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Where’s Afghanistan? May 8, 2007

Posted by mmonla in Politics.
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Is it just me or has Afghanistan faded considerably from mainstream news coverage? A full blown invasion was launched by the US and supplemented by NATO forces in 2001 to capture Ben Laden, rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and destroy Al-Qaeda. Five years later, it’s time to look back and measure the results. The plight of the Afghan people hasn’t improved much and in 2006, Afghanistan was rated 10th on the failed states index, up from 11th in 2005. In case you’re curious, the least vulnerable states are Finland, Norway and Sweden. And one more thing, Al Qaeda’s activities have increased in the area.

Back in September, a young Afghan MP, Malalai Joya, spoke to students at McGill University. Her message is clear: the US and NATO forces aren’t doing much to help the country as long as they keep throwing their support behind local warlords. An astounding 60% of the deputies in Afghanistan’s lower house are “directly or indirectly connected to current and past human rights abuses”. Joya’s message to Canada is that it must act independently of the US in terms of Afghan foreign policy. Given Canada’s position in NATO, I find that not only is that highly unlikely, it would probably not help much. All of the forces as well as the aid agencies currently serving there need to focus their attention on building a state, not just short-term action and policies. That means rehabilitating warriors, building and securing roads to foster trade, and most importantly providing security to the Afghans by taking power away from the warlords.

I’m not arguing for or against the decision to invade. Nor am I arguing for or against a withdrawal. And I’m certainly not belittling the work of the troops and aid workers currently in Afghanistan. What I’m ranting about here is what consistently strikes me as a disregard for post-invasion strategies. There was a military plan but there doesn’t seem to have been a civilian plan ready to be implemented right after the invasion. The warlords should have been removed from power at the very beginning of the invasion; the more time goes by, the harder it will be. And the more the work of aid workers and troops will be undermined. In a country that’s been ravaged by three decades of war, creating a sound democracy and therefore gaining the trust of the Afghans would have done much more to ensure the safety of the troops than any defensive measures. As long as the Afghans don’t feel secure in their homeland, the road will be paved for extremism. After all, it was the terror of the post-soviet mujahideen nights (read: warlords) that brought the Taliban along in the first place. They had promised security, along with it came intolerance. It wasn’t the other way around.

Sarah Chayes notes in her book that “the time for writing the Taliban story was five years ago”. Back when the Taliban were still in power, that’s when we should have been hearing about their blatant human rights abuses. Now is the time to write about the post-taliban era.

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