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SLUG: 8-042 FOCUS: Struggling Afghanistan 2
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=11/02.01

TYPE=FOCUS

NUMBER=8-042

TITLE= STRUGGLING AFGHANISTAN 2

BYLINE=ED WARNER

DATELINE=WASHINGTON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: The war is not yet over in Afghanistan, say analysts, and the peace is at risk. Sustained international help is needed both to combat the Taleban remnants and to strengthen and extend the precarious government in Kabul. So a degree of foreign intrusion may be welcomed by a society that has traditionally shunned it. In the second of two scripts, VOA's Ed Warner looks at the future prospects for Afghanistan.

TEXT: The Taleban are gone from every-day Afghan life, but not all their Taleban ways. In fact, their ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has been revived, though in not so harsh a form. Warnings are given rather than beatings to men with inadequate beards and women improperly covered.

Sharia still governs Afghanistan, even Kabul, for all the changes that have occurred, says Ed McWilliams, a former U-S special envoy to Afghanistan:

/// MCWILLIAMS ACT ///

The Karzai administration, partly due to the fact that it does not have the resources to respond to popular will and popular needs in Afghanistan, seems to be succumbing to some of the conservative influences that had grown up in Afghanistan under Taleban rule. That would include treatment of women and Islamic justice.

/// END ACT ///

Afghans do not differ that much on Islam, says Carl Conetta, director of the Project for Defense Alternatives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Religious conflict was not involved in the clash between the Northern Alliance and the Taleban:

/// CONETTA ACT ///

The opposition that existed in the north and south of the country was based on ethnic divisions, not based on fundamental religious differences. The rural areas continue to be very, very conservative. In fact, the dress of women has not changed outside the capital. I would not say there has been a resurgence of fundamentalism. It never left.

/// END ACT ///

Considering this rather broad agreement on religion, Mr. Conetta thinks some of the moderate Taleban can be persuaded to lay down their arms and join the Karzai government:

/// CONETTA ACT ///

Do the former Taleban have any role in a future Afghanistan? I will say this: it is much better to have some of these elements inside the government than operating underground. I think the general approach should be to try to draw all the various elements of Afghan political life into a central political process, if possible.

/// END ACT ///

Mr. Conetta says similar tactics could work with defiant warlords, some of whom are allied with Taleban members. This means U-S and Afghan forces must go out to the countryside and get politically involved:

/// CONETTA ACT ///

The idea would be to infiltrate and make connections within their alliances that weaken their individual control and pull local leaders into cooperation with the government. All of these warlords sit on top of alliances of local leaders and local commanders. So in a sense, all of them are vulnerable to seeing their bases of support shift toward the government, if a concerted effort is made.

/// END ACT ///

Will this American intrusion be welcome? Many U-S officials say Afghans, as always, will resent any foreign intervention.

Maybe not, responds Charles Dunbar, professor of international relations at Simmons College in Boston. Times have changed:

/// DUNBAR ACT ///

Most Afghans are very tired of what has happened to them over the past 20 years and recognize that foreign assistance and even foreign intervention on a temporary basis may be the way they may want to go. There is a general perception that a western-based security force would be welcome at the present time.

/// END ACT ///

Afghans are understandably wary of foreign powers lingering too long, says Professor Dunbar. Acquisitive neighbors are especially suspect. But the United States is not a neighbor and does not seek a permanent presence in Afghanistan:

/// DUNBAR ACT ///

The United States, as an intervener, is a country that does not have an abiding long-term interest in being in Afghanistan. I think therefore our military might be able to do a bit more in the reconstruction area than it is doing, and that bit more would have a very large impact.

/// END ACT ///

Mr. Conetta says a more serious question is how long outside powers are willing to stay and help. There are limits to their patience:

/// CONETTA ACT ///

Many of the nations were exhausted in terms of their willingness to send developmental and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. If they were exhausted a couple of years ago, they are going to be comatose when and if a war in Iraq commences because this will obviously introduce a whole other level of assistance requirements.

/// END ACT ///

Like many others, Mr. Conetta worries that a U-S war in Iraq will divert resources from Afghanistan and leave it prey once again to the Taleban or similar groups:

/// CONETTA ACT ///

If our attention moves on to another country, what we will leave in our wake is the likelihood of a repeat of events that a year ago led us to the September eleventh attack. We are not sufficiently paying attention to the conditions that generate these problems in the first place.

/// END ACT ///

All the more reason to rebuild Afghanistan as soon as possible, says Professor Dunbar. Roads and bridges are key to reviving commerce and extending Kabul's authority to the rest of the country. So far, they are unrepaired:

/// DUNBAR ACT ///

A friend of mine has just returned from Afghanistan and has made the point that there are bombed out bridges that are being spanned by using disabled armored vehicles and steel plates placed on top of those vehicles to span the area where there used to be a bridge. That is a classic Afghan solution to a problem, but it is a problem that a relatively small engineering force could overcome rather quickly.

/// END ACT ///

Rebuilding Afghanistan strengthens the Karzai government, says Charles Dunbar. The president needs all the help he can get, if he is to remain in power and add to it:

/// DUNBAR ACT ///

I think Mr. Karzai has shown himself to be a politician of some ability, and he still has a window in which to be really able to assert himself. But he needs more support than he is getting. The international community needs to get on with it during this window of opportunity, or I think we will see the fundamentalists, the reactionaries, beginning to gain advantage.

/// END ACT ///

With a sense of urgency, U-S Senator Chuck Hagel has sponsored a four-year three-point-three billion dollar aid bill for Afghanistan that gained wide support from both Democrats and Republicans:

/// HAGLE ACT ///

It is the first real framework of assistance to Afghanistan what the President promised we would do a year ago, where we have not seen any of the specifics. But this bill gives the specifics, lays the authority out to fund it and allows the President to go forward and really get into the economic and humanitarian areas as well as the security areas.

/// END ACT ///

Senator Hagel says the United States must be as successful in reconstructing Afghanistan as in routing the Taleban. The war will be won only if it leads to a durable peace.

/// HAGEL ACT ///

We need to make sure that President Karzai has the resources to show the people his government is going to make Afghanistan a better country for all the people jobs, education, opportunity and security. He can take this bill to his people and say this is not just American rhetoric, but they have done something with it. The Congress has passed this bill, and we need now to move forward and get some of these projects started.

/// END ACT ///

Senator Hagel says roads and other infrastructure are needed to provide growth and take the country back from the warlords. The alternative is a return of terrorism.

For Focus, this is Ed Warner



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