Tuesday, March 21, 2006
As the temperature rises, so too do the incidences of violence here. As Afghanistan struggles for peace, the country's Parliament is packed with warlords, the drug trade is thriving, and violence is on the rise.
What was common down south nearer to the Pakistani border now has stretched its bloody tentacles northward into formerly peaceful lands. This however is not altogether unseen and has followed the normal pattern of seasonal fighting the Afghans has done for millennia. While the war in Iraq seems to dominate the headlines everyday we here are slogging along dealing with the same and in some cases worse episodes of mayhem and carnage.
It is not however, my intention to try and make some sort of scale in which we measure the flesh of the dead. No matter the location of the field of battle the blood spilled on it is still red.
What I would like to bring to the forefront is the possibility of actually winning this war. Due to the chaotic nature of combat, the battlefield is a poor location to try and plead for unity and calm between ethnic tribes that have fought for centuries. The compact built on the 2001 Bonn Agreement, which laid the framework for a democratic Afghanistan has left much to be done to overcome that war-torn country's tragic legacy. The need for renewed attention to Afghanistan could hardly be greater.
We have made strides here, but controlling the opposing militant forces and building much needed infrastructure is a heavy load. We have almost completed rebuilding and resurfacing the “Ring road”. This is the only artery that connects all the major cities. It starts in Kabul then runs south past Jalalabad, Kandahar, North to Farah, Herat, Mazar-E-sharif, then south through Konduz through the Hindu Kush mountain range. The rest of the roadway built by the Soviets has fallen into ruin and now poses more of a hazard than help. It’s funny.
The truth of this situation really resides in the ability of the rest of the world to first see, than react to another tragedy in our midst. The patient, Afghanistan, can be saved. The only thing left is whether we have the treasure, the will, and the patience to see the operation through to its end and not leave the O.R. in the middle of the procedure. The Afghan people are fiercely loyal, good humored and indelibly tied to the very land that caused them so much pain throughout the ages.
The massive scale of the challenges facing this country are many but not insurmountable. The Bonn process established the principle of democratic accountability, gave Afghanistan its first directly elected president, and provided a new Constitution that - approved after genuine debate and compromise - created a legitimate central government. It also paved the way for a Parliament in which over a quarter of the members are women - this in a country where, just five years ago, women were not allowed to leave the house without a male relative
Security, too, remains a serious concern. In 2005, more than 125 Coalition troops were killed, while suicide bombing emerged as a new and increasingly common tactic of the insurgency. Corruption is rampant, with government officials accused of cronyism and drug trafficking. Several members of the newly elected Parliament are known warlords with bloody records, Ishmael Khan, Ammanulla Khan, and General Waleed Dostem to name a few. With international aid poorly coordinated and the United States reducing its troop strength, many Afghans believe that the outside world is abandoning them…again.
We as a country can only do so much alone. As I said earlier the “World” has to take notice then, act. Our military is tired. Tired and worn. We have shouldered the burden of two major wars running concurrently with honor and diligence but, we can’t do this alone anymore. There are some mornings I have awoken only to think
"Reality has come fast and hard here and I now see the truth that has so far
eluded me.This mission, this country, is terminal and no amount of money can stop the hemorrhage.I have made it part of my being to never lie to another but more importantly never to lie to myself.This mission in its state as I see it right now--will wither and die on the vine like so many other lost causes we, as a country, have injected ourselves into.Sorry, I so much wanted to believe.
I so much wanted to be a part of something good.One day we will leave this country and it will revert back to the way it was before the sound of the last jet engine fades.All that is left is the honor of the men in it. "
Then, my Brothers here give me a swift kick me in the ass and we start all over again. Crazy isn’t it?
What we need is the international community to start to bolster the country with
Projects and training that will multiply its potential—the Jesus and the fish thing. We desperately need to give them an alternative commodity to growing opium poppies and give the farmers something else to sell locally on the market with the same value. You can’t say
Judicial reform is another pressing issue. Currently, the judiciary is incapable of trying a case of petty theft much less of ensuring human rights. A Supreme Court dominated by conservative factions has selected judges and prosecutors, and Afghans have little legal redress in a system that allows local commanders, who hold sway over the judiciary, to act with impunity.
Without a viable legal system, which may be years in the making, foreign investment will remain elusive. Even expatriates worldwide, who have invested in regional and global trading networks, are reluctant to invest in their homeland. Yes incredible as it may seem with the wealth of oil and minerals this land has we cannot get the machinery necessary to extract it.
So, where does this all leave us you ask? That is the sixty four thousand dollar question. Do we have the political and civil will to rebuild another country?
We must, or this country will revert to civil war, tribal separation and the overt warlordism that has so far been kept in check by the finest veneer in the societal fabric.
I fear we don’t have the stomach for it.