Ollie Makepeace writes from Kabul: We’ve been just told by the International Crisis Group (ICG) that when coalition forces pull out of Afghanistan we should expect a civil war to break out there. Why? Because, says the ICG, the Afghan army and police won’t be able to handle security.
Well, who could have guessed it!? Can it be possible that all those smoothie US and UK generals, ministers and we-lie-for-our-country ambassadors have been telling us itsy-bitsy porkies? Put another way, could it possibly be that the crock-of-crap we thought was a crock-of-crap is indeed a crock-of-crap?
Should we not take comfort from the Afghan government spokesman who, in a measured response to the ICG report, said it was ‘nonsense and garbage’. That’s better! That’s the sort of language we like to hear from the Afghan government of Mr Karzai and not the nonsense from the ICG who reckon that unless Karzai’s people get it together right now, the chances are there will be civil war and the government will take a tumble and never get up again.
As for democratic elections – forget them, says the Brussels-based group. It is a near certainty that under current conditions the 2014 elections will be plagued by massive fraud. Vote rigging in the south and east, where security continues to deteriorate, is all but guaranteed. High levels of violence across the country, before and on the day of the polls, are likely to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands more would-be voters.
There is another view, of course. Karzai’s government would say that Afghanistan is not a creation of the US-led offensive. The tribes of this region have spent 5,000 years fighting intruders including the three brutal wars against nineteenth-century British imperialism. Curiously, Afghanistan is a metaphorical graveyard of modern imperial ambitions (Russian and American in particular) yet it has succumbed seemingly inevitably to internecine and tribal bitterness within its own boundaries.
So here we have two sides of the same concerns that mean we have to reflect that the US inspired alliance went to Afghanistan to defend their interests not those of the Afghan people. That was a decade ago. Today state and national legislators have inexact perceptions of ten years ago and instead think of our own times of re-elections and lost purpose. So they sense public indifference especially now that Osama Bin Laden is no more. This last point must never be ignored. All the time Osama Bin Laden was free the Western public had an underlying uneasiness about its own security. Once killed, then surely that mood changed. Was not the purpose of going to Afghanistan fulfilled? None said otherwise, so it was time to come home and put the unused body-bags in store for the next time.
Given all this, it is hardly surprising that the voting public and their politicians are tending to think that it is time to go and it matters not if Afghanistan is able to defend itself. That mood is not going to change, whatever the ICG and others say. After all, the generals, politicians and diplomats talk up the allied successes because they cannot suffer failure and naturally, if everything is fine and dandy as they lie that it is, it’s Okay to quit. What we must now need to know is how far we are advanced in providing the constitutional protection that the emerging state needs. What happens if the fears of the ICG are taken on board and we do publicly accept the very real possibility that postponed elections could so easily lead to upheaval and therefore at the very minimum dangerous declarations of a state of emergency particularly in the run up to or during the presidential campaign season in 2014.
The ICG believes it is only logical that outside states – particularly the British and Americans – must tie Karzai into an emergency plan of what to do if elections are significantly delayed or that polling results lead to prolonged disputes or a run-off.
That means immediately that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) should say now that if all else fails it will hang around with an operational plan to back up Afghan forces.
If NATO and ISAF do not do this, then the state of emergency will be inevitable because the executive, the judiciary and the parliament will have no common voice or authority. The consequence will be the collapse of the state. In most minds, that would mean Afghanistan dissolving into civil war. Cynics may say, so what? Bigger cynics may say, it’s already happening. It is about time that outside – but interested – governments should have the guts to react to the ICG report with their own voiced observations instead of hand-over-mouth private briefings that officially never take place.
We all know what the ICG has said is true. We do not know what our liberating governments propose to do about it. We really should know.