Title: Afghanistan: Ending the Policy Quagmire.
Subject(s): SANCTIONS (International law); UNITED States -- Foreign relations -- Afghanistan; AFGHANISTAN -- Foreign relations -- United States; TALIBAN Movement
Source: Journal of International Affairs, Spring2001, Vol. 54 Issue 2, p395, 16p
Author(s): Rashid, Ahmed
Abstract: Examines the sanctions, rogue status and foreign policy imposed by the United States on Afghanistan. History of the emergence of Taliban movement, a group of madrassa students, in Afghanistan; Details on the Taliban support for Islamic militancy; Prevalance of criminal activity in the country; Sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Nations Security Council on the Taliban in 1999.
AN: 4437255 ISSN: 0022-197X Full Text Word Count: 5186 Database: Academic Search Elite
AFGHANISTAN: ENDING THE POLICY QUAGMIRE
"The Taliban's acts of defiance have been stoked by a long history of great power neglect, interference by neighbors and severe economic decline. The Taliban are also Afghans, who are masters of bazaari politics and economics and know a good deal when they see one. Unfortunately, thus far, no one has shown them an offer they cannot refuse."
There is no movement or political group in the world today that is more isolated, ostracized or demonized by the international community and most of the governments of the Muslim world than the Taliban in Afghanistan. A few states, like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, argue forcefully for engaging the Taliban in order to moderate their harsh Islamic regime. Only through interaction, these states contend, can the Taliban be persuaded to extradite terrorists, clamp down on the drug trade and end the 22-year war, which recently has pitted the Taliban against the United Front (UF), an opposition alliance.
The international community, in particular the United States, believes that limited engagement has not yielded positive results. As a result, the UN Security Council has pursued a policy of isolation, including the imposition of limited sanctions on the Taliban beginning in November 1999. But a policy of isolation merely entrenches Afghanistan as a breeding ground for terrorism, drug trafficking, weapons proliferation and Islamic fundamentalism. Despite the measures taken against the regime, it has continued to achieve military victories; the Afghan civil war is rapidly sucking in all of its neighbors and raising the specter of Taliban-style Islamic movements in Pakistan and Central Asia.
EMERGENCE OF THE TALIBAN AND THE US RESPONSE
The war in Afghanistan, which began with the invasion of Soviet troops in 1979, is among the longest running conflicts in the world today. A civil war broke out in 1992 when the mujahedeen, a group of fractious warlords that had helped resist the Soviet invasion, overthrew the pro-Communist government. In 1994 the Taliban, a group of madrassa (Islamic school) students mainly from refugee camps in Pakistan, organized a campaign to cleanse the country of the mujahedeen. But as the Taliban set out to conquer their own country, the movement became just another warlord party, and its draconian interpretation of Islamic law isolated it from the international community, its neighbors and many Afghans.
After the capture of the Afghan capital of Kabul in 1996, the Taliban continued to sweep northwards, but they were met with increasingly tough opposition from the UF, which is led by Ahmad Shah Masud and backed by a coalition of countries including Russia, Iran, India, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.(n2) The Taliban now control about 95 percent of the country, except for a crucial pocket near Kabul and two provinces (Takhar and Badakhshan) in the far northeast. In August 2000 the Taliban launched an offensive against these two provinces. After a four-week siege involving heavy fighting, the Taliban finally captured Taloqan, the political capital of the UF.
The American concept of a "rogue state" has never been based on a rigorous analytical or strategic framework.(n3) The label implies that a particular state's behavior violates international laws and norms, poses a danger to its neighbors and, above all, threatens US national security. However, the Islamic world interprets the categorization as a state's defiance of Western ground rules.
Normally, the Muslim community supports anyone who opposes presumed US world hegemony and Western cultural and political dictates. Islamic fundamentalists lionize Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, despite their total lack of Islamic credentials. Osama bin Laden, the Saudi terrorist now based in Afghanistan, is the latest figure in this pantheon of heroic rogues for his defiance of the US and the Saudi royal family, once considered a bastion of Islamic values but now viewed as corrupt and ineffective.
