The very term "failed state" evokes a sense of hopelessness and despair, and should therefore be used as sparingly as possible.
2001 and 2004, I was closely involved with
But what is
the real meaning of the term, or, to put it differently, what precisely is needed
for a Nation to qualify for that dubious title? Should
Two lengthy and brutal foreign invasions, interrupted by years of particularly violent civil war would suffice to bring any human social structure to its knees, and would have succeeded to do so in Afghanistan if it weren't for the extraordinary pride, resilience and courage of the Afghan people (I refer to both men and women) and their refusal, over the past centuries, to submit to outside domination, even in the presence of a foreign-imposed government. This happened in the days of Shah Shujah Durrani, during the 1840's, it has repeated itself since, and could well determine events in that obscure future when the foreign troops now occupying Afghanistan will presumably have left.
The information, fragmentary as it is, that this land, once considered hopelessly condemned to perennial poverty might actually possess considerable mineral wealth does not necessarily constitute a blessing. If true it would greatly complicate matters, as the already ruthless quest for power will receive support and backing from foreign sources the interests of which will, at best, coincide only with those of a very small minority of the power structure. All this risks being presented in an old fashioned ideological form, a post-Cold War resurrection of Manichean dualism, in which the presumably libertarian forces of "free market" capitalism will attempt to wrest power from the more "socialist" oriented ones, in the name of a questionable version of Democracy.
Recent history leaves little room for optimism, and the feeling prevails that any National Government structure left behind by the occupying forces will give way to a repetition -- or perhaps a resumption -- of the preceding civil war, with ultimate results that are impossible to foresee, considering the additional burden of a much wider overt or covert international involvement, precisely because of the riches presumably hidden in this inhospitable soil.
Time is really very short, and one does not read or hear of any intention, on the part of the NATO Allies, to review their negotiating stance in order to take these new factors into due account.
In my experience, Afghans are skilful negotiators, often a step ahead of their interlocutors. It would seem worthwhile testing the responses to ideas along the lines of sharing not only political but also economic power, in a type of regionally oriented framework which, by opening up new, entirely legitimate vistas, could also diminish the constant threat posed by the exportation of opium to the outside world through neighbouring countries.
ultimate answer to
of this submission, Ambassador Carlo Ungaro, is a retired Italian senior
Diplomatic officer, who has spent
sixteen years of his life in