Afghan elections become another western imposed process: senior research fellow on Afghanistan & Pakistan issues

The United States, Sept. 23 / Trend , N.Bogdanova/

Interview with Senior Research Fellow on Afghanistan and Pakistan issues, based Washington DC Matthew P. Dearing, who has served in the recent years on the U.S. Marine Corps, current the Research Associate of Program for Culture & Conflict Studies of Naval Postgraduate School.

Trend : Is it possible that the massive riots and protest actions against results of the president election in Afghanistan can put the legitimacy of the whole process under suspicion? Especially if the presidency of Karzai is confirmed how will that influence the image of Taliban?

Matthew P. Dearing: The elections were never really considered legitimate by the majority of Afghans. Many in the urban areas voted and held a general perception that the elections had some semblance of legitimacy, but the great majority of rural, village Afghans (which compose nearly 80 percent of the population) had little interest in the election process, which they perceived as an international scam to legitimize a corrupt regime that they hardly ever see. Elections, while a noble endeavor, are unfortunately another western imposed process that has not been met with proper institutional mechanisms needed to support the democratic initiative. Kabul does not have the power, influence or structural capacity to represent itself outside the urban and provincial capitals, thus few Afghans experience the presence of central government. Those times Afghans do experience the government, it is unfortunately when being shaken down by National Police or facing a defunct judiciary that awards justice to the wealthy and powerful. Karzai will face significant problems as his election will not be seen as legitimate. How Abdullah reacts and whether he organizes a resistance effort will be a interesting to watch. I suspect intense efforts are underway by Afghans and international governments to convince Abdullah to support Karzai.

Q: A number of new strategies to rebuilt stability in Afghanistan are currently been use in the country. What were the problems of previous strategies and what should be done now?

A: Part of the problem has been pushing the reach of the central government without an equally intense effort at building capacity at the local level. Some strategies focused on local development efforts like the National Solidarity Program, were very successful but were given limited funding. NSP projects were actually protected by local villagers and subsequently
went untargeted by Taliban insurgents, whereas many projects emanating from international forces via Provincial Reconstruction Teams have been highly targeted. The key to successful reconstruction in Afghanistan is to focus development on the local level and merge those with existing provincial level infrastructure projects.

Q: It is believed that the Taliban are fighting against foreign forces in Afghanistan, but until 1996 they were fighting against local government. Do you believe that if the foreign forces are out of the country then Taliban will weaken their activity?

A: If foreign forces leave Afghanistan; a civil war will break out. The only structure preventing warlords, tribes and clans from fighting each other is the presence of a perceived external enemy - the west, i.e. the US. The Kabul government would certainly fall were international forces to leave.

The city would be divided into sectarian sections - Hazara, Uzbek, Tajik, Pashtun as was the case in 1996. Pakistan would provide support to Pashtun elements, likely a Taliban alliance led by either Mullah Omar or Berader. Civilian deaths would be in the hundreds of thousands...it would be a disaster. While our presence in Afghanistan is not a perfect solution, it is much better than a complete withdrawal, which would throw the country into complete chaos.

Q: Do you believe that Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban are the same group, or there are two separate ones?

A: These are two separate groups with separate goals and aspirations. In general, the Afghan Taliban is focused on driving US forces and western influence out of Afghanistan and ensuring the Afghan government is a legitimate Islamic government. In general, Pakistani Taliban are supportive of the US cause but are more focused on what they see as a corrupt and
illegitimate civilian government in Pakistan. They have been inspired by the rebellion in Afghanistan and distraught by the alignment between the US and Pakistan that developed since Musharraf gave in to US demands post-9/11. There are many different factions within each of these groups that hold a variety of aspirations and motivations. Thus, one should be careful when they say the Taliban want this or that - one needs to distinguish which Taliban (Hezbi-i-Islami, Haqqani Network, Torra Bora Group, Quetta Shura, TTP, TNSM, etc.). While all of these can be placed under one umbrella or the other, they all have different locally and regionally focused imperatives.

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