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Victory will require building what comes next for Afghanistan

PARIS Oct 19 (NNI): The Bush administration has accepted that the only way to win its war against Afghan-based terror is to follow up military destruction with nation building.
Wisely, Washington has understood this time, as it did not in the 1980s when it organized through Pakistan the Afghan resistance to Soviet invasion, that it isn't enough to win on the battlefield. Unless there is a lucid approach to shape what comes next, the result can be as bad as or worse than what came before, reports International Herald Tribune Friday.
At his Islamabad press conference with Colin Powell, President Pervez Musharraf said: "We have agreed that durable peace in Afghanistan would only be possible through the establishment of a broad-based, multiethnic government representing the demographic contours of Afghanistan freely chosen by the Afghans without outside interference."
That means putting together a coalition representing all the major ethnic groups to replace the Taliban regime before the rebels, who are predominantly of Tajik and Uzbek origin, can take over the capital. An attempt must be made to find some respected Taliban defectors, who could be considered moderates, to take part.
Secretary of State Powell noted that when the fighting is over there will still be people who might admire the Taliban. "You can't export them. You can't send them to another country ... but you can certainly get rid of this evil regime."
The agreement means that Pakistan must renounce its long-standing determination to make sure that Afghanistan is a protectorate and provides strategic depth against India. It must stop interfering. After the 1973 coup in which Prince Daud ousted his cousin King Mohammed Zaher Shah with the help of Soviet officers, the worried Pakistani leadership proclaimed that Afghanistan must be "a friendly dependent state," and set out to make that happen. That is why it created the Taliban.
In return, Afghanistan will have to proclaim permanent neutrality and drop its claim to the territorial salient called the Durand line which the British grabbed in 1893 and absorbed into British India, bringing Kabul within 48 hours of horse-drawn artillery.
In 1947, after partition, when Pakistan joined the United Nations, Afghanistan was the only country to vote against its admission, because of the border dispute. The Soviet Union and India supported the Afghan claim. That induced Pakistan to join the Asian alliances organized by U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.
Michael Barry, a Paris-based American writer and specialist on Afghanistan and Iran who has analyzed how each confrontation leads to the next one, is convinced that the essential issue now is to reverse the process that brought the destruction of Afghanistan.
The question, he says, is whether the country's identity is to be based on secular nationalism or on pan-Islamic and ethnic sentiment. The purpose of Pakistan's policy, including creation and support for the Taliban, was, according to Mr. Barry, "not to strengthen a nation-state but to dismantle it." The independence of Afghanistan, which is essential for peace, requires an acceptance of borders so that a Pashtun on one side is a Pakistani and on the other side an Afghan. Pashtuns are divided about half and half, and because it is the Pashtun and Punjabi warrior castes that have run Pakistan, the military mind-set provides their national strategy.
Thus, old and deep traditions will have to be turned around, although there has always been a strong Afghan demand for independence and resistance to any outside force. Key elements for a solution that will have a chance of lasting, in Mr. Barry's analysis, are ethnic reconciliation, with a government role for the major groups, education for men and women (which existed under the king) and what he calls "national archaeology," a recognition through monuments and historical culture of a long, pre-Islamic identity.
This will take not only a lot of foreign aid for reconstruction and development after 20 years of bitter war, but also guidance - probably, in effect, a United Nations protectorate to ensure neutrality in organizing an administration. The Algerian diplomat Lakhmar Brahimi, who has been involved in Afghan issues, is well-liked and respected.
So far, Washington is jettisoning crude ideological stands taken in the presidential campaign and taking account of the long term. It is an encouraging sign. –NNI

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