During the Cold War, the mujahedeen were the "darlings" of the US and the West, receiving about $7 billion in military and economic aid between 1979 and 1989. The US walked away from Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, but allowed its two strategic allies in the region--Pakistan and Saudi Arabia--to fund whichever warlord they fancied. At the same time, Afghanistan's regional rivals--Iran, India, Russia and the newly independent Central Asian Republics--were funding and arming the opposing side, quickly internationalizing Afghanistan's civil war.
The United States, driven by its anti-Iranian policy and subsequent desire to build pipelines from Central Asia to the Persian Gulf through Afghanistan, supported the Taliban between 1994 and 1996. But the Taliban quickly became an embarrassment and a liability. The US is currently trying to tighten the screws in order to combat terrorism, but it has yet to articulate a coherent strategic policy for the Afghan-Central Asia region. The result is a mish-mash of US sanctions and rewards, condemnation and concern and Washington's refusal to engage in real peacemaking.
TALIBAN SUPPORT FOR ISLAMIC MILITANCY
Even if the Taliban were to complete the conquest of Afghanistan, the international community would be unlikely to grant the movement recognition. The UF would likely continue to occupy Afghanistan's UN seat. The Taliban's abysmal human rights record, their treatment of Afghan women and minorities, their earnings from drug trafficking and their receptiveness to bin Laden continue to put the radical Afghan movement beyond the pale of international acceptance.
However, the Taliban have not always had such a bad reputation. Until it took Kabul in September 1996, the movement never publicly proclaimed its wish to rule Afghanistan. Instead, it claimed its intentions were confined to disarming the warlords and the rest of the population, establishing law and order, imposing true Shari'a (Islamic law) and restoring power to other "good Muslims."
Originally drawn from the most backward provinces of southern Afghanistan, many members of the Taliban grew up in refugee camps in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, where the only recreation consisted of attending madrassas run by provincial Pakistani preachers belonging to the Deobandi sect of Sunni Islam.(n4) The Deobandi creed, as interpreted by the Taliban, considers the Shi'as who make up about 10 percent of the population--specifically the Hazaras from central Afghanistan--as apostates. Additionally, Deobandism in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan is impregnated with Pashtunwali, the tribal code of the Pashtuns--the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, comprising 45 percent of the estimated 20 million people.(n5) Pashtunwali grossly distorts the Islamic teaching advocated by such Islamic states as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Iran.
The Pashtuns have ruled Afghanistan since the 18th century. But in 1992, Kabul fell, not to the Pashtun Islamic fundamentalists, who were initially backed by the US and Pakistan, but to the mujahedeen, a me1ange of ethnic minorities--Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen, Baluch and Hazara--that inhabit northern Afghanistan. The Taliban's war of conquest was thus not just a conflict against the warlords but also a reimposition of Pashtun domination over the ethnic minorities that had emerged during the war with the Soviets as powerful independent entities with their own leaders and demands, especially for equal rights.
It must be noted that the Taliban are not an exclusively Afghan movement. According to UN officials and Western humanitarian aid workers in the area, non-Afghans make up approximately one-third of the Taliban fighting force, which can grow to some 25,000 men in the summer fighting season but decreases in the winter. They include hundreds of Arab militants from over a dozen Middle Eastern and North African countries fighting under the banner of Osama bin Laden; Central Asians fighting for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU); Uighur militants from China; and a smattering of Kashmiris, Bangladeshis, Iranians and Chechens.(n6) Pakistan, too, joined in the fray and encouraged thousands of students from largely antiShi'a Pakistani madrassas to fight for the Taliban, including several members of Sunni extremist groups who are wanted at home for murdering Shi'as.(n7)
Essentially, the Taliban have provided sanctuary to groups aiming to change the secular regimes in their homelands into nations governed by Shari'a. For example, the Taliban have given refuge to a range of Kashmiri groups including Harakat ul-Mujahedeen (HUM), which carried out the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane in December 1999 and was subsequently labeled a terrorist group by Washington. The Taliban have also given refuge to Sunni Iranian groups who are opposed to the Shi'a regime in Tehran.
