10/13/2009, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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The high cost of the Afghan war

by Soraya Rahmani
In the eight years of the international military operation, money, troops and even the hope of the population have been consumed. As the UN and NATO flounders, Russia and China seek "dialogue" with the Taliban. At the expense of the Afghans.

Kabul (AsiaNews) - It started triumphantly October 7, 2001, but in eight years Operation Enduring Freedom (and the parallel ISAF) has turned out to be a mission of very high costs, both in economic and human terms as well as risks it poses to the geopolitical balance of the world. In a seesaw between reconstruction and bombing, Western governments are risking their popularity over their commitment to the military operation in Afghanistan, NATO its credibility and the ordinary people their future.

Nearly two months after the vote Afghanistan is not only waiting to meet his new president, above all it is still waiting to start living again. The possibility of a runoff election between incumbent President Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah remains concrete, while the only certainty is the discovery of "significant fraud", as confirmed by the same UN that monitored the vote. The electoral stalemate undermines an already fragile reputation between the population and the Kabul government, international organizations and the foreign contingent. The August 20 polls saw only half the electorate cast their ballot, far less than the 70% achieved in 2004. "Then - local sources tell AsiaNews - there was a lot more confidence in a rapid reconstruction and radical changes seemed possible. The citizen no longer expects more specific improvements in his life, but wants to reaffirm his confidence in the democratic system. "     

Hope has given way to disillusionment and concern. People ask questions about the future and have no answer: will the government and the international community succeed in preventing the return of the Taliban? Why have their efforts failed, despite a huge effort and economic investment (over 100 thousand soldiers deployed, 38 billion dollars from the U.S. Congress alone) and the sacrifice of thousands of civilians? From 2001 to today, according to best estimates, the victims of foreign military actions are over 7,500. The "new strategy" of the antiwar Obama was to minimize civilian casualties, limiting the use of air force and heavy artillery. But from the beginning of the year, according to official UN data, between 300 and 400 Afghan civilians were killed by Western troops (600 those victims of Taliban attacks).

Among Afghans is a widespread belief that the first mistake made against peace and security was the "compromise with the warlords, easily recycled as parliamentarians, and prevarication with Pakistan which hides al-Qaeda." "But the bitterest disappointment – they explain in Kabul - is the unfulfilled promise of reconstruction." The entire country, experts say should be the subject of a primarily qualitative and then quantitative reconstruction, involving the entire social fabric and the ruling class, such as schools, roads and hospitals. "You can not say that they have not done anything, but certainly not enough," they complain in the Herat area.

The shadows that are gathering in Afghanistan over the Atlantic Alliance, are being exploited by China and Russia both bent on increasing their influence in the area. Beijing and Moscow have only recently begun to openly criticize the US-NATO strategy of war to the bitter end and propose a negotiated solution. The government's China Daily published an article in which it suggests accepting the Taliban as a key factor in the process of reconciliation. A hypothesis repeatedly put forward by Karzai, but sternly rejected by Washington. Russia and China dream of a political-military alliance which also includes the Central Asian Republics and the Caucasus: a kind of anti-NATO.

Meanwhile, the massacre of civilians continues, as well as the lack of services, the weakness of the state, but also drug trafficking and rampant corruption. Few lament the dictatorship of Mullah Omar, but the risk that must be dealt with is the growing impatience of the people against the NATO-ISAF contingent, which is increasingly seen as an invader rather than as a possible savoir.

 

 

 

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