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Monday, 14 October, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Dr Abdullah Abdullah: Afghan foreign minister
Click here to watch the Talking Point discussion on Afghanistan.
The American bombing campaign began in Afghanistan last October but one year on, the country is still unstable.
Hamid Karzai's fledgling government is now in power, but political assassinations and tribal infighting continue.
Societies emerging from conflict have special needs, which go beyond aid and humanitarian assistance.
Poor farmers in the north of the country have begun to grow opium again as a way of feeding their families.
As Afghanistan struggles to rebuild its shattered infrastructure and social institutions, what will determine how successful these efforts are?
Were the Afghan air strikes a success? Have the Taleban been defeated? Has the world kept its promise to rebuild Afghanistan? Are the people of Afghanistan involved enough in such efforts?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I don't think the job is done in Afghanistan. We shouldn't start a war until we finish one. The world promised to pay for Afghanistan, but have not.
As far as the war in Iraq, everyone says it is for oil. Well, if its going to cost us $13b a month to be there, why don't we put that money into research for alternate energy sources?
Vincent Feedbach, Prague, Czech Republic
The US strategy in Afghanistan has been fulfilled to a certain degree. Although, al Qaeda and the Taleban have been defeated, there are fears of their regrouping under Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The majority of Southern Afghanistan still supports the Taleban, therefore there is still danger. The US has not fulfilled its promises in the economical aid front though, and it's vital to help the Afghan people.
Yes, if the West keeps its promises and doesn't forget Afghanistan again.
Naeem Hassan, Lahore, Pakistan
The key to solving the problems in Afghanistan lies in the fixing of its national identity. If we can get Afghanistan to embrace the international community and the values that they embrace, then many of the great problems discussed here should be alleviated.
Bush keeps talking about working together to defeat evil. How about the US working with the rest of the world to defeat pollution, poverty and injustice which are common enemies to us all. Instead they just invent bogie men for their military industrial complex and use and abuse the rest of us to get whatever they want. It appears that this is what Bush has done with Afghanistan.
The USA was never keen on rebuilding Afghanistan after it demolished its infrastructure - and this is demonstrated by the horrible human rights violations by the Northern Alliance allies under US watch, the horrid conditions and torture practices at the Taleban prison camp, and the refusal of American forces to help secure areas outside of the single city of Kabul.
Anushay Hossain, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Not much has changed. A tiny minority of people who can afford it, send their children to school, men can shave and women no longer have to wear the burqa by law. So what? The majority of children have to work from dawn to dusk just to stay alive and will never see the inside of a school. Most women continue to wear the burqa for fear of the Northern Alliance bandits who now run Kabul. And what's the point of being clean shaven when you are too poor to even have a roof over your head.
Matt, Liverpool, UK
What lessons have been learned? That you don't send ten thousand marines and some special forces teams to augment the Northern Alliance when you should be sending a quarter million troops and taking care of business yourself. The whole idea was to nab Bin Laden, and we've failed to this point. While rehabilitating Afghanistan is a noble cause, it is not the primary goal. This could have been avoided had the Taleban handed over our target, which they didn't.
Just because it isn't in the headlines every day doesn't mean that the international community and the U.S. are abandoning the country again. It hasn't even been a year since the Taleban were removed.
Tom, Chicago, USA
The biggest problem the Taleban faced was international hostility for being allied to al-Qaeda and bin Laden. However, I think the Taleban movement when it started was a genuine attempt to bring order and justice into the country ravaged by tribal infighting, rape, and banditry. We must never forget that the movement quickly gained support at unprecedented levels. Opium was banned and the incidences of rape and looting were eliminated. The country felt secure. They may have been ruthless but perhaps Afghan society at that time needed a ruthless regime to turn chaos into order. I think an analysis should be carried out on the rise and fall of the Taleban. From this we may learn how to bring unity and security to this unfortunate war-torn country.
I can't believe what I am reading! The Taliban was peaceful? There was order and security in Afghanistan under the Taliban? How can there be both peace and civil war at the same time? And yes, it was America that financed the Mujahideen. Why? To prevent the spread of Communism . I can't help but notice there were no complaints about this during the 80s. People would be wise not to let hindsight blind them from common sense.
When will Afghans
learn to make peace
with themselves? Can
they strive to reconcile as a nation?
Until they change their thinking, no
amount of economic aid is going to help
Mark Morris, Dallas, USA
Mark Morris, USA: What you say is all true of course, but this was true under the Afghan Socialists and the Soviets (who built schools, colleges, hospitals and even cinemas in Afghanistan, facts conveniently ignored by the West), and it was the good ol' USA who put a stop to that by financing and training the Islamic Mujahideen terrorists. Americans should not think that they 'liberated' this country. They financed its destruction in the first place.
