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~~/ Afghanistan bold proposal. Why invade Afghanistan their opponents with money and /1
with a large American army, deploying weapons,and tip the balanceagainstthe 1
massive firepower that kills large Taliban? . ]
numbers of locals and alienates the It worked like a charm. PakiStan,
population? Why give Osama Ben Laden whose intelligence services had 1
the long anti-American guerilla war that originallycreatedthe Taliban,withdrew]
he was undoubtedly counting on? its support, the regime fled Kabul, and
Instead, Tenet proposed sending most of the Talibantroops melted back I
teams of CIA agents and special into their villages.The govermnentof a

By Gwynne Dyer
Afghanistan has usually been run by regional and
tribal warlords with little central control: nothing new
Thecurrentfighting in thesouth,the
Pashtunheartland,whichis causinga there. But now it is also a country where the biggest
steadydribble of American,British and minority has been largely excluded from power by
Canadiancasualties,will continueuntil
the Westerncountriespullout foreign invaders who sided with the smaller
minorities, and then blocked the process of
T HIS week is the sixth anniversary
of the start of US air strikes
against Al Qaeda and its Taliban
hosts in Afghanistan.
accommodation by which the various Afghan ethnic
groups normally make power-sharin~ deals
It was a very clever politico-military
operation, and by December 2001, all forces into the country to win the country of 27 million people ~as taken
Afghanistan was under the control of the support of the various militias, down for a death toll that probably did
United States and its local allies for a loosely linked as the Northern not exceed 4,000 on all sides. .
total cost of twelve American dead. Alliance, that still dominated the By mid-December 2001, the United
Then, for no good reason, it fell apart, northern regions of the country. States effectively controlled Afghanistan
and now the war is lost. Althoughthe Talibanhad controlled through its local allies, all dra~n from ~
In the days just after September 11, mostof the countrysince 1996,theyhad the northern minority groups: Tajiks, ~
George Tenet, the Central Intelligence never decisivelywon the civil war. So Uzbeks and Hazara. There had not been e
Agency's (CIA's) chief, came up with a why not intervenein that war, shower the mass killing of innocent bystanders c
a war won and lost happened. and then blocked the process of
i 1 that would inevitably have accompanied
~ a conventional US invasion, so there was The United States had so closely accommodationby which the various
no guerilla war. identified the Taliban with Al Qaeda Afghan ethnic groups normally make
The traditional ruling group and (althoughBenLadenprobablynevertold power-sharingdeals.
biggest minority, the Pashtun, who had the Taliban leadership what he was The Taliban are still the main
put their money on the Taliban and lost, planning) that it would not talk to political vehicle of the Pashtuns,
would have to be brought back into the Pashtunleaderswho had been linked to becausethere has been no time to build
game somehow, but the usual Afghan the Taliban.Six years after the invasion another. It doesn't mean that all
deal making would suffice. that wasn't, the Pashtunsare stilllargely Pashtuns are fanatics or terrorists.
Washington had the wit to make
Mahmoud Karzai, a Pashtun from a clan
that never had much to do with the
After the foreigners are gone, the Afghans will make
Taliban, its puppet president in Kabul, the traditional interethnic deals and something like
but it didn't carry through. It froze out all
the prominent Pashtun political and peace will return. Will Karzai still be the president
religious leaders who had had dealings
with the Taliban - which was, of course,
after that? Yes, if he can convince the Pashtuns that he
almost all of them. is open to such a deal once the foreigners leave. Will
The Taliban had been the
governmentof Afghanistanfor almost the Taliban come back to power? No,.only to a share
five years, and were at the time the of power. Will Osama Ben Laden return and recreate a
political vehicle of the Pashtun
ascendancy in the country. If you were a 'nest of terrorists' in Afghanistan. Very unlikely
traditional Pashtun leader, how could
you not have had dealings with them? frozen out. That is why the Taliban are Indeed, not all fhe Taliban are fanatics
An amnesty that turned a blind eye coming back. (though many of.,them are), and hardly
to the past, plus pressure by the United Afghanistan has usually been run by any of them nurse the desire to carry out
~ Stateson its recent allies to grant the regional and tribal warlords with little terrorist acts in' other countries. That
Pashtuns a fair share of the national pie, central control: nothing new there. was the specialty of their (rather
would have created a regime in Kabul to But now it is also a country where ungrateful) Arab guests, who fled across
which Pashtuns could give their loyalty, the biggest minority has been largely the border into 1he tribal areas of
even if they were less dominant at the excluded from power by foreign invaders Pakistan almost' six years ago. il
centre than usuaL But that never who sided with the smaller minorities, The current fighting in the south, the a
of Pashtun heartland, which is causing a
s steady dribble of American, British and
e Canadian casualties, will continue until
the Western countries pullout.
[\ (Most other NATO members sent
:, their troops to various parts of northern
:I Afghanistan, where non-Pashtun
I warlords rule non-Pashtun populations
and nobody dares attack the foreigners.)
Then, after the foreigners are gone,
the Afghans will make the traditional
interethnic deals and something like
peace will return.
Will Karzai still be the president
after that? Yes, if he can convince the
Pashtuns that he is open to such a deal
once the foreigners leave.
Will the Taliban come back to
power? No, only t<;>
a share of power, and
only to the extent that they can still
command the loyalty of the Pashtuns
once it is no lollger a question of
resistance to foreigners.
Will Osama Ben Laden return and
recreate a "nest of terrorists" in
Afghanistan. Veryuillikely. The Afghans
paid too high a price for their hospitality
the first time.rgund. CO.URTESY THE
JORDAN TIMES

The writer is a London-based
independent journalist whose articles
arepublishedin 45 countries