Afghanistan: EXIT sign for Europe - Trend News Commentator
Trend European Desk Head Aynur Gasimova
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's statements on that the country's military forces will leave Afghanistan by late 2010 caused a serious intra-division. Several governmental officials disagreed with this approach that led to the proposal of prime minister to Queen Beatrix to send the Cabinet of Ministers to resignation.
The main stumbling block for the coalition government was the withdrawal of the Dutch military contingent from the Afghan province of Uruzgan, from where it must be completely withdrawn by late 2010 based on the Parliament's decision. Since the beginning of the mission in 2006, about 21 soldiers from the Netherlands killed and 56 were injured in Uruzgan,.
The total number of the Dutch military peacekeeping mission ISAF in Afghanistan in 2009 reached a record number - nearly 2,000 people. But in early 2010 their number had dropped to 1,850.
ISAF is committed to assist the Afghans to rebuild the economy and peaceful life, but mission officials often have to engage in battle with the Taliban.
Netherlands is one of the first and most loyal U.S. allies in NATO, and if the country fails to the United States to extend the mandate of the Dutch troops in Afghanistan and withdraw troops by late 2010, it will be a heavy blow to NATO's Afghan strategy. The government's decision is able to put Barack Obama in a difficult position, since other European countries may follow the example of the Netherlands.
Most ordinary Dutch people believe that their soldiers have nothing to do in Afghanistan, and it seems, the Netherlands - it is only the beginning. Dissatisfaction with the war in Afghanistan increases in European countries. On the day of the collapse of the coalition government in the Netherlands, Germany hosted a demonstration, participants of which demanded the government to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
In general, EU's belief in the need of the Afghan war is reduced and Europe can be understood. Putting resources, the country expects some dividends in any case, including the war. The Afghan war has only negative results.
The main goals of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan is a struggle against terrorism, particularly with al-Qaeda and those who support its global objectives, the fight against drugs and establishment of democratic government.
However, the achievement of each goal is equivocal.
The main objective of the invasion of Afghanistan- the fight against terrorism has not yet been implemented. Despite the steady increase of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan (by late November 2009 the U.S. troop level in Iraq is 68, 000) the U.S. has failed to arrest a "terrorist number 1" Osama bin Laden and his followers. The U.S. is waging a protracted war for eight years. Once in 2009, the situation in Afghanistan has seriously deteriorated and the U.S. administration has decided to increase troops nearly to 100,000 people by August 2010. Announcing this decision President Barack Obama noted that the gradual troop withdrawal will be launched in July 2011, however, according to the Pentagon, the date of withdrawal will depend on the success of the operation.
Moreover, civilians became victims of NATO forces more often, which is a consequence of the fact that NATO military forces do not coordinate their actions and not cooperating adequately with the Afghan authorities. Most strikes are applied to human settlements and roads, and although the specific steps to prevent such, there have been many times, to solve this problem and failed.
Feb.23, THE independent site created to keep track of losses multinational coalition led by the United States in Afghanistan icasualties.org published the information that the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan since military operations began in 2001, has reached thousands of people.
During the Afghan campaign, the UK and Canada lost 264 and 140 people respectively. Loss of other countries in the coalition does not exceed 100 people.
Most of the losses is linked with the constant clashes with coalition forces by the Taliban.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan produces 92 percent of world opium. NATO stands ready to assist the Afghan government in resolving the drug problem.
According to recent statistics from UNODC, in 2001, Afghanistan produced 185 tons of drugs, in 2002 - 3,400 tons, in 2003 - 3,600 tons, in 2004 - 4,200, in 2005 - 4,100, in 2007 - 8,200, in 2008 - 7,700 tons.
Cooperating with the UN on elimination of opium poppies, the Taliban, led by Imam Omar, banned the cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan in 2000. The result was almost complete destruction of opium poppy in Afghanistan. During the reign of the Taliban, drug production fell from 2,200 tons to 185 tons. Only 185 tons of opium was produced the last year of the reign of the Taliban in 2001.
However, after the anti-terrorist operation "Indestructible Freedom" and the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, a dramatic increase in opium production was observed. According to the report of UNODC, since the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, opium production increased from 185 tons to 7,700 tons. Thus, the combat coalition forces against drug leads only to increased production of opiates.
Creating a democratic government
The current President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai was appointed head of an interim government at a conference in Bonn in 2001. During the four years of his taking office, the level of the drug trade in the country has increased dramatically (for comparison: from 185 tons in 2001 to 4,200 in 2004) and corruption. According to the latest UNODC data, last year the Afghans had paid bribes worth $2.5 billion, equivalent to 23 percent of gross domestic product. Income from corruption only exceeded revenues from the drug trade, which annually are estimated at $2,8 billion.
"It is just shocking. Drugs and bribes have become Afghanistan's largest source of income," Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) wrote in the report. Despite Karzai's repeated statements to solve the problem of corruption, in fact, this question remains open. Now Afghanistan holds the penultimate the 179-th place after Somalia on the Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by the international non-governmental organization Transparency International. Head of the Upper House of the Afghani parliament Sibghatullah Mojaddedi announced about his resignation in protest against corruption in state power bodies and the inability of authorities to combat it.
Another interesting point is the news that Karzai signed a decree giving him full control over the work of the CEC of the country. Under the new decree, the president will be able to appoint all five members of the Central Election Commission of the country. Is it worth to talk about a small presence of democracy in the country? The international observers have recorded numerous violations in the last presidential elections held in October-November 2009. Afterwards, the electoral commission decided to hold another election. However, a second vote was canceled, as the only rival of Karzai - former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah refused to participate. Karzai has called efforts to counter corruption within the Afghan authorities as the fourth paragraph of the six main challenges which his country is facing.
He called establishment of peace and a political settlement as the first factor, the second - providing with security, the third - the effective leadership of the country at all levels, the fifth - economic development, stipulating the electrification of the country and the transparent use of its natural resources, and the sixth - regional cooperation, which would have put insurmountable obstacles on the way of drug trafficking and export of terrorism.
None of the tasks set by Karzai was solved. There was not any progress in that process.
The EU sends its soldiers to Afghanistan in vain without achieving its goals. Al-Qaeda makes loud statements that it will take revenge on Europe over Afghanistan. The image of Europe in Muslim countries drops sharply due to the accession to the coalition forces. The most affected by the global financial crisis, Great Britain, Holland solve internal problems, not caring about the war in Afghanistan. And in general, Europe needs to concentrate on domestic issues. The West is well aware of the risk of repeating the fate of Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
Thus, Afghanistan's future is uncertain. Taliban is gaining strength again. According to the October report of the UN, from 2005 until 2008, the Taliban earn $90-160 million by selling drugs, while ten years ago, they earned $75-100 million. Karzai is losing support within the country. It is not surprising given the above-mentioned facts. For what period will strength and tenacity of coalition forces be enough? Hardly for a long time. Europe is tired of the war in Afghanistan. Netherlands, leaving Afghanistan, will open the way for the rest of the European members of NATO, which would follow the Netherlands towards a big sign with green word EXIT.