Additionally, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which first set up camp with about 600 men in early 1999 in Afghanistan's northern cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz, has grown to include several thousand men. In the summer of 1999, the movement launched an offensive against the regime of Uzbek president Islam Karimov from those bases. In the following summer, the IMU repeated its guerrilla attacks in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These actions created consternation in Central Asia and China's Muslim Xinjiang province because the movement drew support from minority ethnic groups in those areas. Washington declared the IMU a terrorist group in September 2000 in part because of its close links with bin Laden.
Since the Taliban recognized the breakaway Chechen Republic in January 1999, young Chechens and their families have sought both sanctuary and training in Afghanistan. These developments have encouraged Afghanistan-based foreign militants to fight in Chechnya. In March 2000 Russia gave the first of several warnings to the Taliban that it would bomb alleged Chechen and Uzbek terrorist camps in northern Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Taliban drew the ire of Central Asian republics by broadcasting Russian language radio programs into Central Asia from Herat in western Afghanistan and by publishing inflammatory Islamic literature in six Central Asian languages. In response, the US and Russia set up a bilateral consultative group to counter Taliban-sponsored extremism.
This rich potpourri of Taliban-sponsored Islamic militancy has quickly gelled into a quid pro quo. As long as foreign militants fight for the Taliban during their summer offensives against Masud and the UF, they can have sanctuary, organize to fight their regimes at home and recruit more supporters. Afghanistan is fast eclipsing other states, like Libya and Iran, as the world's largest training ground for the purported Jihad International, Inc. The Taliban also believe that they have every reason to help the non-Afghan dissidents. After all, Russia, Iran, India and the Central Asian states provide bases and military support to Masud. In addition, the Taliban oppose Saudi Arabia, which provided financial aid to the movement until bin Laden's return, at which point Saudi Arabia caved to US pressure and stopped.
Initially, the Taliban's actions met with slow response from their neighbors and the international community. However, in November 1999, the UN Security Council imposed limited sanctions on the Taliban and demanded the extradition of bin Laden, who is wanted for the 1998 bombings of two US Embassies in East Africa that killed 225 people. Additionally, to counter the threat from the IMU, Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have established close military coordination for the first time. Iran, meanwhile, has continued to support the UF with increased military aid and has also attempted to mediate political differences within the opposition.
Throughout the year 2000, the UN threatened the imposition of even tougher sanctions as international efforts to coordinate anti-terrorism measures between the US, Russia, China and Central Asian states were stepped up. In early April, the Shanghai Five--Russia, China and three Central Asian republics--held a held a summit meeting in Tajikistan where they strongly condemned the Taliban for supporting terrorism; they also set up an anti-terrorist center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. President Jiang Zemin said China would step up the fight to counter separatism, international terrorism and extremism emanating from Afghanistan. In July, Foreign Affairs Minister Tang Jiaxuan visited Islamabad, where he publicly refused to meet with Taliban leaders and called on Pakistan, a close ally, to do more to end the war in Afghanistan. At present, Pakistan is the only country that supports the Taliban and as a result, Pakistan's military regime has become isolated in the region.
The US has urged Pakistan to moderate its policy, but has been reluctant to apply overt pressure due to other US strategic interests in the region. These interests include the possible resumption of talks between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and preventing Pakistan from imploding, which could enable Islamic fundamentalists to advance further.
Additionally, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have attempted to mediate an end to the conflict. Thus far, these attempts have not yielded results. At the time this article was written, the war was still raging in the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan.
CRIMINALIZING AFGHANISTAN'S WAR ECONOMY
Despite a severe drought, diplomatic isolation and dwindling humanitarian aid, the Afghan factions sustain their war effort through arms trafficking and the massive smuggling of drugs, consumer goods and fuel. The prevalence of this criminal activity has created a new class of "trader-truck mafia," who include both Afghans and non-Afghans. Drugs, arms and Islamic fundamentalism have become intimately linked.
