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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 11:49 GMT
Afghanistan: Should foreign troops go in?
Hundreds of American ground troops have been flown into an airport near the main Taleban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
Pentagon officials say they have already taken a forward position well inside Taleban-held territory south-west of the city. The marines will be followed by hundreds more from American ships in the Arabian Sea, according to officials.
The force's arrival coincided with the capture of the northern city of Kunduz by the opposition Northern Alliance after a long stand-off.
Meanwhile, 6,000 British troops have been taken off 48-hour standby in the wake of the collapse of Taleban control in much of Afghanistan.
But a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that Britain would continue to play a significant military role in Afghanistan with troops "ready and willing" to be deployed.
Do you support the deployment of foreign troops? Should they take on peacekeeping or just humanitarian duties? Will they get dragged into Afghanistan's tribal conflicts?
We discussed aid and the deployment of ground troops in Afghanistan in the latest edition of Talking Point ON AIR, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online. Use the form at the bottom of the page to add to the debate.
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
Rafiullah, Laghman, Afghanistan
Afghanistan is in a mess, one which has lasted for decades and has caused on numerous occasions human atrocities that horrify both the peace loving liberals and the hardest of the right wing. The difference is that the lefties propose no realistic solution, whereas the present governments of the UK and the US are sending in troops to clear up the mess and hopefully restore some democracy to the region. The peace lovers can complain all they want, but none of their proposed solutions would have had any effect. The next planes would be hitting the cities today, and the oppressed Afghan people would have no hope of a future for their children.
The present fighters are not representing the people of Afghanistan. They will not defend the Afghans in any way as they will only protect and take care of their warlords. If the international community is concerned about defending and protecting Afghans then the foreign military forces must be deployed and I'm sure that Afghans excluding warlords will respect them will be thankful for their help.
We must beware of any course by the "superpowers" which would result in a replica of the Palestinian/Israeli stalemate. Does anyone actually believe that Bin Laden, dead or alive, was the true objective of this war?
If, as they say, America feels at liberty to infiltrate and attack countries that harbour terrorists, why did this country not respond in similar manner when the US provided a bolt-hole for known IRA terrorists?
Andy Ortiz, Japan
Yes western troops should go in. And to Mitch Hawes UN "Peace Keeping" troops won't work, they'll almost certainly make it worse. They are not "Peace Making" troops and will not stop any fighting as the world witnessed in Bosnia. They only criteria to be applied is that of minimizing casualties amongst civilians and our military forces. As for the Taleban and al-Qaeda they have a choice - give up or lose. They are the problem, not foreign troops.
I believe the only foreign troops to enter the country should be UN peacekeeping forces, enlisted to keep the peace and ensure that the vital aid supplies reach the millions of people facing starvation in the region. Once the Al Qaeda forces are defeated, the Afghans will need all the UN help they can find to ensure a peaceful transition to democratic government.
As a US taxpayer I get annoyed listening to world tell us how bad we are. But then again, I do sleep well at night knowing that while the U.S has its faults, it is still the greatest country in the world. The reason for this is simple. It is a melting pot of all people and religions living together in peace and harmony (I am Greek American). I hope that the truly great people of Afghanistan can overcome their differences and live together in peace.
Chris, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The USA/UK have the
to send the troops. Since they are the ones who largely created this chaotic situation to get one man. I think they should go and clear the mess afterwards.
As an Afghan I know the realities on the ground. Without the presence of a strong foreign force as peacekeepers, it is going to be impossible to carry out any humanitarian programme or reconstruction projects. At this stage of political developments, no faction can provide the required security and safety for the international community to carry out its assignments in Afghanistan.
I don't think it is a good idea to send in troops, because it was the stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia which Bin Laden stated was a catalyst for carrying out what he calls as the holy war against the Americans. Sending troops to another Muslim country would only create more people like Osama. Why would the US want something like that? The US is repeating its mistakes, which makes me think whether the US government is doing this deliberately. Is it a coincidence that the Gulf War and the war against terrorism started during a period when the US economy was in recession, keeping in mind that wars help boost the economy?
