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  Janurary 2006

urrent Affairs
Situation in Afghanistan

A big achievement of the US-backed Karzai government in Afghanistan has been the election of a 351 member parliament which was sworn in on December 19 last. It is for the first time in 30 years that an election was held in that war-ravaged country. But as a foreign news agency sarcastically remarked, the parliament has its share of warlords and drug barons. That perhaps explains why there is still no peace in Afghanistan. In fact, despite the induction of the parliament cases of violence and terrorism continue unabated. In addition, there have been quite a few cases of suicide bombing, which is a new phenomenon in the country.

Indeed, everything seems to have gone awry in Afghanistan. When the United States and its NATO allies had invaded that country in 2001 to oust the Taliban, it was generally believed that they would be welcomed by the Afghans as liberators, and once rid of the obscurantist regime, the country would quickly move towards peace and recovery from long years of war. But sadly, that did not happen. The allied troops find the place insecure for them even to this day; the writ of the Karzai government is confined to Kabul and a few other towns. There are incidents of violence every other day, highways* are not safe and the Afghans' dream of repatriation and reconstruction is still far from realization.

One reason is that the allies misjudged the Talibans' strength in the populous southeast of the country, particularly in the vitally important Kandahar region. After the capture of Kabul and Kandahar they mishandled the situation thus spoiling the gains of their victory. They played into the hands of the very people- the warlords and drug barons- who were responsible for much of the bloodshed and misery of the Afghans after the withdrawal of the Soviet army, and had created conditions which brought the Taliban into power. The latter, notwithstanding their brutish and obscurantist ways, had roots in the masses; they drove away the warlords from the cities and towns and disarmed the local population. That way they checked violence and made possible movement of goods and people on the highways.

The list of the Taliban's crimes too is long- repression of women, providing sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas, being just a few of them. Yet it was also wrong on the part of the US and its allies to have replaced the Taliban with the old villains. The victorious allied troops, instead of taking the Taliban and their Pakistani and Arab supporters as POWs themselves, handed them over to the Dostum and Northern Alliance militias. It was a big blunder.

The militias treated the prisoners in the most inhuman manner, thousands were tortured to death and others were clamped into private prisons of the warlords in most horrible conditions and then repatri¬ated only after receiving big ransoms from their generally poor parents. Many of these young volun¬teers who were fighting alongside the Taliban came from Pakistan's tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan. Their mass murders and torture in the warlords' private prisons has caused widespread hatred and enmity in their families for the Allies and the Kabul regime. The transfer of some to the illegal prison of Guantanamo Bay did even greater damage to the image of the US and its NATO allies among them.

This bad blood is one of the main reasons why the allies and the Karzai government have failed to capture either Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden despite all their efforts and why they are not able to secure public cooperation in restoring peace and normalcy. The Taliban should have been treated as POWs under the international law and only those involved war crimes should have been tried and punished by proper courts. With the rest of the belligerents, the victors should have gone for a political settlement instead of mounting the unending manhunt in the vast mountainous region .One would urge upon the Karzai government and the allies to seek a political rather than a military solution of the problem in Afghanistan.