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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 12:46 GMT
What next for Afghanistan?
Diplomatic sources at the United Nations say the UN envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, is planning to convene a meeting of Afghanistan's ethnic groups in Berlin on Monday.
It is the first time a date and venue has been specified for the meeting, which is intended to be the first step towards the establishment of a broad-based transitional government for Afghanistan following the removal of the Taleban from power in Kabul.
The sources say Mr Brahimi is expected to make a formal announcement to the UN Security Council later on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, officials from about a dozen countries are to hold discussions in Washington on Afghanistan's post-war reconstruction.
The United States and Japan will host the talks, which will begin the process of assessing Afghanistan's most pressing post-war needs, such as agriculture, water, education and mine clearance.
What does the future now hold in store for the people and political institutions of Afghanistan? How should the country be governed? And do women have a role to play? Do you think the refugees should now be allowed to return?
We took your calls on this subject in Talking Point ON AIR, the BBC World Service and News Online phone-in programme which was presented by Diana Madill. Our guests were Hamid Mir, the Editor of the Ausaf newspaper in Islamanad, Pakistan and the BBC's William Reeve in Afghanistan.
Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air:
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
What's next for Afganistan. Every Western industralized countries wants to play a role in the reconstruction of Afganistan. Let them be on their own. They do not need outside help. Helping Northern Alliance over Taliban would bring another wave of destruction for this poor country.
A quick glance at Muslim countries in general, and Afghanistan's neighbours in particular, and the whole of Afghan history, suggests that the best one can realistically hope for is that whatever regime emerges has learnt that supporting terrorism is a very bad idea, and that it roots out and eliminates the remaining Arab, Chechen and Pakistani proto-terrorists who have survived so far.
Joe Ryan, Paris, France
Surely Geneva, Switzerland would be a better place to hold talks aimed at reconciliation among the numerous factions in Afghanistan.
Some people are saying the Afghan people sense freedom. I am an Afghan refugee and I have to say I can't be happy with this victory. I am worried about the future. Alliance forces have a lot of disagreeable points of view. Uzbeks and Hazaras don't have any confidence in Tajiks. Also the Northern Alliance represents just part of the Afghan nation. The only way Afghans can live together is to accept the UN plans for governance in Afghanistan. I ask Mr Rabbani to think about the future of Afghanistan and not repeat the mistakes of the past. I ask all forces in Afghanistan to endure all races and minorities and accept the UN plans.
Philip S Hall, England, UK
Afghanistan needs to form its own government with UN assistance. The so-called peace protesters should go home...their slogans speak not of peace, but anti-US, anti-Blair and anti-Bush. This is not the 1960's and this is not a Vietnam.
What's next for Afghanistan? Well, after we kill the terrorists, the American public will have, yet again, the privilege of pouring billions of dollars down a bottomless pit to people who, in all likelihood, will continue to blame and hate America. The rest of the world will then point to Afghanistan as evidence of American imperialism.
The future is bleak - It is a medieval world out there with uncivilized hordes who have lived by the gun (sword?) for the last 30 years. They don't know the meaning of peace and will never and there is no point in preaching unless they themselves request to be preached. Puppet/Coalition governments have never been successful and there is no reason to be optimistic that the model would be successful in the case of Afghanistan.
The solution is a safe enclave administered by UN, Protected by NATO, financed by the Cold War Players. Citizenship should be restricted to Women, Children and those incapable of taking up the gun or sword. The rest of the country can be left to the fighters to show off their fighting skills. If they want peace, then let them ask for it. As for the Taleban, only about 10 % of them have been killed in the Air Raids. The rest of them have dispersed only to regroup and fight later. They and their sponsors should be mercilessly hunted down.
Patrick, Acton, England
Afghanistan should be placed under international community rule to ensure that terrorists don't spring up again. The Afghans are still living in a primitive society that is easily overtaken with poor teachings, because often the negative aspects of such teachings surface when it's too late.
The very next step for Afghanistan is for everybody to have peace and a normal life.
I would imagine that the future for Afghanistan is never going to be bright, no matter who's in charge. Tony Blair has said that we will not walk away from the people of Afghanistan. I hope the coalition lives up to this promise. That poor country will need both our aid and guidance to rebuild.