Several individuals have referenced a term "peace keeping mission". This is not a peace keeping mission, this is a war. The United States should commit all available resources including ground troops in Afghanistan to destroy the terrorists who committed this horrible act on my country. Only once that task is accomplished can we talk about a peace keeping mission, whatever form that may take.
I think the coalition should be ashamed. We happily let Afghan kill Afghan, we let a murderous/vicious clan take over from the Taliban and when we should have put in troops to arrest the so-called evil doers, we hold back and let massacre after massacre happen.
The opium levels in the world are now increasing, lawlessness is again rife, the root causes of Islamic terrorism are even stronger, the Muslim world is even more alienated and we think we have done justice to the September 11th victims. Who believes that? We have to stop being so unbelievably selfish and ignorant.
Samuel Sepha, Freetown, Sierra Leone
The move by the US and its allies to move troops in Afghanistan is a right step towards bringing this war on terrorism to a decisive conclusion. Not only that, the troops should engage the Taleban fighters in their last stronghold of Kandahar, but also work for a mechanism with the Northern Alliance to protect the civilians in liberated territories. Though not liked by some of the alliance members, the foreign troops should continue to remain in Afghanistan, until a broad-based, caretaker government starts functioning effectively. The US has to prevail over the NA to see that the basic objectives of the war are fulfilled most comprehensively.
At the moment the main objective is still to get bin Laden and to set-up a representative government with an aim for elections in a few years. Until one of the parties, Northern Alliance or the Southern Warlords, prevent this from happening we should sit back. If this happens then we should go in to remove that person/organisation.
Uh, oh, Viet-ghanistan.
Jon, Lincoln, UK
Going in of foreign troops in Afghanistan may create hazardously alarming obstacle for this country and its people to get set up as a sovereign country peacefully.
Khattab, Texas, USA
I think the UN force is quite vital in nation building.
The warlords cannot be trusted to keep peace if they each retain control parts of Kabul and other main cities.
I absolutely agree that it is of paramount importance to send International troops in, not only for ensuring peace and stability but safe passage of humanitarian and relief aid.
We are under a moral obligation to help the Afghan help themselves.
Andrew C, England, UK
How does USA expect to win the peace on its own when it needed a coalition for the war? USA is displaying arrogance.
For a limited time period, foreign troops should be in place until a Government is properly in place.
To Fred: Western Nations are eager to send in "peacekeeping" forces because they spot a profitable opportunity to lay oil pipelines in Afghanistan and call it "economic assistance for the people of Afghanistan". If our Islamic nations were given the chance to send troops in this time, at least we wouldn't be out to exploit the people in any way. Sure, inter-tribal fighting may not last long with a strong international peacekeeping force but if Afghans believe they are being exploited by foreign powers, history has shown that they will unite to seek vengeance.
Don't compare the events of 1980s or 90s with today's situation. Things are different now with the whole world on one side. It is unlikely that troops will be attacked by locals provided the force is strong enough. Afghan does not tolerate weak person or force ruling them so if the force should go in, which I think should, then it must be strong and visible.
Brian M., Quebec, Canada.
When was the last time Muslim nations got together and policed a country successfully? Looks as if the West (UK, USA, Canada and Australia) will have to do the job again.
As soon a new government is in Kabul to establish a modern nation that represents all the tribes in
Afghanistan, a UN
peacekeeping force will be needed to ensure that there is not a resurgence of the recent Taleban regime or
another civil war among the warlords.
The various Afghan factions will become dependent on foreign troops to solve their problems. The country needs to learn to work through its problems without the interference of Russians, Americans, Pakistanis or anyone else.
Just the thought of foreign troops in Afghanistan or any country for that matter smacks of imperialist designs. One would have thought that that era had passed away and buried along time ago!
Christopher Laird, Tokyo, Japan
Military analysts and game theorists developed the idea of 'credible commitment' to deal with the cold war arms race. Basically, this means that being able to apply force is often enough to bring about the purpose for which the force would be applied, in a better way than actually applying it. Regardless of the extent to which this prevented nuclear war, it seems to me that the same concept could apply now in Afghanistan.
