The War in Afghanistan

OpinionGlobal, 15.09.2019
Riad Fouad Saade, empresario libanés y cónsul honorario de Chile en Beirut

Whether we have sympathy or not towards the United States of America, the leader of the free world to which we belong, it has been sometimes that we question some of its interventions in other countries’ affairs would it be economically financially or militarily.

A good commentary on thematter is an article by a prominent Harvard professor, using the Afghan-US experience, which underlines the strategic failures of the US in Afghanistan but also in Iraq, in Viet Nam and Korea.

I would like here to share with you my personal experience of the Afghan issue.

1-    Afghanistan is a key country in Central Asia: the 21st Century “hot point” of the planet

2-    Whether 9/11 was an inside mounted operation or really performed by Al Qaeda, it has triggered US military intervention in Afghanistan

3-    US action was not single driven: each of the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA and last but not least the White House, have their own strategy. And often it does not match with other Administrations. This without omitting the strategies of the American economic private sectors such as Arms industry, oil interests, etc

4-    Originally the US aimed at building a new modern Afghan Nation, Western-style democracy. All started with the December 2001 Bonn Conference which followed  Operation Enduring Freedom  in which the Taliban government was toppled. President Hamid Karzai was appointed Head of State and formed his government.

5-     What happened between 2001 and 2014 deserves pages of analysis, it can be summarized as follows:

  • Chaos in a wrongly reshaped Afghan Administration
  • Absence of consensual forces uniting numerous ethnies and groups shattered by war
  • Full permeability to corruption of most locals, eager to rebuild themselves (politically and economically), with full support of US contractors. Hundreds of billions of US dollars were cashed by these US contractors while almost nothing was implemented on the ground
  • The educated and capable Afghan citizens who engaged in rebuilding their country were sided and even fought

In a nutshell the US intervention missed its target of building a new modern Afghan  Nation.

6-    2014 elections were an opportunity to consider seriously the building of a new sustainable Afghanistan

  • Elected President Ashraf Ghani is a highly educated person (professor of Anthropology UC Berkley, John Hopkins-Baltimore), well prepared development economist (World Bank-Pakistan, Russia, Vietnam etc) but foremost highly knowledgeable about Afghan culture, history, traditions. He had participated in writing Afghan constitution and was the successful Minister of Finance in the first Karzai cabinet establishing currency, customs, taxes etc. He could not remain in following cabinets for incompatibility with the corrupt environment.
  • Ghani had prepared himself and his “manifesto” was an electoral program as much as an action plan for his presidency. While critics are numerous and absence of achievements in many sectors is underlined, opponents forget

-          the huge liability heritage that Ghani started with

-          the fact that the start of his mandate was crippled by imposing on him a CEO (Dr. Abdallah) who was his main opponent and who spent the whole mandate setting obstacles to Ghani’s plans.

-          The fact that most ministers of Ghani cabinets, had their personal interests lead their behavior. If they were not able to act in an as much corrupt way as during Karzai time, this did not prevent them to block Ghani’s plans or to delay it when it could harm their career and personal business.

-          The fact that the US policy towards Afghanistan was ever changing since 2014, while Russia, Iran, Pakistan and India, were far from stability as to their policy in Central Asia.

  • One thing can summarize Ghani’s 2014-2019 mandate: he has “set the tracks for the development of a sustainable Afghanistan”, someone (maybe himself if reelected) will have to “put Afghanistan on track”

7-    It is as if the presence of the USA in Afghanistan did not care about Afghanistan development and nation building, as much as it had a very short term vision of US narrow and spot interests.

8-    One wonders when the beautiful words of “interfering in a country to bring Peace, Freedom and Democracy” will ever materialize in facts, instead of the (positive or constructive) chaos that the US leave behind whenever they interfere.

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