Absolutely, women should be a part of any government in Afghanistan. The women and children have been the ones to suffer the worst under the Taleban. Their voice needs to heard. With women participating in the government there is much less of a chance for them to face the fates that they have been living with for too long. As far as the refugees returning, who are we or anyone else for matter to tell a people they cannot return to their homeland. We need to provide them with accurate information about the existing situation and allow them the freedom of choice.
Danny Mok, Hong Kong, China
I think the comment made by Danny Mok of Hong Kong is outrageous. I have to remind Danny that if the UK had kept its "dirty hands" off, for example, Hong Kong, Danny might not have access to the technology to communicate with this Talking Point, the money to afford it, or the command of the English language to do it.
The only system in which you can replace the collapsed Taleban is to initiate a government where the people of Afghanistan, regardless of tribe and ethnic majority, can fully participate, and of course build their own Islamic government.
The next move for Afghanistan is for Mr Bin Laden to shoot himself in his bunker, following the good example of his predecessor in Berlin.
Do not underestimate the Northern Alliance. They have used the US and the UK in this conflict just as much as we have used them, if not more. After years of fighting the Taleban and getting nowhere, they have managed in a few short months to capture the entire country at very little cost to them. Interestingly, the only winner out of the September 11 attacks has been the Northern Alliance, and I suspect that their victory will not be complete until they remove all western forces from Afghanistan. How we will respond is the key to Afghanistan's future.
The purpose of the war is elimination of terrorists and preventing exportation of violence. After these conditions are met Afghanistan should be allowed to find its own solutions and decide how to use foreign aid. Pakistan in particular will have to be watched in case it tries to establish proxy control again.
I suggest that even if the UN manages to make the Afghan people form a wide-based government now, as set forth in A.21(3) of UDHR, the period should be shorter than usual, say 2 years instead of 4. Moreover, the international community should not let the Afghans down. A continued presence is required and the next couple of elections should be thoroughly supervised by the UN.
William Reeve is absolutely right, there can be no peace in Afghanistan until the country is disarmed and the UN's blue helmets undertake a police action to restore law and order
Guy Chapman, Reading, UK
The problem is not over, rather it has just started. The Northern Alliance is more brutal than the Taleban. They will be now be struggling to secure important positions in the coming government, which will be not be acceptable to Pashtoon tribes. It is now the responsibility of the UN and America to make a government which is based on justice rather than affiliations. Pakistan and Iran should also be given key roles in the formation of any new set-up.
I would like to congratulate the Afghan people for regaining their freedom and I wish for a peaceful time after all these years.
As nice as it may be to see a democratically-elected drug-free equal-rights state, the urgent, practical need is to prevent the Northern Alliance from repeating shameful history, while allowing refugees and aid workers alike to sort themselves out before a disastrous winter.
M. Samuel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The future of Afghanistan holds more pain for its people. As always in politics, there are no friends present, only interests. It would be naive to think that the participants in the present Afghan anarchy, including the Western ones, are acting out of sheer altruism.
What's next? More of the same of course. The neo-imperialists will never learn from their past mistakes because it's always somebody else who suffers because of them.
We need to get to the solution which offers a compromise to each of the factions, (if one does exist).
If we could only get them to sit down and act like adults.
It seems, in the current chaos, that each warlord is trying to stake his claim to the territories under them.
And, interestingly, on the other hand, the western press seems to be overtly worried about what role women should play there.
My question is, should we not bring peace to Afghanistan before we worry about the role women would play?
Janice Van Cleve, Seattle, WA, USA
To ensure real stability in Afghanistan, the West must not just insist on there being democracy, but also that religious freedom, man's most basic human right, is recognised in the new Afghanistan.
I sincerely hope that the US and Britain act with the same gusto with regards to the political settlement in Afghanistan as they did with the bombing. Let's all be honest and not fool ourselves. Afghanistan finds herself in very fortunate circumstances due to her geographical position. The time has come for the people of that country to reap the benefit of our desire to tap other sources of crude oil.
Paul, California, USA
The next challenge for the nation of Afghanistan is the construction of a incorrupt, just, and representative government. This will be a very delicate process, only more complicated with local/regional warlords marauding throughout the country, with personal vendettas. Or to take advantage of the power vacuum the Taleban regime has left. Mix that with a pressing humanitarian catastrophe brewing with the onset of winter fast approaching. Coalition nations should help prop up the new government and see that safety is secure for all ethnicities.
