government, and then pull out of its military operations and nation-building. U.S. Senator George David Aiken is widely believed to have proposed a similar approach during the Vietnam War: “Declare victory and go home.”
America’s recent show of support for a British proposal to integrate the Taliban into the Afghan power structure has given many Afghans cause for alarm. The British have long believed that the only way out of the Afghan quagmire is to bring the Taliban into the government. This plan hinges on the hope that Pakistan would exercise a measure of control over the Pashtun areas through the Taliban in Kabul, while the bulk of Western attention would shift to the relatively peaceful northern regions.
President Karzai might welcome such a deal. But the reaction by non-Pashtun Afghans might be to embark on their own de facto separation from the Pashtun-majority south. Some elements in the political opposition in Kabul are already lobbying Western capitals for support of a north-south partition scheme through which they are hoping to become the dominant shareholder in the power structure -- and there are indications suggesting that some in Western capitals might welcome a “Balkan solution” along these lines.
Such partition would be a disaster. Afghanistan is not Yugoslavia. In fact Afghanistan’s various groups are too intermingled to allow them to be parceled up into ethnically based cantonments. And, contrary to popular belief in the West, many Afghans still retain a strong sense of loyalty to the idea of a unified state. Such an approach is likely to meet fierce resistance, spurring a descent back into internecine conflict. Afghanistan could find itself returning to the chaos of the mid-1990s, and bin Laden’s inheritors will once again have a base from which to continue their slain leader’s mission.
Osama bin Laden’s enduring legacy in Afghanistan was the introduction of a culture of extremism and terror. A number of reports say that bin Laden was among the myriad private individuals who were funding the resurgence of the Taliban. Most Afghan experts even claim that the neo-Taliban pose a more immediate and far graver threat to security conditions in Afghanistan than Al-Qaeda ever did. Straying from the original commitment to help Afghans get back on their feet will, in effect, be viewed as classic imperialist behavior.
By many reliable accounts, America’s recent “beheading strategy” -- the targeted killings of the top leaders of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban -- has caused the insurgency to metastasize. Hundreds of members of “the franchise” are now on the loose, keen to outdo one another in acts of violence. Insurgent attacks across the country continue at the rate of about 30 per day, an increase from last year. NATO officials have said they expect a particularly violent spring and summer as insurgents try to reclaim areas taken over by international troops over the winter.
It is said that over a hundred billion dollar is the annual cost of the war and the big bulk of money goes for expenditure of NATO and U.S. soldiers. Reality is that if a third of this money is annually spent on improving people’s livelihood, there will be dramatic transformations in the country in various aspects that can bring security and stability throughout the country. Why attention is not paid to improve the livelihood of people and provide them reasonable incentive and hope to work on peaceful life? This is an important question that follows with another painful fact that how much international community has been committed to their slogans and mission? However, if the current international community’s strategy is not correctly rectified, Afghanistan may witness another strategic deadlock and failure.

By Helena Malikyar and Tanya Goudsouzian, Malikyar specializes in Afghan state-building and Goudsouzian is a journalist who has covered Afghanistan since 2001, taken from Spero News website.

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