resignation of General David Petraeus certainly brings to mind his role in the
its inception the unfortunate Afghan venture appeared
haunted by the risk of a hurried departure of the invading forces with
no real, valid or credible "exit strategy"
having been planned. This
prospect has recently emerged
with particular vigour, and there is indeed a growing fear that
As a consequence, in the future memory of the Afghan people, the present invasion may well be seen as even more damaging than the Soviet occupation of the 1980's, which caused extremely critical and hostile reactions in the West, to the point of the United States displaying its "moral outrage" by boycotting the Moscow Olympics of 1980.
Stripping political rhetoric from all the statements and justifications put forth first from one side (The Soviet Union), then the other (NATO allies), the political and strategic "reasoning" behind the two invasions have much more in common than what could be normally suspected.
The initial phase of the Soviet invasion -- ostensibly on the "request" of the Afghan government -- appeared particularly violent and brutal, with the very Government which had allegedly formulated the "request" being mowed down by firing squads, as a prelude to the formation of an adequately "obedient" regime.
NATO's opening moves seemed more acceptable to the International Community, also because, to a certain extent, the "niceties" of international intercourse were respected: a formal, although obviously unacceptable ultimatum was issued, and the invasion took place with a double asserted purpose. One of these, the elimination of the Al Qaeda headquarters, had at least an aura of legitimacy. The other motivation was to bring about a regime change and install an obedient and docile government in the place of the Taliban.
was not all that different from the one pursued a
couple of decades earlier by the
The two invasions were therefore both of dubious legality, with the Soviet venture being very strongly stigmatized in the West and causing a major Cold War crisis with long term effects far graver than the boycotting of the Moscow Olympics, such as a long and violent civil war and the creation of the Taleban, imagined then as a useful anti-Communist tool. By contrast, in the general climate of understandable indignation caused by the September 11 attacks, the NATO invasion received little criticism, and was generally seen to be justified by the need to eliminate the Al Qaeda power structure.
The apparently excessive brutality exercised against civilian populations soon, however, attracted some guarded criticism which, with the passage of time, grew into a mounting opposition in the public opinion within the participating NATO countries. The governments of the NATO powers involved, however, felt tied to an international commitment which, in their view, had to be respected. Acceptance -- sometimes wholehearted and enthusiastic -- of NATO operations was encouraged by a vigorous press and propaganda campaign launched by ISAF, which had the practical result of creating a "de facto" complicity between the International Mainstream Media and NATO.
On the occasion of its withdrawal, the
Legitimate doubts arise on whether it will it be possible for NATO, upon its departure, to avoid the total disintegration of the fragile socio-political structure left behind after over a decade of occupation. The signs point to the inevitability of a chaotic outcome.
diverse political scenarios could arise as a consequence of this ill-fated
military mission, and in the little time
left greater attention should be
focused on the fate of the Afghan civilian population, victim of a present-day
particularly cynical version of the "Great Game". Recent "disclosures" on the presence of mineral wealth in
For all its undeniable brutality, the Soviet occupation furthered the development of an already rather dynamic civil society, and growing numbers of children and young adults, particularly women, continued to have access to educational and training facilities both at home and abroad, being thus moved away from the more extreme forms of religious fundamentalism. The hiatus caused first by the civil war, and then by the years of Taliban led regime was certainly a setback, but some ground was regained, though in a less systematic fashion, in the course of the present occupation. In spite of all these decades of foreign occupation and internal conflict, and notwithstanding all the negative images we receive of the country, Afghan civil society continues to be a potential asset, indeed, perhaps the only real hope for that country's future development.
A critical analysis of the errors committed in these past years which have handicapped the full emergence of this civil society would be relatively easy, but quite useless at this stage, while attempts to foresee and to curtail the damage that the NATO military withdrawal will cause to the Afghan civilian population -- particularly, but not exclusively the women -- is certainly of much greater urgency and interest.
quite fair to state that the military situation in
Although it is probably too late, efforts ought to be directed not so much in the strengthening of a corrupt and inept central government, but in the enhancement of local autonomy, in which populations flourish which have little or no sympathy for Taliban inspired extremism, both for ideological reasons and for ancient, deep-rooted tribal and ethnic differences. The risks are notable, especially in some regions in which the old warlords still wield influence, but attempts should be made to concentrate the future Taliban authority's power and influence in areas more sympathetic to their ideology and ethnically closer to them.
If this approach had been adopted some years ago, as suggested by some observers since early 2005, the Afghan problem would perhaps be more manageable today. Late as it is, some hope could be held for a less disastrous outcome should it be adopted now.