In the language of game theory, a win-win situation. The next problem is then, how can this approach by brought from the domain of international political expediency, to that of legitimate global governance?
Ray Marsh, Brisbane, Australia
The 6,000 British troops that were committed to Afghanistan a few days ago were, in reality, withdrawn from deploying because Washington was embarrassed that the UK but not the USA was prepared to risk the lives of their soldiers.
It's now pretty clear what the consequences of going into a war without thinking are. The 'democratic' West sought to 'do generations a good' by 'whipping the terrorism' with Pakistan (a state sponsor of terrorism in Kashmir and a military dictator at the helm). Now we are at a stage where Pakistan has extended all the help to US and seen the emergence of Northern Alliance (who are seen to be on India's side) as a major force and all their mercenary jihadis trapped. ISI which has been training militants to fight in Kashmir and Afghanistan now is in a difficult position. What the Western media are not investigating (or do not wish to) is the strong links between ISI and those trapped inside Afghanistan. They include several Pakistani military personnel too.
There is one striking question. Who would benefit from foreign troops being sent to Afghanistan? The local people would rather settle themselves the quarrels than be helped by foreigners. The alliance with the Northern Alliance proved to be just temporary. Now they feel they can do it without American or international support. The Taleban, now on the opposition, will certainly not be pleased to share the country with the forces that just days ago were bombing their cities. The sending of troops to Afghanistan would cause further violence.
I strongly believe that peacekeeping foreign troops, not the Northern Alliance should control Kabul and other major cities with a major inclusion of troops from Muslim countries. Since the latter have a worse human rights record during their 1992-96 period.50 thousand people were killed in Kabul only. So it is disastrous that the US should give a lion's share in future government to Northern Alliance. The foreign troops should ensure peaceful transfer of power and leave. Only the UN should remain behind. Foreign presence in Afghanistan in the long run is not a good idea at all.
The UN has considerable experience in such missions and should be consulted but due to the time factor it may be necessary to move more quickly than the UN can mobilize now. Winter is almost upon Afghanistan and if much of the assistance is to be useful it needs to get there before winter sets in while it can be distributed most efficiently. Cooperation from the Northern Alliance has to be brokered as a condition for getting that assistance to the areas they now control. That is something they will probably accept as it will make them look good in those areas as well.
There is no question about it that the foreign troops should go in Afghanistan or not?
This is war and everybody knows the after effects of war and I don't think that the Northern Alliance are capable enough to handle this situation alone, as they could never fight against Taleban without the foreign help.
Foreign troops should go in as soon as possible as after some time there will be a flood of refugees returning back to their country and there could be violence as there are many people who still have some soft corner for Taleban.
The countries of the region have already shown their concern about the length of American troops in the area. The Americans and British are no more acceptable for these countries. If any force needed for the protection of helpless Afghans, sent the Muslim countries troops there otherwise you are inviting another mess in the region.
The problem is that Afghanistan is based around tribal differences and until these are resolved there will always be infighting - it's that simple. So we can either let them fight it out amongst themselves in a bloody form of self-determination. Or we can get accused imposing our views and help to set up a democratic country. Either way it should be done with complete resolve and if we send troops in then we should give them everything they need to defend themselves.
Maybe it is a bit too late to ask this question. The US is already up to their neck involved. Remember, they started it! To leave Afghanistan the way it is now is as if they never went there in the first place. Following the current events about the treatment of foreigners and minorities by the Northern Alliance we can see that they are no better than the Taleban. So what, they let women take off the burqua. Big deal. They are still forced to wear a headscarf and not allowed to go to the movies. What Afghanistan needs is some women in their new government to get some order back into the country.
What a preposterous comment, "They started it" in reference to the US. Here I thought an honored guest of the Taleban regime "started it." The US needs to finish its mission of destroying the terrorists. If other nations have other tasks they want to do such as peacekeeping, then that's up to them.
Call me a cynic, but I think that the Northern Alliance do not want UN troops on the ground because the UN will want to give the food away, whereas the NA warlords will want to take it for later black market re-sale or use as an economic weapon in the post-Taleban era. It might be unthinkable to Aid donors, but journalists will be only too aware of the exploitative mindsets of the warlords.
