Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Afghanistan: careful strategy

President Obama has launched a new strategy to tackle the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It seems this Administration is taking this battlefront quite seriously, and this is what had to be done. 

There is no single-handed solution for this conflict. During the Taliban regime, even fellow Afghan Muslims were victims of their oppression and extremism with which they interpreted the Qu'ran. That seemed to be yet another turning point of a country that has suffered repeated invasions, poverty and scarcity for decades. 

Additionally, during the last couple of decades the country has become one of the world's largest producers of poppy seed, raw material to manufacture heroin. 

Now, this Taliban extremism has overflowed across the Pakistani border, where frequent terrorist attacks have been destabilizing the country politically and militarily. The greatest risk of all would be to see an extremist organization in control of nuclear weapons, as Pakistan does have. Therefore, the need for action was urgent, and the strategy must be bold. 

Apart from the additional 4000 military trainers and the 17,000 soldiers that the US will deploy in the country, and the US$1.5 billion a year that the country will give to Pakistan as cooperation to fight the extremist insurgency there, the United Nations must act accordingly with diplomatic action to gear nonmilitary power towards the transformation of the conflict and the development of Afghanistan. 

It is not a country easy to run, and not a conflict easy to be transformed. Twelve local tribes coexist in the country, and they have had two generations of people living under the law of the bullet, fighting the Soviets in the seventies and eighties, and now dealing with the homegrown Taliban and what they consider to be American invaders. 

Perhaps the most important objective is to empower both the Afghani and the Pakistani governments, and to eradicate the form of extremism that seeks to destabilize through terrorist action. Most important of all, though, is to offer a peaceful society for new generations of Afghani people, to allow them to develop with healthcare, with proper education, with the necessary tools and financial resources to make it a sustainable economy. 

Eradicating poppy seed production is only good if it can be substituted by another product that can employ people and ensure them a formal source of income. 

It is not much of a war but a nation-building strategy what Afghanistan has needed for decades. Let's hope this time it comes out right. 

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