NM. Scotland: Like I said, terrorism will be dealt with. You may not understand that, but then again WWIII did not start in Scotland... Not liking America is no reason to fly planes into two buildings.
Re: Mark Morris. The Taleban were popular because they imposed peace and disarmed the warlords - we've done precisely the opposite.
Some Afghans might say that chaos and bombing are high prices to pay for being allowed to shave
I went to Afghanistan three times during the war against the Soviets. I cannot see any reason to look differently on the US invasion. The propaganda and the arguments are laughingly similar (liberate women, keep fundamentalists in check). The methods - random bombings, blind manhunt in the dark, artillery fire against hostile mountainsides - are tragically identical. The US must leave. If then a legitimate afghan government asks for international support - it is a quite different thing. Any broad regime in Afghanistan must be either based on Islam or on the tribal hierarchy (monarchy). Both options have been destroyed by the US.
History has no examples of countries whose culture survived intact after civil wars carried on so long that other countries intervened. The experience of having foreign troops keeping the peace always leads to a sharp drop in self-confidence and cultural integrity. Even Germany, the largest economy in Europe, was significantly Americanised following the Second World War and the allied occupation. It would be extremely foolish to expect Afghanistan to import western democracy, freedom of speech and equality, but also to preserve an ancient culture which is based on other entirely contradictory ancient values.
The West paid for the Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union and they bombed Afghanistan recently with the promise that they would help rebuild the country. Where are these promises now? Were they just empty rhetoric? Where are the new roads, hospitals, schools, homes, power stations, police stations, and investment in jobs (agriculture and industry) that Afghanistan so badly needs? The West owes Afghanistan a new future.
The best way for the Afghan government to succeed is through democracy. People should have the same right, equality, freedom. One current event raises some questions among the different ethnic groups and that is the balance of all ethnic groups in Afghan National Army. We wish democracy be part of our government.
The Afghani people have a lot to thank for in the past year. Bush successfully removed the Taleban from power and ended the oppression that these people have suffered for so many decades.
Mirek Kondracki, Alexandria. USA
It is tragic how history is repeating itself. Afghanistan descended into the chaos of civil war as soon as the Russian invading forces were expelled. Once again, with the overthrow of the Taliban, old rivalries have reappeared with the resulting death, poverty, hunger and sickness of the long-suffering population. The West's arms left over from the Russian invasion permanently changed Afghanistan into an armed society where death was commonplace. Sadly, the West has again abandoned the poor Afghans to further bloodshed and strife. The US and Britain in particular got what they needed from the region and have nothing to gain from pumping millions of dollars into Afghanistan.
In his Blackpool speech, former President Bill Clinton pointed out that the number of troops left by the US in Afghanistan is around half that of the number that were basically guarding the peace in Kosovo at the aftermath of the crisis. What does this imply about how we intend to help Afghanistan recover?
Isaac Hall, Norman, Oklahoma, US
I'm surprised there are no postings that call attention to the fact that Bush and Blair have refocused their attention onto Iraq; and that this diversion of manpower and money is the worst possible thing that could happen to Afghanistan. American and international weapon technology companies make a fortune with every "regime change"... but they get no profits at all from attempting to stabilize and nourish poor Afghanistan. Where are all the passionate Americans I saw in Talking Point discussions a year ago?
Only chaos in Pakistan will bring significant Western investment back into Afghanistan, and of course for all the wrong reasons.
Afghans are yearning for peace, prosperity and internal reconciliation. As an Afghan who recently returned from Kabul and some of the surrounding areas, I was reminded by many, irrespective of their ethnicity, of how they cherish and welcome the return of the former king, Zaher Shah and Hamid Karzai┐s leadership. Meanwhile, the majority are vehemently opposed to the notion of making a hero out of the former rebel leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud or any other warlord-past or present - given that it was these same warlords that pulverized Kabul into rubble and drowning the nation in civil war. A major shuffle in the existing administration is eminent in order to weed out warlords and for peace to truly permeate across the country and withstand the test of time.
Allen, Washington, DC, USA
How about this for a lesson? The Taliban actually DID prevent huge amounts of heroin reaching UK streets. As soon as the Taliban are evicted, bang, the heroin exports go through the roof again. Why won't the US or President Karzai talk about this? Or are they happy to have such 'foreign investment?'
There is blame enough to go around for everyone involved. Where is all the aid money promised? On the other hand why should the world pour more money into a country without a government in control? All the armed camps must be disarmed and the government must take control of the whole country. Where is the UN security force? The UN seems powerless and useless in every world crisis, great at wringing of hands in despair, poor at doing what needs to be done. Perhaps, as we learned in Somalia, a people who can't see beyond their tribal cultures, armed with modern weapons, can't be stopped from extinguishing themselves.
