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Gazeta, Russia

U.S. and Russia Share Responsibility for 'Afghan Anthill'


"Regarded as a failure in its time, two decades after the end of the USSR's Afghan campaign it is now highly appraised.. … Moscow and Washington bear historic responsibility for the events in and around Afghanistan. Their fierce rivalry over three decades ago stirred up an anthill that each superpower hoped to use to its advantage."


By Fyodor Lukyanov*



Translated By Yekaterina Blinova


August 21, 2009


Russia - Gazeta - Original Article (Russian)

Pashtun supporter of former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah listens to Abdullah at a meeting in Kabul, Sept. 1.


AL-JAZEERA NEWS: NATO commander calls for fresh Afghan strategy; and Afghans agree, Aug 31, 00:06:33RealVideo

High hopes were pinned to the presidential election in Afghanistan, which were scheduled to take place not long after the inauguration of a new U.S. president. Obama made stabilizing the country one of his top foreign policy priorities and the Afghanistan war - his war. In the spring, the administration took some important decisions - a significant increase in the number of American troops and the appointment of a new commander for the operations [General Stanley McChrystal].


In contrast to the strategy of the previous administration which saw “free and democratic” elections as the universal panacea for all social and political ills, America's current leadership sees voting only as a means of bringing added legitimacy to its own actions. To demonstrate to the population that their opinions mean something, the curators of Afghan stabilization are taking a great risk - elections are fraught with turmoil. On one hand, the Taliban promised to do everything possible to sabotage the polls. On the other, opponents of Hamid Karzai, whose victory is programmed into the electoral process, may attempt to correct the results of the voting by means of mass protests, like those that recently occurred in Iran.


[Editor's Note: Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission announced in Aug. 31 that preliminary results would be released between Sept. 3 and Sept. 7, with the final tally becoming available Sept. 17. Nevertheless, commission officials have divulged that ballots that have already been counted show incumbent President Hamid Karzai with 46 percent of the vote, against 33 percent for his nearest rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.]


Be that as it may, not conducting the promised elections would be unthinkable (this would be sure to cause an explosion), so all that's left is to hope for the expected result - the success of Karzai and the preservation of the fragile status quo that now exists. Then one could proceed to implement a new strategy. The main problem for the Afghan operation, which in two months will turn eight years old, is the absence of a goal.



The initial goal - a strike of vengeance for September 11 and the destruction of al-Qaeda’s military infrastructure - was achieved by the beginning of winter 2001/2002. After that, Washington shifted its attention to preparations for war against Iraq, and Afghanistan was relegated to the strategic periphery. It was quickly understood by all that the building of a modern democracy as proposed by those bright neoconservative minds could never succeed in the country, but no other line of action was ever put forward. And when the United States got bogged down in Iraq, the Afghan problem was no longer actively discussed at all.


Just over two years ago, they were forced to come to their senses when the situation in Iraq improved somewhat, but it became clear that the situation in Pakistan has gotten out of control and the Taliban in Afghanistan has regained practically all of their potential. There was the danger of a military defeat for NATO and the United States. American diplomacy has invested tremendous energy (with rather modest results) persuading its European allies to expand their presence in Afghanistan. Then for the first time, politicians and the military began to contemplate what, in fact, is the purpose of the Afghan campaign.


Interestingly, in countries involved in the Afghan campaign such as Canada and Great Britain, a whole series of studies have been initiated into the Soviet occupation. Experts are particularly interested in the experience of maintaining stability. During the Soviet presence from 1989 to 1992, i.e.: after the withdrawal of the troops and before the cessation of aid to President Najibullah, who was able to maintain effective control of key locations during that time.  


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Regarded as a failure in its time, two decades after the end of the USSR's Afghan campaign it is now highly appraised.


The campaign's most vital component is recognized to have been the erection of an economic infrastructure that was a result of ideology. The Soviet Union intended to plant socialism in Afghanistan, so that it would follow the path of modernization. The coalition that entered the country in 2001 had no long-term vision, so after eight years, no material evidence has emerged of any positive Western influence. During Obama's time, the strategy has been reformulated as the building of a functioning state, but how to go about this isn't clear.  



Al-Qaeda's number two, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, describes how

the latest offensive of Pakistan and the 'neo-crusaders' is

a 'path of doom,' Aug. 28. 00:20:25

[Via MEMRI. Free registration required].



At the International conferences on an Afghan settlement held in Moscow and The Hague, the conversation centered on the need for peace-building and winning the sympathy of the population. In particular, the French president's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pierre Lellouche, spoke of this with great energy, sparing no criticism of the Americans who he said have done little but raid and bomb.


The reproach is probably not unfounded. But the problem is that European members of the coalition have little or no idea of what they're doing in the foothills of the Hindu Kush. For Americans at least, it's a question of political prestige: a power that aspires to world leadership cannot abandon what it begins.


Europe will breathe a sigh of relief as soon as it can end its participation in the Afghan campaign without violating its obligations to its senior partner, America.


The Old world isn't even too scared about the chants of NATO generals on how failure in Afghanistan will have a fatal impact on the reputation of the Alliance - the Europeans have always wanted NATO to remain within the confines of its comfortable area of responsibility.


The character of U.S. actions can be assessed by reading the pages of recent publications. For example, an article in the latest issue of the influential Foreign Affairs is devoted to the need for an active campaign to attract Taliban to the American side.


The authors acknowledge that a military victory is impossible. But they point to the extreme “flexibility” of Afghan warlords and political officials, i.e.: They are prone to changing loyalties. It was largely because of this that in 2001, the “Taliban” were quickly dispatched - bombs and ammunition combined with active bribery of the adversary. Most Afghans don't in fact have any rationale for spilling blood on behalf of bin Laden’s “terrorist internationale,” the latter being the main target of the United States.


If the goal is to establish the conditions for withdrawal from Afghanistan that will save face for the foreseeable future (and there is no particular reason to suspect otherwise), then “Afghanization” of the conflict by involving “moderate” Taliban elements in stabilization is the only correct option. But in this case, we are dealing with the matter of an exit strategy, not what kind of government will be left there.


Global affairs journalist Arkady Dubnov, a regular visitor to Afghanistan since the 1990s, likes to quote a phrase he once heard there: “We Afghans can't be bought; we can only be rented.”


The history of Afghanistan over the last 20 years confirms the truth of this assertion. And the investment in training the Afghan security services, which is now being carried out by the United States and NATO, only has meaning in the short term: the country will begin a new life after NATO leaves and it's impossible to predict who these Afghan officers, trained by American or British instructors, will be fighting.   



There is, of course, another version of the American strategy in the region. According to which, Afghanistan is important primarily as a bridgehead in the event Washington has the need to militarily resolve a much more worrying problem: Iran. Then its strongholds on both sides of the Iranian border - in Iraq and Afghanistan - would prove very useful. However, this advantage may in practice turn out to be the opposite: given the Iranian influence on its coreligionists and co-tribalists in both countries, the United States may face an extremely dangerous rearguard underground movement.


Moscow and Washington bear historic responsibility for the events in and around Afghanistan. Their fierce rivalry over three decades ago stirred up an anthill that each superpower hoped to use to its advantage. Today, one of them is gone [the USSR], and the other is sick of the global burden it has taken upon itself. It is only in Afghanistan that the same people do the same things they were doing 30 years ago: wait for the next hapless tenant.







































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US September 1, 2:19pm]



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