The top priority is to ensure there is enough food, medicine and shelter for the population, because winter is already here.
J Sarhandi, Bristol, UK
I believe the US and the UK, in consultation with the leaders and the citizens of Afghanistan of all ethnic groups and the United Nations, should set up a central government at first staffed by top expert international administrators for a period of two years. At the end of the two years they could hand over the administration of the country to understudies for the next two years while the international administrators either remain in Afghanistan to serve as consultants and overseers or go back to their own countries and function as consultants in absentia. At the end of the four years let the Afghan people look after their own affairs like any other democratic nation, assuming that everything goes as planned.
The United Nations have done the correct thing by including India to discuss the future of Afghan governance. Like Pakistan, India has no interest in Afghan real estate or its terrorist camps. Being the largest multi-ethnic democracy in the world and being very close to Afghanistan, India's experience and knowledge is very helpful for a stable future government in Afghanistan.
I fear that the UN-proposed multilateral government may be impractical, even after the war becomes history. There are too many bickering factions in Afghanistan. I propose a countrywide referendum, that would fulfil the US's foreign policy objective of spreading democratic ideals and ensure that we get it right the first time thereby precluding the possibility of a second war in Afghanistan. However, I must stress that the referendum must be supervised by UN observers.
It is better to live separate rather than living together and fighting forever. Make up states depending on ethnic communities and let them rule separately.
Shireen, Vancouver, Canada
Shireen: Afghans could never be one nation. How can an ordinary Afghan expect that from their leaders? This could be the last chance for them to have a peaceful Afghanistan and this can never be possible without intervention from foreign countries.
Yes, the people of Afghanistan now can play music, shave beards and adopt their desired life styles. But who would guarantee the safety of their lives and honours under brutal Northern Alliance commanders?
To Narendra Nathmahal, India: The last thing the Afghan Muslims need is advice from India. Please take a look at how Indian Muslims are treated in India, and you will know why.
To Arif Mahmood, Bombay, India: While I agree with you that the way Muslims in India are treated is not the best, I hope you are glad that you live in a country like India. Anywhere else wouldn't be any easier. In fact, it would be harder. Peace.
To Arif Mohamed, Bombay, India: I cannot believe a true India Muslim would have anything to complain about in India. Out of a population of one billion people, 45 percent are earning less than a dollar a day, and India itself has appalling problems to deal with. But everybody has equitable shares in this. Not Muslims alone. If one doesn't want to practice family planning do not expect the government to carry your load. Also if one wants to force women to be in veil or move towards that, then Afghanistan or Pakistan is a better place than India.
To Arif Mahmood, Bombay, India: India is a tolerant country unlike other Muslim states. Muslims are allowed to practice and preach their religion. The Indian government declares Muslim festivals as national holidays. Muslims hold important positions in government. Tell me one Muslim country which allows Hindus or for that matter, Christians to practice and preach their religion freely. If you still have a problem with India, I think you should move to Pakistan. India must play a major role in the formation of the new government in Afghanistan. They have supported the Northern Alliance. Also, it is high time for the western governments to realise Pakistan's role in supporting terrorism.
I applaud the many brave people, British, American, and all other countries involved, who are sincerely dedicated to helping clean up Afghanistan and bring peace. I hope they can stay united and focused on creating a peace loving unified society, tolerant and proud of its diversity. Intolerance itself is the destructive disease which the Afghan people must fight and defeat. Their hearts must be warm to their commonality. They need to learn the ways of love and caring toward all of their countrymen.
Pakistan and India should not be allowed to influence/interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
The US and the UK have played the most important and major role in liberting Afghanistan from the brutal Taleban regime. The Northern Alliance has only capitalized on the initiatives of the US and the UK bombing.
Just as the US and the UK have so far paved the way for a future Afghanistan with law and order and peace and prosperity I believe now the international community should extend to the US and the UK all the financial, (they alone should not be expected to bear all the costs), political,diplomatic,etc. assistance they now require to help rebuild Afghanistan in the image of all the ethnic groups in Afghanistan and not in the image of the Northern Alliance alone or in the image of Pakistan, India or any of the many other countries surrounding Afghanistan, because Afghanistan belongs to all Afghan citizens no matter what their ethnic origins are. This will of course depend on whether the US and the UK would stay long enough in Afghanistan to see that becomes a reality.
