The debate on Afghanistan is heating up: Does the solution lie in expanding and sending thousands of additional troops – about 40,000 more- or in searching for a way out and handing the rifle over to the Afghans to accomplish the mission? At the same time, the militarists are complaining that time has been passing without a decision and that the situation can not withstand the luxury of endless debate. The fears of the first option are understandable: More involvement in a costly war without a guaranteed victory. As for withdrawal, it is not acceptable yet, even to most of the participating NATO countries because they view Afghanistan as a school that graduates more Al-Qaeda suicide bombers who will return to strike them again.
The aim is to defeat the Taliban and establish a capable and responsible central state. The first part of this equation – the defeat of the Taliban – may be hard but the second part – establishing a responsible state -is even harder. The elections of the Afghan government in Kabul have ended. The result of the election is that Hamid Karzai, the incumbent president, has won and will stay. But Karzai is also accused of forging millions of votes. Were these large numbers of soldiers and huge amounts of money used in this war for the sake of installing a government that was tested and found to be incapable of running the affairs of the country? “No, but Karzai is better than the Taliban and Al-Qaeda”. This is an opinion held by those that want a hasty withdrawal. Is it conceivable for such wars to be waged in order to install a regime that is accused – in addition to fraud – of placating drug merchants and of fabricating battles with the Pakistanis? Moreover, in the past few years, the government in Kabul has not succeeded militarily whereas the Taliban forces have scored many victories on the ground.
If the charges against Karzai are true, then the future of Afghanistan will be worse. I do not mean the election fraud – because this is the simplest of crimes in our region – but I mean the other charges. If it is hard for the Americans to control the practices of the Karzai camp at present -where the country is governed by troops from different parts of the world – the situation will be even more serious in the future when the allied forces return to their respective countries. The problem lies in the installation of individuals only because they use the right language instead of building institutions that can stand on their own feet after the departure of the foreign troops and instead of recognizing and dealing with local forces, including the Taliban. I mean it must have been hard for the Taliban as well. The Taliban must have included forces that could have been won over and given some concessions such as participation in governance.
Afghanistan is worse than Iraq for one simple reason: It is not a state that can be controlled or fought over to gain control over it. Afghanistan is scorched land consisting of mountains, valleys, tribes, and a few urban groupings that could be defended and fortified but that collapse at the first attack. It has not been possible to impose stability on this beleaguered land for 40 years without the consensus of the regional forces also on its stability.