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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Les forces étrangères doivent se retirer d’Afghanistan »

by Dominique Bari (interviewer)

Latif Pedram: "All foreign troops must withdraw from Afghanistan"

Translated Monday 1 January 2007

Kabul. Leader of the non-sectarian opposition, the writer Latif Pedram denounces the military occupation of his country. An interview with l’Humanité.

Ex-candidate for the presidency, Latif Pedram leads the National Congress Party (CAN), a party created in November 2001, to oppose the "Talibanization" of Afghanistan (1)

HUMA: France has just announced the withdrawal of the 200 members of its Special Forces in Afghanistan, a redeployment of its troops and a different method of fighting the Talibans. How do you analyze this decision?

LATIF PEDRAM: It is a way of recognizing that the crisis in Afghanistan has reached a major peak, that the international intervention by the Americans and British is a failure. We can therefore say there is a real internal crisis within the coalition forces. The Europeans, in general, are more and more worried about the war-mongering spiral in which NATO was caught by multiplying the "clean-up operations" in the south of Afghanistan, with strong support by aerial bombing with its consequent numerous civilian victims. They question the nature of this type of war and its objectives. It is clear that no one believes in the official pretext: the eventual arrest of Ben Laden and Mullah Omar (2).

But there is still fear and great anxiety about the perspective of a war that may last years, like in the time of the Soviets. Addressing this reality with clear-headedness pushes you gradually to a change in method.

HUMA: Five years after the fall of the Talibans, both President Karzai and the Americans call for a dialogue with previous Taliban leaders. Do you believe in the future of a national reconciliation?

LATIF PEDRAM: Afghanistan is far from being pacified. Insurgent attacks have reached an unmatched level of violence, against the background of disillusionment towards a corrupted government. The year 2006 was the most murderous year since 2001 with more than 1000 civilians killed. This return of the Talibans was predictable. When American forces entered Afghan territory, they removed them from power without eliminating them completely, they needed them still to justify their presence and realize their long term projects, among which was the establishment of permanent military bases. All this allowed the Taliban militias to reorganize rapidly. Today, no it is no longer secret that talks are being pursued with high-level Islamic fundamentalist leaders.

The previous Taliban foreign affairs minister, Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel notorious for having supported public executions in Kabul stadium, Mullah Dadaullah (ex- defense minister), Mullah Khaksar (one of the ex-responsibles of the Taliban information services), Mullah Raketi (often called "Commander Rocket"), and many others are living openly in Kabul. Some of these leaders and other famous murderers during the Taliban regime have seats in the National Assembly.

Under these conditions, Afghans have the right also to wonder what the foreign forces are doing in their country. When preparations are underway for the return of "respectable" Talibans to occupy "respectable" positions of power, is it possible to trust Bush when he asserts that American forces are in the country to build democracy? With whom is he going to build it? Past torturers? At the same time, people have observed what is happening in Iraq, in Palestine and in Lebanon. Frustration is more and more evident in the general population and foreign forces are perceived as an occupation force.

HUMA: According to evidence presented by NGOs, daily life has not improved in five years.

LATIF PEDRAM: After the departure of the Talibans, schools for girls have been reopened, but the Karzai regime is part of a restructuring program similar to the American liberal logic and we are in a race to privatize education, health-care, water, electricity. Public services are deteriorating, public servants trained at the time of the Soviets have been expelled. The cost of living has increased. Basic infrastructure remains deficient. Kabul is full of the poor and of beggars, of widows seeking hand-outs, of very young street vendors and of shoe-shiners.

Billions of dollars of help have not been distributed to the competent institutions and corruption is spreading everywhere from drug-trafficking. Opium production has increased by 60% this year and the campaign against opium production is laughable. Everyone knows that numerous politicians and their families, among them the president’s younger brother, are directly implicated in this lucrative traffic.

HUMA: How does your Party see a way out of the crisis?

LATIF PEDRAM: It’s not simple, the situation is alarming and the risk of a civil is real. The solution will have to start with the unconditional withdrawal of foreign military forces, especially American and British, and with the deployment of United Nations forces on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. One must reject at any price the permanent installation of foreign military bases on Afghan soil. Considered as a permanent threat, those bases provide justification for interference in Afghan affairs, by all the countries of the region.

HUMA: How to bring an end to the insecurity?

LATIF PEDRAM: The crisis in Afghanistan also has internal origins, and there won’t be any stability, if we do not find a solution to the crisis within the country. This is a priority for all the democratic forces and it means a real reconstruction of the State and the society in the interests of the most vulnerable Afghans. Poverty also feeds the support for fundamentalists.

You have also to look closely at the structure of our society, profoundly divided between ethnic groups that have not gone through the same stages of development. For this reason, I am in favour of a federalism established on a regional basis, not on a community basis.

As a non-religious and multiethnic movement, our project is based on a national economic cohesion so that all Afghan ethnic groups participate in the national decision-making. But we have to recognize the realities: the province of Herat and the province of Paktia, live a century apart from each other; if the fundamentalists who are powerful in certain provinces of the south oppose the opening of schools in the territory they control, why allow them to impose their rule in other more advanced provinces. We know that democracy cannot be imposed by force or by bombs, there must be a process of gradual change and it will take time to create a dynamic of modernization. The conditions have to be right.

(Translator’s notes)

(1) for the programme of the National Congress Party, see http://mouv.national.afghan.free.fr/

(2) Mullah Omar is the reclusive leader of the Taliban and was Afghanistan’s de facto head of state from 1996 to 2001.

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