Christer Bratt, Skovde, Sweden
Afghanistan is a unique nation with unique characteristics and a tribally based culture. We in the west fail to comprehend it and are being naive if we think that a UN peacekeeping force will be accepted there. Neither can Afghanistan be covertly subverted into an Uncle-Sam loving, capitalist puppet state. The tribes of Afghanistan will bicker amongst themselves and any UN force caught in the middle will suffer heavily. Ironically, the Taleban had united 90 percent of the country under one banner. With them gone, Afghanistan will once again fall to pieces. Maintain the aid work but keep foreign soldiers out for their own sakes.
An international peacekeeping mission is obviously required. Rebuilding Afghanistan's infrastructure, schools and health services presents a wonderful opportunity. Those who will eventually benefit from this modest market should sponsor the rebuilding process. Fresh water could be supplied by those who will be rushing to set up profitable bottling plants. Pharmaceutical companies should kick start health services before being allowed to cream the market. I'm all for free
markets and profit, but it is a two way street. Remember it isn't because of shareholder generosity that the airlines are still in business, it's because of the taxpayer. Give us a break.
Imran Khan, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
UN sponsored troops, not from the US-led coalition, would prove most effective. UN can either put the troops in as stabilisers or peacekeepers. I believe stabilisation forces are the key to future peace in Afghanistan. Wars between tribes have been going on for centuries and these wars will never end. Only neutral stabilisation UN-sponsored forces can maintain order while calm returns to Afghanistan
I'm confused as to why this is even an issue. I was hoping that the UN would be prepared to put troops on the ground immediately after the fall of Kabul, but all they're doing is talking. Again, the UN proves that the only venture that does not make it a total waste of time and money is UNICEF. The UN had a wonderful opportunity to regain some influence, but instead they're holding meaningless talks that both sides in Afghanistan are attending only for the sky miles and the good PR. I am thoroughly disappointed and hope someone in Washington deals with the UN in the proper way.
Peacekeepers should go in but only from Muslim countries under the UN banner. Non-muslim peace keepers should only be used with all the Afghan tribes consent.
John Atkins, Bridgwater, England
What peace are they going to keep? Has there been peace in Afghanistan since 1979? Thanks to several Western big powers, Afghanistan has not seen peace in two decades. Let them be, for God's sake. Let them determine their fate and destiny.
Yes, foreign troops should go in and kill all the terrorists. Then they should leave.
What a well reasoned and considered opinion Adam Parker puts forward. You must be very proud of your American education.
I don't agree that the West started this war. The first attack was by Islamic extremists, almost certainly belonging to Bin Laden's group in New York and Washington. He had declared war on all American interests way back in 1998. If war is declared on us, should we then just stand back and wait for something terrible to happen. Oh yes it already has. At times there is no alternative but to go down the path of conflict. This was a war that I don't think anyone wanted prior to Sept 11th, but it is one that we must see through for all our sakes.
Chris B., England
The Northern Alliance must be stopped from performing mass slaughter, and a peacekeeping force is therefore needed to stop the country descending further into anarchy. The dilemma is that the UK and the U.S would not be very welcome as they would be seen as colonialists. If the aim is to establish democracy and good human rights standards, then how could the West's allies in the Middle East take part? They also have terrible human rights, but the U.S turns a blind eye to this, and looks at the oil instead. Pakistan and the NA hate each other and the presence of Indian troops would be unacceptable for Pakistan. The only solution, therefore must be a very broad based coalition including U.S, European and Islamic countries. The troops will face fierce resistance, but to leave the country alone would be a terrible crime against humanity. The NA must accept the peacekeepers, whether they want to or not.
Mick, NI, UK
Far from simply being an option, I see the deployment of our troops within Afghanistan as absolutely essential. We have used the Northern Alliance as a tool to shake loose the Taleban whilst saving the spectre of enormous casualties for our own forces. It is now our absolute duty to ensure we have not unleashed an even greater horror on the Afghan people.