According to the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP), Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium.(n8) The sale of opium has created a vast transnational network for the Taliban. It involves drug dealers in Central Asia, Pakistan, Iran, the Gulf States and most recently the Caucasus and Chechnya. The Taliban recognized the breakaway Chechen Republic in part due to the Chechen drug smuggling network, which probably is the best in the world. The Chechens smuggle the raw opium that is provided by the Taliban through Russia and Eastern Europe into the western European markets and eventually into the US. These transnational links also provide the means, routes and carriers for illicit arms transfers to radical Islamic movements across the region. All the foreign militant groups based in Afghanistan fund their movements back home through opium smuggling. The IMU includes well known Uzbek criminals and drug dealers, and Chinese officials say that Afghan opium revenues heavily fund the Uighur movement. US officials, too, say that since the US shut down bin Laden's bank accounts, he has become more financially dependent on opium smuggling for funding.
According to the UNDCP, Afghanistan's opium harvest is worth about $180 million at farm-gate prices.(n9) Farmers pay ushr, an Islamic agricultural tax, to Taliban commanders and mullahs, who spend that money locally. But the Taliban pocket an estimated $30 million to $40 million from taxes paid by drug dealers, transporters and refining laboratories. Facing severe international pressure, the Taliban recently issued an edict banning drug production. However, the international community remains skeptical as to whether the Taliban will strictly enforce the measure, particularly because it will represent a major loss of income for farmers and for the Taliban movement. Furthermore, there are vast stocks of heroin in Afghanistan from previous years' harvests, which the Taliban have not destroyed.
The smuggling of fuel, consumer and other durable goods is another large source of the Taliban's income. The total regional smuggling trade, which includes Pakistan, Dubai, Iran, the five Central Asian republics and the Caucasus, was estimated at between $4.5 billion and $5 billion in 1999. In 1997, the World Bank estimated that Afghan Transit Trade (ATF) between Afghanistan and Pakistan was worth $2.5 billion, equivalent to half of Afghanistan's estimated GDP and 15 percent of Pakistan's total trade.(n10) Under the ATT, landlocked Afghanistan has the right to import duty free goods for its use via the Pakistani port of Karachi. However, this right is being heavily abused, crippling major industries, reducing revenue collection, eliminating effective border controls and increasing corruption multifold in all of Afghanistan's neighbors, especially Pakistan.
The illegal economy has enhanced the political role of drug smugglers, arms dealers, transporters and truckers, who all have a vested interest in seeing the war continue until a Taliban victory is achieved. Developmental work carried out by the Taliban is invariably aimed at enhancing the capacity for smuggling. Thus, the Taliban's efforts to import satellite telephone systems to Kabul, rebuild shattered roads, set up petrol pumps and repair workshops for trucks were probably prompted by a desire to make the drug-smuggling networks more efficient, not to provide basic amenities to the population.
The Taliban raise most of their war budget--which at present is estimated at $100 million--through criminal activities. Sixty to 70 percent is derived from the revenues from smuggling, 30 to 40 percent from the drug trade and about 5 to 10 percent from direct financial aid. Islamic groups also help with funding. Bin Laden, for instance, funds an Arab brigade that fights for the Taliban.
Meanwhile, 50 to 60 percent of the UF's war budget-estimated at $60 million to $70 million--is raised from the mining and sale of lapis lazuli and emeralds from the Panjshir Valley and Badakhshan in Northern Afghanistan. (Masud has imposed taxes on gemstone dealers and mine owners.) Another 20 to 30 percent of the budget is raised from taxes on opium and consumer goods which are smuggled to Central Asia, and the rest comes from foreign aid.
Thus, without a consistent or accountable budget for public welfare, both factions depend almost entirely on UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Western non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for food, water, medical facilities and basic developmental supplies for the population. However, widespread donor fatigue and the West's impatience with the Taliban have dramatically reduced funds for humanitarian relief.
