Total Loss

KABUL/BERLIN/WASHINGTON | | afghanistan

KABUL/BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - German-American negotiations on the occupation strategy for Afghanistan are being flanked by growing tensions in the north of the country. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel was discussing the situation in Afghanistan, Tuesday with US President Barack Obama, one of the most notorious Afghan warlords was positioning himself in the north of the country. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a current ally of Hamid Karzai, only recently returned from exile. He is a rival to the Governor of Mazar-e-Sharif, where the German Bundeswehr maintains a large base. An escalation is not to be excluded. The situation is being made more difficult through Washington's contemplations of downgrading the pact with Hamid Karzai and cooperating directly with individual warlords - a plan that accepts the possibility of the total disintegration of Afghanistan. In Berlin one hears more admissions of the defeat of the West. For example the Heinrich Boell Foundation, affiliated to the German Green Party, which up to now has had not problem in supporting the occupation policy, has declared that "with the warlords of the North Alliance, [the west] has installed a corrupt and undemocratic new leadership in the country." A disgruntled media is reporting that parallel to the withdrawal of the west, looming on the horizon, China is strengthening its standing in Afghanistan.

Positioning

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel was discussing, among other things, the occupation strategy for Afghanistan, Tuesday with US President Barack Obama, there were indications of tensions rising in Northern Afghanistan, affecting above all two German military bases. While insurgents are in control of a growing amount of territory in Kunduz, new uprisings are now threatening also in Mazar-e-Sharif. Last week, the local Governor, Mohammed Attah Noor, who has been accused of serious war crimes [1] threatened on various occasions to provoke insurgency, if Hamid Karzai should win the elections. Noor has allied himself with Karzai's rival, Abdullah Abdullah. What remains unclear is whether Mohammed Attah Noor will still carry out his threats, now that Abdullah has withdrawn from the run-offs. But what is clear is that Karzai has prepared himself. The US media has reported that the warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum has begun positioning himself in Northern Afghanistan. In his war against the Taliban in the fall of 2001, Dostum had had up to 1,500 of his adversaries' die of thirst inside a locked container in the desert heat. Since last summer, he has allied himself with Karzai. According to the Washington Post, he is preparing to put down any uprising that Mohammed Attah Noor should instigate.[2]

Total Disintegration

Rivalry between the warlords is being accentuated by Washington's contemplations to downgrade the pact with Hamid Karzai. "Most of Afghanistan that's stable is under local control," says a US official quoted by the Washington Post. The question is will it be "easier to achieve, and more effective," by cooperating directly with the local forces than continuing to depend on a weak central government in Kabul.[3] In fact, President Obama recently commissioned high-ranking government officials to make an analysis of Afghanistan, province by province, evaluating the true power relationships and the possibilities of having influence. Washington will be evaluating not only the governors of the provinces, but also the so-called tribal leaders and local militias, reported the US press. The thought of downgrading Karzai and turning toward local leaders, is alone enough to further reinforce the centrifugal forces at the Hindu Kush, leading to a total disintegration of Afghanistan into territories of rival warlord militias.

Vigilantism

Faced with this disastrous development, admission of defeat can be heard in Berlin. The Heinrich-Boell Foundation (Green Party), which had given blanket support to Western occupation policy, is now admitting that through the overthrow of the Taliban, "with the warlords of the Northern Alliance, a corrupt and undemocratic new leadership has been installed in the country." Today the Foundation declares that "the [western] military is also losing the population's goodwill through its random air raids and searches."[4] The propagated objective, the enhancement of the role of Afghan women, has also proved a failure. "Women's participation in public life is receding." "Attacks, vigilantism or court proceedings violating basic human and women's rights are on the daily agenda." The situation is deteriorating "in lockstep with growing frustration over failures and the malfunctioning of the existing democratic structures."[5]

5,000 not 135,000

Without any illusions, Thomas Ruttig, an expert on Afghanistan, recently reported at a meeting held by the Heinrich Boell Foundation on the presidential elections in August. According to Ruttig, voter registration with 17 million "names" is already "questionable." In Kabul he learned that at most 2.5 million people cast their votes rather than 5.5 million, as officially announced. EU observers concluded that up to one fourth of these votes are of a "questionable nature". If this would be the case, 1.8 million of the total 28 million Afghans would, in the final analysis, have cast their ballots. But according to the UN, only 38,000 and possibly only 5,000 persons participated in the elections in the Helmand province, where Karzai claims to have received 113,000 of an alleged 135,000 votes. Winfried Nachtwei, former Green Party military specialist, is now speaking even of the election's "total lack of legitimation".[6]

Not fair

A disgruntled media is pointing to the fact that the People's Republic of China is enhancing its standing in Afghanistan at the very moment that the West is looking for an exit. A Chinese company has just received the concession to tap the copper reserves in Aynak, south east of Kabul, which is presently considered one of the world's largest unexploited copper reserves. Western companies, such as the US Phelps Dodge copper company did not win the bid. In the future, China could "become the dominant force in Afghanistan's potentially lucrative minerals sector," predicts the president of the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce.[7] "The world isn't fair" is what one hears in Washington concerning the fact that, in spite of Western military presence, the Afghan government favored a Chinese enterprise, because it had offered a better Aynak deal.[8] But this exemplifies that Washington and Berlin are trying to delay their retreat from Afghanistan not only because it would be humiliating defeat. It would also mean a weakening of their standing in relation to their rival Beijing.

[1] see also Part of the Problem and Warlords
[2] In Kabul, a collective sigh of relief; The Washington Post 03.11.2009
[3] Obama seeks study on local leaders for troop decision; The Washington Post 29.10.2009
[4] Nach den Wahlen in Afghanistan und Deutschland; www.boell.de 11.10.2009
[5] Afghanistan - Geschlechterverständnis und politische Praxis in Zeiten von Übergang und Aufbau; www.boell.de 26.10.2009
[6] Nach den Wahlen in Afghanistan und Deutschland; www.boell.de 11.10.2009
[7] As US looks for exit in Afghanistan, China digs in; The Washington Post 01.11.2009
[8] China's Metallurgical Construction Corporation (MCC) declared it would soon start with the copper mining. Phelps Dodge wanted to wait until the situation in Afghanistan is stabilized. This would actually have meant that copper mining in Aynak would have been blocked in the foreseeable future, because of the impending Western defeat.