Linda WS, Canada
As a 20 year old muslim girl i am torn apart by both the antics of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. I would beg them to put down their weapons, and give the Afghani civilians a future. After a bloodied past, that is the least that is owed to this ruined society.
Some say that the Northern Alliance will take over all Afghanistan - they dont know this war torn country. The NA, with the best of luck, has no more then 20 thousand troops. They have no roots whatsoever in around 12% of the country, and the rest will never let them stay there.
The future of Afghanistan is partition at best, never-ending civil war at worst. And if UN troops do go there to keep the peace, it will become self-evident that they're nothing more than mercenaries for the oil companies and their oil pipeline.
The problem with Afghanistan was never the Taleban. They were the symptoms of a defective culture, not the cause. Perhaps the Afghans will educate themselves and refrain from oppressing each other, but their is no historical precendent. Even before the Taleban, Afghan men were seen carrying round rockets and machine guns as fashion accessories.
Tom G, London, UK
Their lives could not be worse than they were. Now, at least they have a chance, before, they had none.
They now have hope, and as that hope is shared by every decent person in the world, their lives will almost certainly be better.
The sense of freedom the Afghans are presently feeling should be matched by the swearing in of a good and stable government which is not just favorable but competent and has the foresight to bring the country out of poverty towards prosperity, peace and freedom of choice. The right choice of representations of different factions, parties, gender and ethnics are very critical for equality and the good representation for the people. All the best to the UN, as it takes on this complicated and tedious task of creating the right and appropriate body to govern the country.
Naveed Kamal, Karachi, Pakistan
In order for peace to reign in Afganistan, the people there have to want it. If they can refrain from fighting each other after the Taleban are gone, then there will be hope. All that can be done is for the UN to provide some sort of economic rekindleing and try to encourage education. However, it is up to them to cooperate with the UN and each other. I hope that they can have some sort of future free of violence and death through their own autonomy. I think the the whole world should help them to rebuild a stable country so that they will not have to resort to another terroristic regime that would be their only means of stability.
If UN makes a government, then certainly I feel that the situation will change, but if again NA comes then the same situation returns. If the situation is well settled then refugees may return. Most of the refugees have their own work (small businesses), so if UN helps create a good business situation then refugees certainly will have better life. Women must take part in all activities including the political and military. Then alone will Afghanistan lose the relgious chauvanism.
Lt Col(R) Khalid Munir, Islamabad, Pakistan
Before the bombing, the quality of Afghan life was the Taleban's responsibility. Now, it has become the responsibility of those who bombed.
Life cannot be worse than being an unwilling slave or prisoner to a totalitarian and brutal regime that governs every expression and action absolutely - not only that but one that requires consent and the expression "we like it this way". It is hard to imagine and difficult to understand for those who have not endured that kind of day-to-day terror. Hopefully the Northern Alliance will liberate all of Afghanistan, drive out and destroy Al Qaeda, the Taleban henchmen of a foreign conspiracy, and any other similar groups. We might hope that trend will spread into other nations where similar difficulties plague the people, and that other nations will once again support the war against terror wherever it is found in the world.
Gary Seery, Watertown, N.Y., U.S.A.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE
In response to Arif Sayed, UAE: I think Afghans have made it clear that they do not want Arabs in their country by the killings that have occurred there in recent days, nor do they want the like of the Pakistanis there. You are absolutely correct in saying the refugees should not be allowed back in. It will create more chaos in the case that they have to make another run for the border.
In response to Arif Sayed of Dubai, yes, women have not played that big a role in politics in the past but that was due to the Taleban's warped version of Islam. Now that the Taleban rule is quickly deteriorating, perhaps it's time for that to change. No, let me rephrase that...it is definitely time for that to change. Women must be included regardless of the fact they were not in the past. That was a mistake. Mistakes can be corrected. A new government should include representatives from ALL the peoples of Afghanistan...except of course, the Taleban.