Re: Bill, Bellingham, USA: The UN lacks effectiveness partly because it is constantly undermined by the US. Also, where is the aid to Afghanistan *promised* by the US? Bombing a country into the stone age then walking away is most certainly not going to win any war on terrorism. Instead, it strengthens the anti-US case that Bin Laden puts to his supporters and financiers.
Shane, Lincoln, U.S.
The belief systems, values, and the culture of a particular people is very important in enmeshing them together. UN and US should not interfere in these areas in the name of civilization if they want the people to live orderly and peacefully.
Lessons are to be learned. Foreign troops can't stay there for a long time: the population is proud and with high self-esteem. It is very important to help Afghani people to create jobs and improve living standards to stop them rising poppies and producing opium and heroin.
Who persuaded us that nation building is possible? A functioning liberal democracy can't be knocked up like self-assembly furniture. Nations are abstract and emotional things. Glossing over a traumatised country's rifts with a bag of cash and some good intentions is madness.
R.C. Robjohn, UK
Though destructive and costly, the conflict in Afghanistan has taught its people the real worth of freedom and social justice, which couldn't have been realized to such an extent at normal conditions.
Rebuilding Afghanistan should be seen as part of the 'War against Terror'. Unless Afghanistan develops a minimal level of prosperity and peace and real democracy we will see the return of The Taleban.
Joel, London (U.S.)
The world promised that they will help Afghan people, but still we can't see a specific sign of that. We hope the world community could do something urgently, otherwise I am afraid the country will go again to chaos, and this will be a great shame for the world community, and specially for those who pledged to help Afghan people.
There are lots of un-answered questions. To begin with, the legality of the aggression against the government of the Taliban and the use of force as a last resort under any UN mandated resolution was flawed. The brutal air campaign and the use of depleted uranium and vicious cluster bombs and AC-130 gunships that has killed civilians by the thousands and made more orphans and widows then the entire civil war that lasted between (1992-96). The inhumane treatment of the Taliban prisoners as non-combatants by the US at Guantanamo, makes no sense that peace will ever return to Afghanistan. Every Taliban soldier that has fallen has their Tribal and religious following and the cry for revenge is something that we all have ignored. Karzai's puppet regime is in fact a recipe for further subversion, rather than reconstruction of Afghanistan. While Kabul has become another tourist resort, the country side is plunged into the darkest era of poverty, hunger and desperation.
Graham, Warsaw, Poland
America has resorted to buying the services of power hungry warlords in an attempt to seek a stable government. This is a mistake. A greater international presence is the only way to lasting peace. And where is the money promised at the Japan conference?
Peshtaz, Afghan living in Hampshire, UK
Many of the problems we face today in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa are a heritage of the old colonial times, when boundaries were defined without having consideration for the people living there.
I went to my country last July. I saw the same people who destroyed Afghanistan (1992-1996). I think before bombing Afghanistan, the West promised that a complete new administration would be installed which would lead the country out of war, poverty and would rebuild it but they have brought back the old killers, the looters the destroyers the criminals!!
The lesson we must learn from the world's past and present conflicts is just simple, we must learn to co-exist with other fellow human beings.
AR Vorajee, UK
The recipe for success is fair representation, global assistance, sovereignty and minimal meddling by other countries. Efforts should be made to ensure that the administration is composed of the various ethnicities fairly and that transgression does not occur. The most important issue, however, is a unified Afghanistan with a unified armed forces and police power. The warlord culture really has to go.
We have already seen the warlords taking over in some places in Afghanistan. I was not a big fan of the Taleban (coming from a Muslim student) but what they did was stabilise the country where there was hardly any crime or fighting for land. I hope democracy is restored by Europe and not American imperialism.
I was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. The wars fought in Afghanistan in the last few decades are foreign wars fought with the blood innocent of Afghan people, whether they were fighting for the Soviets or against. A year on since the bombing of my country, it's crystal clear to me that America is making yet another avoidable mistake by having installed a murderous regime full of warlords. The world will never be a safer place with warlords in charge of nations and just for the record, just because some of them wear suits it does not make them civilised in any way.
Phil T, Muscat Oman
It is absolutely essential for the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan. Otherwise, the country's warlords will start fighting again and ruin the country as they did after the exodus of Soviet army. America at that time left the country at the mercy of Afghan warlords. I hope it will not repeat that mistake again.
America used Islamic militants to drive out Soviet troops from Afghanistan. It could not anticipate that those militants would go against it. So, this time America is well advised to make sure that it does remain engaged in Afghanistan until liberal democratic government is set up there.
Whether a country succeeds depends largely on the will of its people and the sense of unity, community and shared values its people feel.
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