Monday, June 28, 2004

Remember the Afghan-a-mo?

Alright, that title. Is. Horrible. But there it is.

Just to note, Afghanistan is holding elections in September, and hey, in our knees-bent, democracy-spreading way, we're (The US and allies) still refusing to provide adequate protection to the country we invaded and overthrew (well, the first one this millenium). Saving a full discussion of Afghanistan for another day, I ask -- doesn't it behoove us to provide for a stable democracy for Afghanistan too, if not first? Afghans are under attack by remnants of the Taleban (subscription required), as well as by the very warlords we've aligned ourselves with while marching our warpath through the region. The long-noted but little-noticed fact that all we've done is "free" Kabul in Afghanistan, and our long-standing policy of avoiding the more dangerous areas outside of the capital, is continuing to bite any ideas of a truly liberated Afghanistan in the ass. (Of course, many of my colleagues and I were doubtful of the "liberation" of Afghanistan in the first place.)

Sy Hersh, among others, has noted problems in Afghanistan this year: "Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed President, exercises little political control outside Kabul and is struggling to undercut the authority of local warlords, who effectively control the provinces. Heroin production is soaring, and, outside of Kabul and a few other cities, people are terrorized by violence and crime. A new report by the United Nations Development Program, made public on the eve of last week’s international conference, in Berlin, on aid to Afghanistan, stated that the nation is in danger of once again becoming a “terrorist breeding ground” unless there is a significant increase in development aid."

A Moscom Times article from 2002, reposted here, notes that Afghan Pres. Karzai repeated asked for allied foreign troops to be deployed outside of Kabul; this has not happened in a significant way, and, in fact, we are still refusing to deploy outside of Kabul today to address the problems elaborated by Mr. Hersh above and in the linked articles about attacks meant to scare Afghans into avoiding the election. In 2003, the House Committee on International Relations noted the failure to provide security outside of Kabul, and recognized that "even in Kabul there is very little stability." Indeed, the former Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Peter Tomsen, comments:

"The stunning American-led military victory in Afghanistan which ousted the Taliban and al-Qaeda regime has not been followed by an effective, adequately-funded reconstruction strategy to help Afghans rebuild their country and restore their self-governing institutions. Today there is a sense among Afghans, foreigners working in Afghanistan, and the media that the U.S.-led coalition and the moderate Hamid Karzai government have lost the initiative in Afghanistan.

If the present trends continue, 5 years from now Afghanistan is likely to look very much like it does today: Reconstruction stagnation, a weak central government starved of resources, unable to extend its influence to the regions where oppressive warlords reign, opium production soars, and guerilla warfare in Afghan/Pakistani border areas generated by Pakistan-based Muslim extremists continues to inflict casualties on coalition and Afghan forces.

A second possible scenario 5 years from now, while less likely, forecasts an even worse outcome: Backsliding to the externally-fueled, chaotic 1992 to 1996 period of warlord conflict and chaos inside Afghanistan. Influential circles in Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China, and the Persian Gulf, for their own reasons, would welcome the resulting deterioration in the U.S.-led coalition's position in Afghanistan. Muslim extremists from Southeast Asia to North Africa would gain new followers by portraying a western retreat from Afghanistan. The U.S. and its allies would be compelled to prepare another costly miliary operation to prevent the growing hemorrhaging of international terrorism, instability, and drugs from Afghanistan."

I've asked before, though I can't find my posts on it, if our vaunted commitment to democracy behooves us to leave Iraq immediately, and completely, as polls consistently show a majority of Iraqis want us to do? And by the same logic, only moreso, shouldn't we be willing to pitch in more, as far as rhetoric, public profile, money, and troops, to stabilize Afghanistan when it's long been known, or at least argued, that it is in grave danger of collapse (again) and that the rule of law has not been established there? That the goal of democratic elections, even now, is being subjected to almost daily challenge by warlords, violent challenges of the type that we see in many of what we call "failed states" and dictatorships?

Our hypocrisy sickens me. It really does.


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