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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Tirer enfin enseignement du fiasco

by Bruno Odent

It’s Time We Learn the Lesson of this Fiasco

Translated Thursday 3 September 2009, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The winner of the Afghan election is already known before the ballot boxes are opened [1]: the Taliban.

They are the ones who took front stage during the "electoral campaign" even while the proclaimed purpose of the voting, under supervision of US and NATO troops, was to demonstrate the normalization of the country.

Almost eight years after the operation Enduring Freedom, which was to have been the reply to the attacks of 11 September 2001, felling the hydra in her cave and liberating the Afghan people from obscurantism, the terrorists are once again at the gates of Kabul and the dogmas of another age are once again the law of the land for an immense majority of this tortured population.

The strategic fiasco of Washington and its western allies is complete. The choice of war constitutes a "perilous mechanism", as we wrote in our columns as of 12 October 2001. It’s a question of the logic, an eye for an eye, that renders the user blind, as denounced by those courageous pacifists who demonstrated at that time in the United States. The desolation sowed by the bombings, the errors of which the civilian populations were victim, the disdain with regard to the sovereignty of the Afghans, have permitted the tyrants, one hated, to realize a truly sinister come-back, usurping the role of resistants to a foreign occupation.

The choice to short-circuit the Bonn conference in November-December 2001 — an attempt by the UN to produce a political solution founded on conciliation among the actors of the Afghan society in all their diversity, including democratic forces, lay members of society, women’s associations — opened the way for a terrible turn of events. We opted for a settlement relying on a group of insurgent Islamists having as their sole merit an opposition to the Taliban. We promoted the sulfurous Hamid Karzai, for whose reelection the voting today was planned. This person was, in his time, the intermediary between the former Taliban establishment and the US company Unocal, which wished to install a pipeline that would permit the transport, through Afghanistan, of some of the precious petroleum resources in the Caucasus to the port of Karachi, in Pakistan.

The warlike methods of Washington and its allies were thus, we understood, never really dictated by the need to export democracy to Afghanistan. The country had the bad luck to be situated in a strategic zone for energy resources on the borders of Russia and China.

President Obama is wrong not to have turned away from his initial war option. Worse, he practices a retreat forward by invoking a just war (in comparison with that against Iraq) in order to justify the sending of 21 thousand additional soldiers and the intensification of bombings in neighboring Pakistan. In doing so, he sets in motion another infernal machine of the very terrorism he claims to combat.

Before it’s too late, before the nightmarish prospect of a Taliban return becomes an even more distinct probability, he should, ion the contrary, draw clear lessons from this failure. The majority of public opinion has already done so. The majority of the British and the French, according to recent polls, are now in favor of a withdrawal of troops sent by their respective countries. Really to emerge from the quagmire, we have to return to the UN position, in the spirit of the Bonn conference. To look for a real political solution, complex as it must be, with the Afghan actors, with increased investment of resources in development for the population, calling, if need be, on blue-helmeted UN forces, but only in the interest of securing the process of development.

[1Editorial written for the issue of l’Humanité published 20 August.

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