Delegations from 100 countries and organizations will meet on Monday in Bonn, Germany, for a conference on Afghanistan. Among the 1,000 participants: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and 60 foreign ministers. “Laying the foundation for a better future of Afghanistan” the German Foreign Ministry proclaims. But just when official optimism showed signs of froth, classified documents surfaced in Germany that predicted a dire future for Afghanistan after the departure of NATO troops.
“It is time to focus on nation building here at home,” President Obama announced in June, because “we’re meeting our goals.” He’d pull out 30,000 troops by September 2012, but from a “position of strength” not weakness. By late 2014, all combat troops from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would be withdrawn. In the interim, the US and its allies would transfer security responsibilities to the Afghan military and police. That’s the public plan.
But U.S. and German military and intelligence officials apparently have a much more pessimistic view: Bild, the largest German newspaper—a broadsheet tabloid—has obtained a number of classified documents (Bild, article in German) and decided to make them public “because they prove what no one wants to know.”
Among them was a joint analysis by the German military and the US military that predicted that insurgents could regain power in Afghanistan when NATO troops are withdrawn. Bild quoted from the report: “After the end of the occupation by the ISAF in 2014, the leaders of the insurgency, who have fled to Pakistan, will return to Afghanistan.” And the conclusion: “When ISAF troops leave the country, there will be civil war.”
A stark contrast to President Obama’s positive spin on Afghanistan’s future, though the likelihood of civil war has been bandied about for years. The model: when the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in early 1989, civil war spread across the country. There are also recent indications, for example, BBC’s story, “What happened when US forces left Afghan hotspot?” So, is NATO really “laying the foundation for a better future?”
Among the other documents that Bild got its hands on:
- Reports by the German military stated that the Afghan secret service was involved in deadly attacks on German soldiers, something the German Ministry of Defense has been denying strenuously.
- NATO documents outlined how Pakistan and Iran were colluding to support attacks on German soldiers. The Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, was also involved. They supplied weapons, training, and money.
- A document from the US military indicated that Pakistan expected an invasion of US troops and established defensive positions in the border region, including radar systems to detect low-flying aircraft.
Afghanistan is the country where a young rape victim named Gulnaz was thrown in jail for adultery because she refused to marry her attacker. The case caught the attention of foreign reporters. To get them off his back before the Bonn conference, President Karzai pardoned her. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be funny. BBC reports:
President Karzai tasked the minister of justice to go and talk to Gulnaz to see what she wants. During her meeting with the minister, she said she will marry the attacker only if her brother marries the attacker’s sister,” Emal Faizay, a spokesman for President Karzai, told the BBC. “This is a decision by her. I can confirm that there is no precondition set by the Afghan government.
But Gulnaz’s lawyer, Kimberley Motley, told the BBC:
In my conversations with Gulnaz she told me that if she had the free choice she would not marry the man who raped her.
Ten years ago, the US military removed the Taliban from power, but Afghanistan still has these kinds of absurd issues. Okay, now they also have cell phones, TVs, and opium, but nearly 3,000 NATO soldiers—mostly Americans—died. It’s time to let Afghans sort out their future. Why wait till 2014 to pull all US combat troops out? There is one presidential candidate who promises to act promptly: Ron Paul.
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