British and American troops need to be injected into the situation as soon as possible before the warlords consolidate control of the country. Now that the Taleban has been driven out of power, we have some obligation to the Afghan people to keep the peace long enough to give them a chance to form a stable and representative government. The US in particular has an obligation to clean up the mess it has made in their country in pursuing its just war against terrorism.
Roger Long, USA
Peace keepers have been demanded by feminist organisations in Afghanistan, such as RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan), and other human rights groups too.
However British and American troops are certainly not peacekeepers. They have been bombing the place, and are well known for supporting the tyrants of Afghanistan in the past.
The American and their allies have destroyed the topography of Afghanistan just to seek one man, accused for the September 11 attack on the WTC.I do not think the Afghans, let it be the so called Northern Alliance or Taleban remnants are going to welcome another occupation force. The only solution is for the UN to come in with peace keepers from neutral Muslim countries; not American, French or UK forces, lest the be construed as the new colonialist.
Yes. The need for a peace keeping force in Afghanistan
is very urgent and is the only way to ensure a representative government in that country. No faction no matter how strong can control the whole country. An interim government represented by all provinces and safeguarded by the international community will ensure a lasting peace not only for that country but the whole region.
Too many people are under the mistaken impression that, given time, consideration, and a little "help", Afghans will establish a democratic society on their own. I agree that democracy is what's needed there but I'm under no illusion that it can be accomplished gently. Britain and the U.S. are the adults in this situation and need to take a firm stance. Democracy must be imposed. Trying to be considerate of Afghan sentiments only confuses the issues and compromises any efforts toward political progress.
What ever happened to British resolve? The greatest thing Britain ever gave the world, including the U.S., was good government. Why is Britain so reluctant now when it's needed so much? Has a false sense of fairness ruined your ability to know what's right and get it done? C'mon, Britain, regain your glory along with your sense of right and wrong!
I agree that the creation of a UN force would probably take too long at this moment and we need safe corridors for aid, diplomats etc. Do we have to respect the wishes of the NA? No, we should be very cautious of their demands. Sensitivity-yes; namby-pambying-no. The NA may not like it but they'll have to lump it while Mr Bin Laden is still at large. There is more to do.
If UN feels that there is a need of peacekeepers then it can proceed, but individual country need not to take decision. If countries keep making such decisions without UN effort, one day will come when some small country will send its troops to some other country/place, say Ireland, as peacekeeping force without consulting anyone.
Philip Reay, England
Typical. America rushes in like a bull in a china shop and creates a mess in Afghanistan. The least it can do is to now pay for a UN-led international peacekeeping force led by Muslim nations which will have the credibility and ability to stabilise the situation. And then pay reparations to every Afghan civilian who has suffered loss.
It would be very two-faced to just defeat the Taleban and walk away. We now have to help the people of Afghanistan and the surrounding areas establish for themselves a democratic order. It will take years to do it but it's the only way to achieve world peace.
While this is happening, the area can attract foreign investment to help the economy grow and give people the choice to live their lives in the way they choose. Peacekeeping troops will facilitate this.
Peacekeepers are clearly needed. However, I think that British troops bring too many colonial ghosts from the Empire with them in that part of the world. I'm not certain if US or UN troops are the way to go but British troops are too frightening for the Afghans in my opinion.
Peter George, Sierra Leone
They should fulfil their humanitarian duties, and help our poor people who are returning from other countries like Pakistan and Iran.
There's a great danger over the next few days that having gotten rid of the Taleban Afghanistan will return to business as usual i.e. feuding tribal warlords. At this moment, everyone is competing for legitimacy and power. This isn't likely to last. America seems to have depressingly little interest in what happens outside of crushing OBL and friends. America needs to make it clear to the NA that peacekeepers are part of the price of supplying them with air support.
While there is this euphoria in the west with the demise of the Taleban, it is becoming apparent that the Northern Alliance are even more barbaric than the Taleban themselves. The only possible solution that one can see for this ravaged region of the world is to have a permanent US/UN presence to ensure the safety of all those tribal groups and any others who might be left.
