Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In other news...

Afghanistan. You may have heard of this country.

What exactly are we dealing with there? Are we involved in a war? A war on terrorism? An occupation? I keep hearing different takes from different folks. I think everyone is clear that it isn't a traditional peace-keeping mission now...

In an article in the Toronto Star today, Seddiq Weera, an associate member of McMaster University's Centre for Peace Studies and an advisor to the education ministry in Afghanistan, makes a simple and compelling case that what we are involved in is not just a war against terrorism but also the suppression of civil war:
What would happen if international forces were to leave Afghanistan today? I have asked dozens of Afghans this question and the answer is always the same: The civil war would resume.

On the one hand, this is an argument in favour of keeping international forces in Afghanistan. On the other hand, it clearly shows that we are not dealing with a simple struggle against terrorism but also with a suppressed civil war, which the Bonn agreement of December 2001 did not address.
That makes sense to me. While I've been supportive of the Afghanistan mission to date, is fighting a civil war for the next twenty years what Canadians signed on for?

Here's what Weera suggests:
In my view, there is no military solution to this civil war and the sooner international forces recognize this the better it will be for everyone.
Combat operations with a search and destroy mission, in the absence of a national peace and reconciliation initiative, will make the Afghan security situation worse by producing more recruits, supporters and sympathizers for those actually committed to terrorism.
Why does Canada not take the lead in seeking a stable peace in Afghanistan?
The aim of such an initiative would be to include the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Mujahideen group, through peace negotiations, in the transition to a democratic Afghanistan.
Among other things, this would involve reaching a clear peace pact among those groups involved in the civil war prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
Does this seem pie-eyed? The idea of shaking hands and making up with folks like the Taliban and the Mujahideen may be hard to stomach, but if the objective is longterm peace perhaps it has to be done. Otherwise we have to kill or convert them all. We haven't managed to do so over the past four and half years, so something tells me were dealing with a group a little bigger than 17 dudes from Mississauga.

Would all parties get involved in a peace process, though? Weera says yes and has some anecdotal evidence -- I'd like to believe him.

Some final words from him:
I and my associates at McMaster University's Centre for Peace Studies are calling our proposal the Third Option, because it calls for neither the withdrawal of Canadian troops nor their participation in search and destroy missions, but asks that they be returned to a peacekeeping role while Canada supports a serious peace and reconciliation program in Afghanistan.
If there's anything I like, it's a Third Option! Note that Weera does not deny that we are fighting a war against terrorism -- he simply adds that we are also fighting a civil war. And the latter feeds the former.

It makes sense to me, but I must say I am not an expert on the situation. Would be happy to hear rebuttals.

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