Out of Control
A current investigation of the Hamburg-based government-financed think tank, "German Institute of Global and Area Studies" (GIGA), has confirmed the emergence of apprehensions that, following the 2014-scheduled withdrawal of a large portion of western occupation troops from Afghanistan, "a power vacuum" could result, as well as "the Taliban returning to power, again plunging the country into chaos." There are few indications that the Kabul regime and its armed forces will be sufficiently stabilized in the next two years to be capable of holding Afghanistan under control. In any case, until now, the country's police and military are certainly not sufficiently "equipped and trained to provide security and stability for the entire country." This can be seen in "incidents," such as the assault in mid-June on a hotel near Kabul, popular among foreigners, in which more than 20 people were killed in the ensuing hours of battle. On the contrary, the Karzai regime has been showing signs of erosion for quite some time. Just a few days ago, for example, around 20 guards of a NATO unit deserted and joined the Taliban. Similar incidents are reported repeatedly.
Military Bases at the Hindu Kush
The GIGA paper contrasts this disastrous perspective to the current plans made by key NATO countries for Afghanistan. Last May, the USA, for example, signed a "strategic partnership" agreement with the Karzai regime and in July declared Afghanistan to a "major non-NATO ally" - which facilitates arms deliveries. In addition, it is known that Washington seeks to keep some of its troops at the Hindu Kush, even after 2014. Negotiations on a German presence are currently continuing. Just a few days ago, Berlin announced its intentions to open a consulate next year in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, underpinning speculations that a permanent NATO presence could be established. The GIGA also points out that, above all, the United States is promoting the creation of a "New Silk Route" - the revival of the age-old trade routes stretching either from Europe via the Middle East to East Asia or from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean, both transiting Afghan territory. Why this should be more successful now, since the West has been unable to impose it during its military invasion beginning in 2001, remains unexplained. The GIGA admits therefore that the plans hold no glowing prospects of success, pointing exemplarily to "the stagnation" in attempts to lay the TAPI pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan and Pakistan to India - which could transport Turkmenistan's enormous natural gas deposits via the Indian Ocean to world markets. But there has been little progress, because of the Afghan political situation.
Interests of Neighboring Countries
As the GIGA analysis explains, it can be expected that - independently from the West - other powers will pursue their interests in Afghanistan, above all, India and Pakistan. Pakistan is seeking to achieve rear-guard support on its northwestern border in the event of conflict with India, while New Delhi is focusing on depriving terrorist organizations their sanctuaries at the Hindu Kush. Teheran also will be intensively seeking to strengthen its influence - before NATO drove the Taliban from power in Kabul, a war between Taliban-led Afghanistan and Iran had been looming for a while. However, the Iranian regime has no interests in further straining its foreign political situation by escalating a conflict on its eastern border, explains the GIGA. The institute also recalls Afghanistan's significance for China. On the one hand, to develop its western regions, particularly the autonomous Xinjiang region, China is dependent on the economic links to Central and South Asia. On the other, Xinjiang is suffering Islamist terrorism, which - according to Beijing - is being instigated also from Afghanistan. China, therefore, has a strong interest in stable relations at the Hindu Kush, permitting an effective prevention of external interference in Xinjiang from Afghanistan.
A Human Slaughterhouse
Whereas the GIGA analysis concludes that, after 2014, Afghanistan could again become "the theater of proxy conflicts" between foreign powers - due to its, in many aspects, extraordinary geostrategic position, a report by the "Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission" (AIHRC) is raising serious accusations against the West's various close cooperation partners at the Hindu Kush. The 800-page report, that the Kabul government is still keeping secret, lists the most severe human rights abuses in the 1978 to 2001 Afghan civil wars, including mass murders of countless people. Those responsible for these crimes include members of the current government, such as First Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim and his deputy Karim Khalili. Atta Mohammed Noor is also named, who, for years, has been cooperating with German politicians, as the governor of the Balkh province in the German occupation zone. Noor's militia had maintained a "human slaughterhouse" near Mazar-e-Sharif, reports one of the authors of the AIHRC report. In recent years, mass graves have also been uncovered in northern Afghanistan under German control. To protect Germany's Afghan cooperation partners, the crimes committed on those found in mass graves have never been investigated.
According to Thomas Ruttig, from the "Afghanistan Analysts Network," one of the most knowledgeable German experts on Afghanistan, the West is also responsible for the AIHRC report remaining secret. In any case, this is true for the US embassy in Kabul, which had openly opposed the report's publication. Earlier, German authorities had also opposed the disclosure of information on crimes committed by their Afghan cooperation partners. Ruttig recounts that because of a similar critical report made by the AIHRC and the UN, covering the years 2003 to 2005, "the former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, later was forced to resign her job - at Washington's instigation." In view of the fact that, in Kabul, because of their investigative work, the authors of the current AIHRC report have received open death threats, the Afghan expert made an assessment of the disastrous effects of the years of the West's war of occupation. "It is significant that ten years after the invasion of Afghanistan, under the pretext of democratization and defense of women's rights, the authors of human rights reports have to fear more for their own safety than do those violating human rights."