The suffering of the Afghan people is indescribable. The drug and smuggling trade has virtually destroyed traditional agriculture and food production, which once provided employment for 80 percent of the population. Poppy has replaced wheat in most areas, and Afghanistan now imports much of its food.(n11) The destruction of traditional agriculture has forced rural residents to migrate to the cities, compounding the internal displacement problem created by the war. Of a total population of almost 20 million people, nearly one quarter of them reside outside the country. About three million Afghan refugees still live in Iran and Pakistan and another one million live in the West. Additionally, the 22-year war and the Taliban's repressive social policies have led to a devastating brain drain from the country. Any peace plan for Afghanistan will have to involve an international commitment to turn a criminalized drug-based economy back into a traditional agricultural economy. This will require considerable funds, but certainly far less than what is now being committed to other war zones.
US POLICY TOWARD AFGHANISTAN
US involvement in Afghanistan has been intermittent, inconsistent and inconsequential since the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The US has lacked a comprehensive strategic policy for Afghanistan or the Central Asian region.
Between 1992 and 1994, the United States quietly acquiesced to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia's failed attempts to bring the former mujahedeen leader and Islamic hard-liner Gulbuddin Hikmetyar to power. Between 1994 and 1996, the United States again quietly encouraged these same allies to back the Taliban in the belief that the movement would eliminate drugs, expel the Arab militants from Afghanistan and provide access for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan (avoiding negotiations with Iran). The Taliban's antipathy for Shi'a Iran also fits in neatly with US attempts to isolate Iran and surround it with countries that would be hostile to Tehran.
However, after 1996, the Clinton administration was forced to distance itself from the Taliban, initially because of a highly effective campaign by US-based feminists, who enlisted Hillary Rodham Clinton and Hollywood stars to highlight the Taliban's discrimination against Afghan women. But it was the bin Laden issue that eventually forced the US to take a public stance against the Faliban. Attempts to persuade the Taliban to extradite bin Laden failed and so the US fired about 80 cruise missiles at his training camps in Afghanistan in late 1998. The alleged terrorist became the focus for Washington's Afghan policy as the administration concentrated on his containment and elimination, rather than focusing on bringing peace to Afghanistan. Failing to win concessions, the US imposed sanctions on the Taliban in early 1999, followed by UN Security Council sanctions in November that the same year.
The civil war in Afghanistan has shaken up US strategic interests in the region, but Washington has reacted with half-hearted stopgap measures while isolating the threat of terrorism from the Afghan conflict and the overall regional environment. Ironically, US policy toward Afghanistan matches the approach of its enemy Iran and rival Russia, more than its historical ally Pakistan. Russia has used Afghanistan as an excuse to increase its military presence in Central Asia and to regain enormous influence over the foreign policies of the Central Asian states, just as Washington was hoping to do. Meanwhile, because of the myopic policies of its military regime, Pakistan could well face a Taliban-style Islamic movement in the future.
Instead of pursuing a strategic policy for the region, the US has used sanctions to express its disapproval of the Taliban to the international community. However, continuing this policy will merely encourage the Taliban to become more stubborn in their resistance to US pressure. This set of conditions only enhances the Taliban's prestige among Islamic fundamentalists. However, under what circumstances should the US and the international community engage the Taliban remains an unanswered question.
TO SANCTION OR NOT TO SANCTION?
The UN imposed a second round of sanctions on the Taliban in December 2000, dramatically isolating the regime. A joint US-Russia proposal for additional sanctions passed by a 13 to zero vote in the UN Security Council, with China and Malaysia abstaining. It is the first time that the two Cold War enemies have collaborated so closely on the issue of terrorism.
The UN resolution gave the Taliban 30 days to close down all terrorist training camps and hand over bin Laden. Additionally, the sanctions reinforced an air embargo on the Taliban that was imposed in 1999; it froze overseas Taliban assets, most of which are in Pakistan banks; and banned the import of acetic anhydride, which is used to convert opium into heroin. The sanctions also required the withdrawal of military advisers from Taliban controlled areas, restricted the travel of officials abroad and ordered all countries to close down or reduce the staff in Taliban offices. The sanctions went into effect on 20 January 2001 and will last at least one year. According to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, this resolution is not going to help peace efforts nor is it going to facilitate humanitarian work.