In response to Ryckesha and K.Bektas, I would wish to clarify as follows
I wonder why Pakistan gets the blame for Afghans. Pakistan did it's best under the circumstances in which US and its western allies left them after Soviet Union vanished. And Pakistan was left to pick up the pieces. Taleban were created in part by US and Pakistan. After Soviets left, there was chaos and Pakistan ended up helping Taleban so they can give peace a chance, not knowing the oppressive behavior of them. Pakistanies should be proud of at least they tried to do their best for Afghans, now its US turn to create a stable government there so people can have peace at last.
Natassia Khan, UK
With the defeat of Taleban, the people would win their freedom. But there are many more battles that need to be won. The extent of human devastation during the two decades of conflict are clearly visible. Having come so far, the world community cannot be satisfied with the success of its objective of fighting terrorism. Attempts have to be made by the world community to rebuild Afghanistan and to ensure that the freedom achieved by the people improves their quality of life in economic terms as well.
We can hardly tell the Afghan people what they have to do.
Don't forget - the Northern Alliance has hardly been champions of human rights, either! Only if the Northern Alliance is carefully watched and a broad-based government can be set up will the Afghan people have some peace.
I think Afghans should choose their friends carefully from now on. After 30 years of war and destruction the only country in the neighbourhood who has some semblance to what common Afghans hope for is India. Though India has been ignored so far I hope India's voice is heard and welcomed. India has rich cultural ties to Afghanistan. It is time to revive those ties and revert Afghanistan to its rich historical past.
I think Christopher Laird is wrong. You can bet the horse-trading for the distribution of power in post-Taleban Afghanistan is underway right now. If the UN waits even a week it's likely to find itself facing a fait accomplie.
The most difficult task for the Afghan people is to : Stop using guns and start using their brains in a more productive way.
We can go ahead and give all the aid we want, and deploy any number of forces (UN,US,UK or anyone) we want. But these people have been used to fighting for all these years. Most of the men dont know anything else but using weapons. They have to make a living. They may try, the moment they fail they are going back to guns.
So it is absolutely necessary for the other countries to help get their economy going so that people have jobs and a decent life. Or else 10 years down the line we may see Taleban-II.
Witness events of the past few hours. A group of Hazara tribesmen is reported to have begun to march on Kabul for their share of the spoils. If this is any indication of Afghanistan's future, it certainly doesn't bode well.
Let us all hope they can overcome their bitter internal rivalries for a time to allow something resembling a representative government to be installed. Otherwise I don't see much prospect for a brighter future.
Pessimists may look at the glass as half empty - I do hope most people look at it as half full. Shaving, music, education, sports - things which we take for granted were denied to the Afghans for 5 years. That is half a decade. If all those bombs resulted in even one woman being able to lift the veil and look at the outside world, I think it was worth it.
Samuel Apedel, Ugandan in Leeds, UK
The Northern Alliance is no more a representative of the 'Afghan people' than the Taleban were. The issue now must surely be whether America can apply the same dedication and patience to re-building a nation it just helped destroy. Will it allow Afghans to choose their own system and style of government, or insist on installing their own?
Again and again it is being said that the Taliban have gone, peace and joy is seen in Kabul - but the Western diplomacy is still not right. I saw the BBC news on Sunday after Kabul was taken and there you could clearly see Taliban soldiers being executed and beaten up. So are these not "war crimes"? I'm sure Milosevic was done in for the same. Under the alliance there may be peace and joy but there will also be unjust atrocities, which will be the making of someone other than the Taliban regime. The coalition is making decisions but all it is doing is creating more hatred for themselves - at least from a percentage of the population.
Ivo van Riet, Utrecht, The Netherlands
The country needs a pluralistic secular system of government, backed up by a liberal economy and equal treatment of women. Mass education programs to combat widespread ignorance of the wider world need to be put in place. The militias need to be disarmed and banned. The narcotics trade needs to be wiped out. And, frankly, the world needs to accept that militant religion is the principal cause of the current problems, and this needs to be kept in control everywhere - Afghanistan should be an object lesson in what happens when the world allows militant religion to spread. How many more Afghanistans do the liberal PC brigade want? Some things are just plain wrong, and the fundamentalist world view is one of them.