Scott Myatt, New Braunfels, Texas, USA
There's a danger peacekeeping forces could get trapped in a guerrilla war. I worry if the UN may be asked to pick up the pieces here but it may not have sufficient resources to either protect local people, aid agencies or themselves. At the same time I don't want to see the coalition washing its hands of this matter and passing the buck to a weaker entity. Finally I don't think the world can allow states to degenerate to such an extent that they can be subverted in the way that Afghanistan was by al-Qaeda again.
Too many people are talking as if we are at war with Afghanistan. I thought the idea was to either force the Taleban to surrender Bin Laden to the UN or to overthrow their government and drive him into our hands. Where is he now? The Americans as usual have gone into it like a bull in a china shop with their policy of might is right, and appear to have completely lost sight of their original aim, to fight against terror. Incidentally what are they doing about the terror of ETA in Spain or the Real IRA or the situations in Timor and Sri Lanka, or is it only terror when directed against the USA.
Many civilians died from the US bombing. Why would a person who lost his or her family members in the bombing look upon UK or US troops as peacekeepers?
An international peacekeeping force will hopefully prevent the most brutal forces from taking power and undoing all that has been accomplished. There needs to be stability so Afghans can return and work on building a new government and society. As for whether it is too early to do this, that is really a question that needs to be answered by those on the ground and the governments sending in forces.
I think peacekeeping troops will be crucial to stop retributive executions by rival factions. I would like to see troops from the Middle East make up the core of this force also. Setting up a fair, and representative government is critical for stability, stemming terrorist ideology, and seeing that human rights are respected.
Nigel Brodt-Savage, United Kingdom
Peacekeepers? Does that mean the war is over and there is now peace in Afghanistan? I thought not! They are not peacekeepers, they are simply soldiers defending a region that has been won back from the enemy.
Things are bad in Afghanistan already. A peacekeeping force cannot possibly worsen the situation.
It is not a good idea to send in British troops. It will only make local people feel more aggressive, because it will be just more use of weaponry in a war-torn land. Troops are needed for humanitarian aid, but local people should be involved as much as possible in the aid process. This would help the Afghans towards setting up their own state, and help them feel less under the control of foreign powers.
Yes, we should be lining up the peacekeeping forces now, even if it's not quite time to send them in since they may be all that Afghanistan gets. For me the interesting part will be to see if the USA now lives up to its promises as far as the future of Afghanistan is concerned.
If the peacekeeping force is big enough, and not hamstrung as it was in Rwanda, it has every chance of successfully maintaining peace in Afghanistan. I'm sick of the pessimism that sours so many commentaries about Afghanistan, as if that country and people are inevitably doomed to a hellish existence. They are doomed to no such thing. Instead of griping, the critics must seek positive solutions. It will probably take 20 years for Afghanistan to become a reasonably stable, democratic state, but with assistance and resources this is definitely achievable. So I politely suggest that the complainers among us keep quiet and get to work on helping to lobby politicians. Give generously of your money, time and expertise and let's make a difference.
It is important that British soldiers should go to Afghanistan as a peacekeeping force. What is equally important is to remember that those sent have families and we as a nation have to support the families of all soldiers. Some people delude themselves about our special forces. The "look out Bin Laden, the SAS are in town" attitude is very naive and one must realise that the SAS has been in Ireland for well over 30 years. I recognise that some of our troops won't come back. My gratitude goes to the soldiers and their families and I hope that it will be possible for them to come home soon.
Since we have destroyed the government of Afghanistan, I think we are obligated to provide some sort of assistance in providing a new one. We may find that the only thing worse than the Taleban, is no Taleban at all. Our US troops are quite happy to kill Afghans from the air, let's have them protect the Afghans on the ground.
Yes, send peacekeepers in, but don't forget that the Taleban are still not militarily defeated. They still have weapons and we're not talking a few peashooters. So troops from the coalition should operate alongside peacekeepers to ensure stability in the region.
Ron Hughes, UK
I don't believe there is any question of do we send troops in or not. Of course we do, it is our duty to protect the people of Afghanistan and right the wrong of September 11th. Watch out, Bin Laden, the SAS are in town!
Charles Moore, Scotland
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