Ideally, sanctions should be part of a wider, more comprehensive strategy of arms embargoes and incentives that offer the participants a direct stake in ending the war. The US and the West pay lip service to the long-standing UN attempt to persuade neighboring countries to cease the sale of arms to the various Afghan factions. But, undeniably the war is still fueled from the outside by the supply of arms, ammunition, fuel, spare parts and technical help for Afghanistan's Soviet-era heavy weapons, armor and aircraft. The UN Security Council has frequently discussed an arms embargo on Afghanistan through the mechanism of the Six-Plus-Two group of countries set up by UN Secretary General Annan. This group includes Afghanistan's six neighbors plus the US and Russia. Although an arms embargo is an essential prerequisite to drying up the warlords' military machines and persuading them to come to the negotiating table, a US/UN one-sided embargo on the Taliban, and not the opposition, will do little to end the fighting.
Second, sanctions should be coupled with incentives, particularly an internationally guaranteed package of funding for post-war reconstruction. Although the UN and the OIC have put forth numerous peace proposals, the international community remains reluctant to commit to the peace initiatives or to provide incentives to end the fighting. To facilitate peace, the international community should put together a reconstruction package with the strict stipulation that it would only be disbursed after certain conditions were met--a cease-fire, inter-Afghan talks or a mutually agreed upon central government.
Moreover, such a package may coax Afghanistan's neighbors into implementing an arms embargo. The funds, materials and know-how for Afghanistan's reconstruction would have to go through neighboring states, providing possibilities for their economic revival. This is particularly true in Pakistan where the military regime is desperately trying to end Islamabad's four-year economic recession and dire fiscal crisis. Guaranteeing that part of the reconstruction package for Afghanistan would go through Pakistan could certainly aid Pakistan's economic revival and may also provide an incentive for the hard-line military to moderate their policies. Peace would also generate substantial legal and tax-yielding trade between Pakistan and Central Asia.
With reconstruction, Afghanistan's civil society would have a lever with which to pressure the warlords to make peace. Cowered, exhausted and starved by years of war, the traditional civil society--tribal and clan leaders, the ullema (religious leaders), legitimate traders and NGO workers--have had no platform under which to reorganize and demonstrate alternatives to the war. As former UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi stated, 50 thousand soldiers on both sides are holding the entire country and the peace process for ransom. A reconstruction fund could ultimately marginalize the Taliban hard-liners who have proved totally inept at providing an economic livelihood or creating development plans for their people. Although the Taliban cannot be wished away, such incentives, along with Afghan public pressure, could bring more moderate voices to the fore and might even force the present Taliban leadership to take public opinion into account for the first time.
Some UN officials and experts estimate that if peace results, Afghanistan could absorb no more than $300 million to $400 million over the first three years in humanitarian, development and reconstruction aid. This amounts to a fraction of the cost of recent international aid given to other conflict zones such as the Balkans or East Timor. But no international agency is researching how to turn around Afghanistan's devastated economy. For example, incentives for farmers to grow wheat instead of poppy alone will not be sufficient; the larger economic issue of state revenues, job creation and smuggling of consumer goods must also be tackled in a simultaneous and comprehensive manner. Only the US is in a position to mobilize the international support necessary to undertake such a commitment.
The third, and possibly most difficult, aspect of a newly defined policy would be how to get the Taliban and the UF to renounce war and seek a compromise at the negotiating table. The UN must have the full backing of the international community, as it did in East Timor, in order to mediate successfully in Afghanistan. Moreover, unless the first two issues are resolved--the ending of outside interference and the promise of a reconstruction package--UN mediation would achieve little.
