Published on 22 Dec 2010 at 03:30
By Asar Hakimi
An interview with Sarwar Jawadi, a prominent political analyst in Kabul
The government of Afghanistan says that it has been trying to negotiate with the Taliban, but has not yet made any significant achievements. In your opinion, what are the main barriers towards negotiations?
The Taliban phenomenon has still not been adequately defined, and there are conflicting ideas. The Taliban emerged mysteriously in Afghanistan; even major intelligence agencies have no comprehensive perception of the Taliban.
Afghanistan’s war has many reasons behind it. First of all, the mafia bands are fighting over poppy cultivation. Estimates say they gain between $100-$400 million per year from poppy, their second highest source of income after arms sales. Internal and international mafia bands are not ready to give up this business. Ninety percent of the world’s opium poppy is produced in Afghanistan, and this business will run quite well as long as insecurity continues.
Even with more than 100,000 foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan, little progress is being made on narcotics. Poppy cultivation has steadily grown. There is evidence that the governments of some countries are helping the mafia with their activities in Afghanistan, perpetuating the conflict.
Another reason behind the war is ethnic identity. Some people in Afghanistan and Pakistan are motivated primarily by ethnic interests and do not want to recognize the Durand Line as the border between the two countries. The border issue is still causing conflict, and those on both sides believe that recognition of the Durand Line has led to ethnic division.
People in the Punjab use this issue to intensify conflict in the region; they fear that the issue of Pashtunistan (reuniting the Pashtun tribes on both sides of the Durand Line) will arise if a Pashtun-dominated government takes power in Afghanistan. This became an issue during the regime of President Daud Khan, and Pakistan still fears that the topic of Pashtunistan will lead to more divisions within the country.
If we consider that the Taliban are motivated by ethnic considerations in Afghanistan, why does Pakistan support them while Pakistan itself is suffering from tribal conflicts?
According to Pakistani extremists, crisis and conflict in Afghanistan is meant to keep the regional tribal groups busy. These groups do not recognize the Durand Line. In the 1990s Pakistan supported the Taliban, enabling them to occupy 80 percent of the country.
The Taliban’s fight against the mujaheddin was neither ideological nor religious in nature; it was an ethnic battle supported from the other side of the Durand Line. Such ethnic issues have led the Afghan government to adopt a passive policy towards terrorism and the Taliban. It is obvious that the Taliban were an ethnic regime; they were fighting for their ethnic interests. Such ethnic motivation remains within the Taliban. There will be no peace and stability in Afghanistan until these ethnic issues are dealt with.
The third reason is the motivation of the other countries in the region. Afghanistan has a strategic location: it borders China, a great economic power. Pakistan, a nuclear power with its conflict with India over Kashmir, is also our neighbor. Iran, an open enemy of the West, particularly the United States, is trying to become a nuclear power. All these factors come together along with the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan to prolong the war.
Some analysts believe that the major powers involved in the war in Afghanistan do not want the conflict to end; are there other reasons for this war besides ethnic issues?
One of the reasons for the war is the Taliban’s ethnic motivation; other reasons include the interests of the mafia and the regional powers. As I mentioned, Afghanistan is trapped in this war for multiple reasons, with ethnicity being the major one. The ethnic issue has led the Afghan government to make wrong decisions. President Hamid Karzai sometimes defends the Taliban and releases their prisoners, and calls off operations against them. On the other hand, the president is not willing to tackle poppy eradication. All these actions show that the Afghan government has no specific plan to fight the Taliban. So the war continues.
War in Afghanistan has also turned into a good business for the mafia, as well as internal and international figures involved in this war. There will be no poppy in Afghanistan if the war ends. Such a situation, along with foreign interference, has caused Karzai to keep one hand in the U.S.’s pocket, the other hand in Iran’s.
Pakistan, as the main supporter of the Taliban, is under pressure these days. Russia has signed an agreement with NATO which could decrease Pakistan’s role. On the other hand, the United States harshly criticized Pakistan for not cooperating honestly in the war on terror. How can all of this help to end the war in Afghanistan?
Both Russia and NATO need each other’s cooperation. It is very important for the United States, Russia and NATO to protect their borders. One of the reasons that NATO deploys its troops in different parts of the world is to defend the safety of its member countries.
Russia in particular has to protect its borders as it inherited many problems from the Soviet Union. Conflicts in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Georgia are challenges for Russia. The United States could put pressure on Pakistan if it really wanted to. But we should not ignore the fact that the British, the U.S. ally in war on terror, support Pakistan. British calls Pakistan a strategic ally in the regional war on terror.
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- Why Afghanistan Is Such A Mess, In Two Unanswered Questions - Business Insider
- Ahmed Rashid: The five things that must go right for Afghanistan to prosper - Spectator.co.uk
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- Another daunting task for John Podesta: an Afghanistan exit strategy - Washington Post (blog)