March 30, 2009
Tomorrow, something new will happen in the windy Dutch government seat at the North Sea. All, I repeat: ALL, possible players in the Afghan drama will come together and talk. Will it be THE turning point, or will it only be a significant step forward?
Obama delivers. A completely new US approach to the world is taking shape. No more imperialist 1000 years’ dreams like those in the “American Century” documents of the neoconservatives. A more realistic view takes into account the interests of the Afghan people in all their diversity, and, also, those of the neighbouring countries, as well as those of the world players: the US, Europe, Russia, China, India.
This, in itself, is already a major turning point. But will it materialize into something sensible?
The subject is extremely complicated. Afghanistan is divided in itself along ethnic, cultural and religiuous lines. The Northern neighbours are interested in halting the fundamentalist infiltrations. Pakistan has been considering the country as its backyard, providing a strategic depth against arch enemy India. Iran has a religious (the Shiite Hazaris) and cultural (the large Persian speaking minorities) stake. At the oil and gas producing end, Iran, Turkmenistan and others, as well as Pakistan and India (and China?) at the potential receiving end have an interest in Afghanistan as a necessary transit country. the whole world has an interest in stopping or limiting the poppy (heroine) production. I would like to add the interest the whole world should have in rolling back the safe havens for terrorist fundamentalism.
It is my innermost conviction, that only the Afghan people themselves may find a solution to the problems mentioned above and to others that I did not mention (yet). The Obama-Clinton first measures (reigning in the Pakistan ISI, look for an arrangement with authentic local forces in Afghanistan) and proposals, would possibly create the necessary room for an Afghan awakening taking place.
Many people are critical of the pressure, Obama is putting on Pakistan. I am not. Before 2001, the US were blindly following the Pakistani Secret Service ISI’s manipulations in Afghanistan (and Pakistan/Kashmir). Under G.W.Bush this did not change. A decisive key to a solution in Afghanistan, is cutting out the ISI’s support to Islamist fundamentalism. It created and maintained in power (with Saudi help) the Afghan Taliban. Facilitated their resurrection after 2002. And let them also develop in Pakistan itself (the Northwest Territories).
Dealing with Pakistan, a country with a huge population, nuclear bombs, and a fierce frustration gainst India, is extremely difficult. Obama’s carrot (7,5 billion dollars help) and stick (US intrusions into the Territories, chasing Al Qaeda) is, if I may judge, the only possible way to make things move into the right direction.
Iran has a number of stakes here in common with the US, Russia and Europe. It would like to stop fundamentalist anti-Shiite Sunni rule in Afghanistan. It has an interest in a pacified Afghanistan as a transit country for its oil and gas to the east. It doesn’t like Pakistani, nor American, nor Russian, nor European military too close to its eastern borders.
Summa summarum: There are some chances, that the new realistic configuration that has been put in place by the new US Government, will produce a turning point at The Hague. As I said long before this, a counter-guerilla war in Afghanistan by NATO armies is as hopeless as the British (XIXth century) efforts at a “Great Game” and the Russian ones after 1979 were from the beginning. Poor dead and wounded soldiers from Canada, the UK and othe NATO countries have fallen for a chimera. I do not understand, what the US extra-NATO forces have been doing all the way from 2002 to now. They sabotaged objectively the pacification and community-building efforts of the NATO allies. Like tomorrow’s host country the Netherlands in Uruzgan. They did not crush Al Qaeda, nor capture its chief. And I regret their vain casualties, too.
The remnants of the neoconservative movement are complaining. Tonight, on Dutch television, Iranian refugee turned Dutch Professor of ethnic integration, Afshin Ellian, criticized sternly and repeatedly Obama’s praise for the greatness of the Iranian civilization. As if respect for the Iranian people, holding out against a world wide boycott since 1979 (30 years!), would be a crime! Should we be taking Ellian for a guide, Ellian, who was for years a Tudeh (Iranian Communist Party) propagandist in a Kabul exile under the Soviets?
Other voices from Iran, also shown on Dutch television, tell another tale. A woman refugee fro.m Iran sais, she was moved by the respect Obama finally showed in the name of the American people, for Iranian culture and civilization. Looking at that woman, I thought: She will be able to deal herself, together with her friends, with retrograde mollahs. That is not our task.
Give people room to make their own communities. In dignity. And in their own way. Our democracy is superb. We developed it all by ourselves. in blolod and with much trial and error. Genuine democracy is not imported by force from elsewhere. it is obtained democratically – by the people themselves.