Any peace process must be closely linked to the reconstruction of the country. International agencies such as the World Bank and the UN should host a meeting of Afghan technocrats. Together they could come up with ideas and policies on the economics of reconstruction and the transformation of a criminal economy. In addition, they should also think about how funds could be geared toward sustaining the peace process. Engaging the Taliban and other warlords is essential, but is only possible if the international community is first prepared to change the rules of the game by producing a meaningful peace package.
Current US policy toward Afghanistan--sanctions, rogue status and declaring political groups as terrorists--is merely a strategy of short-term punishments for a state that does not comply with international norms of behavior. The world has seen too many cases where sanctions and punishment are becoming a policy unto itself, absolving successive US administrations from trying to tackle the reality on the ground or the root causes of conflict and instability. Afghanistan is a classic case where sanctions regime has substituted for policy and vision.
The Afghans were one of the victors of the Cold War, but they are also tragic victims of their own battlefield successes against the Soviets and of subsequent international apathy. The Taliban's acts of defiance have been stoked by a long history of great power neglect, interference by neighbors and severe economic decline. The Taliban are also Afghans, who are masters of bazaari politics and economics, and know a good deal when they see a good deal. Unfortunately, thus far, no one has shown them an offer they cannot refuse.
The disruptive and destabilizing forces emanating from Afghanistan today are part of a bigger picture of the collapse of the state, traditional Afghan society and the economy. Only by addressing these concerns with a larger, more strategic vision can the West hope to effectively deal with the difficult challenges posed by terrorism, bin Laden and drug smuggling. Sanctions will not force the Taliban to give up bin Laden or end support for extremist groups, but an intelligently conceived strategic policy of sustainable peace-making may well do so.
(n1) I have drawn heavily from my own book on the Taliban as well as essays appearing in other compilations. See Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale, 2000); Fundamentalism Reborn, Afghanistan and the Taliban, ed. William Maley (London: C. Hurst and Co., 1998); and Islam and Central Asia: An Enduring Legacy or an Evolving Threat, ed. Susan Eisenhower and Roald Sagdeev (Washington DC: Center for Political and Strategic Studies, 2000). See also Ahmed Rashid, "The Taliban: Exporting Extremism," Foreign Affairs (November-December 1999). Current events are drawn from numerous newspaper and magazine articles I have written on Afghanistan. I am extremely indebted to Barnett Rubin for his ideas and advice as well as his recent essay on Afghanistan's war economy.
(n2) Although Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States originally backed the Taliban, today only Pakistan continues to supply it with military aid.
(n3) On 19 June 2000 the US State Department officially changed the term "rogue states" to "states of concern."
(n4) The Deobandis are the followers of an 18th century reform movement that has close ties to Wahhabism, the sect of Islam that has the support of the Saudi royal family.
(n5) A substantial number of the Deobandis also inhabit the two Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and the North West Frontier.
(n6) A fighter for the mujahedeen until 1989, bin Laden returned to Afghanistan from Saudi Arabia in 1996. In cooperation with Pakistani Islamic parties, he set about uniting the disparate groups of Arabs and other non-Afghan militants to create a force that grew from a couple hundred in 1996 to an estimated 2,000 fighters today.
(n7) The Taliban also inherited training camps set up by Pakistani and Kashmiri Islamic parties along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which had previously trained militants to fight Indian forces in Kashmir.
(n8) "World Drug Report 200 Highlights," The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, at http://www.odccp.org/wdr (19 February 2001).
(n9) The farm-gate price is the dollar value of agricultural products that the seller receives from direct farm sales or the value of primary products used for processing.
(n10) Apart from military aid, Pakistan has been paying approximately $10 million per year for the salaries of Taliban administrators in Kabul.
(n11) This year's drought killed off some 80 percent of the livestock in southern Afghanistan and crippled remaining food production, forcing more farmers to grow poppy--a hardy crop, which needs little water.
By Ahmed Rashid k
Copyright of Journal of International Affairs is the property of Journal of International Affairs and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. Source: Journal of International Affairs, Spring2001, Vol. 54 Issue 2, p395, 16p. Item Number: 4437255