This war will not be truly over until all of Afghanistan's
"children" are adequately fed, clothed and educated and have a sense of everyday security that we in the west take for granted.
Our own leaders have shown great statesmanship in recent times, now let's see what they can really do to prove their critics wrong. This is the time to put this country back on it's feet. Anyone who harbours any compassion for humanity has a responsibility to these people.
Annemieke Pronker-Coron, Gainesville, Florida, U.S.
Despite the dramatic developments in Afghanistan during last few days, a sense of insecurity and fear still persists in the minds of the ordinary Afghans. It will be a Herculean task to rebuild the shattered lives of these innocent civilians, notwithstanding the fact that they will continue to remain sceptic about the political future of their country. While the war continues to rage in the southern Afghanistan and some isolated pockets in the north, it is all the more important that a sense of confidence builds up in the ordinary Afghans, at least in the territories liberated recently from the Taleban rule. They must start comprehending the basic objectives of the 'Operation Enduring Freedom'. The presence of an UN-led peacekeeping force in the region will definitely ensure security and order. The US has to play a major role in exercising some kind of power-sharing executive between different constituents of the northern alliance and other ethnic groups to maintain law and order. In every probability, the Afghans are now looking forward to the rich nations to help in rebuilding their destroyed homes and infrastructure, not to speak of the vital aid of food and medicines. I am sure the US will take the lead in spending a fraction of their planned expenditure on this war to reconstruct Afghanistan and win the hearts of the masses.
Narinder Dogra, Morgan Hill, USA
The horrors of war and depravation may be ending for the men of Afghanistan, but not for the women. As always, when the war is over the politically correct will claim cultural and religious "requirements" and seek to deny the Afghani women human rights and representation. Once again, Afghani women will become slaves within their own society.
Anil Rao, Hedrabad/India
The people of Afghanistan will do well provided the Pakistanis don't interfere and try to impose their way. The military/mullah establishment in Pakistan is the primary evil in this region. They architected the Taliban through their madressas and will do it again. Let that evil be removed completely. Afghanistan and all its various groups will then live together in peace and harmony.
May god help us if they are not better off. All parties have used these people as pawns for decades now. It would be best if all of these parties, including my United States, took part in the rebuilding process. The symbolism and the sincere desire to help this nation may go a long way toward creating a sense of world peace and stability.
I can't see how things couldn't improve for the Afghans. Greater freedom and the eyes of the world on them. The story isn't quite over yet, though. With extremists like Bin Laden and Mullah Omah taking refuge in the country, Afghan people will never be truly safe. These extremists have brought misery to a country that is not even their own, imposing their viewpoints on a desperate race of people, who have lost a lot more than they have gained by having these people stay there. Women should be fundamental in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, along with full representation of all ethnic factions. I do believe the Afghan people would want serious change and it is up to more developed countries not to impose their views, but to help & advise.
Zameer Ahmed, New York , USA
If every country now helps to rebuild
all the schools, hospitals, power plants
and Universities, the life of the Afghans
will certainly be better. US and Russia certainly
owes it to them.
But about a long term stable Government......
one can only hope. There hasn't been one in the past.
The main concern is how to form a civilized government with parliaments and the like. That would require holding major elections in the country. There should be only few steps to democracy, because further complications tend to slow down any proceedings.
Victor D, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Women are 50% of the population of Afghanistan. They should not play 'a role' in the country's future but any role they wish to. As modern history demonstrates, societies in which women are fully participant are stronger, more stable, and more economically successful. The horrors of Taliban Afghanistan are what happens when, in Saira Shah's words, "half of society is shut down". Women MUST be fully included in Afghanistan's future if that future is to be better than its recent past, and there are many educated and brave Afghan women pressing for this opportunity to recivilise and rebuild.
To Michael Entill, I dont see women fully represented in either UK or USA governments. Why not put our own house in order before we reorder the rest of the world?
Why think that this is over? There is no guarantee that the Taleban won't counter attack, the Northern Alliance haven't taken control of the entire country yet. This is still a very delicate war situation and the question asked is not not appropriate. It is fairer to ask that if the Northern Alliance are to take the entire country (with the help of the allied forces) would the UN finally help in assisting to make a long term stable government. It should be governed by Afghans, and supported by the World.
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Analysis: Trying for peace in Afghanistan
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