When a coin is flipped it is obvious that people see the open side of the coin first; if they like it they sit back and enjoy the sight and the benefits of the win. Rarely do they bother to look at the other side even when they have lost the call.
The side of the coin that was flipped for determining our engagement in Afghanistan shows us a rather brilliant surface with attractive inscriptions on it promising the gifts of democracy, freedom, economic prosperity and above all eventual peace from us the people of the United States to the people of Afghanistan and consequently to the region and the world. It promises elimination of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations; and it promises human dignity and social justice. No wonder, we have been enticed to heavily invest in our struggle to realize these goals as gifts from our free and prosperous people to the suffering people of Afghanistan. That is why we are presently spending seven billion of our mighty dollars per month on a war that began with a promise of a definitive conclusion. A conclusion that is slow in coming. In this war we have invested more than money. We have sacrificed lives of some of our best soldiers.
Therefore let us pause for a moment and look at the hidden side of the coin that we do not readily see. It is a side that is stained with the black tar of war within the darkest folds of which one could find ignorance, terror, violence, corruption, bad governance, poverty, disease, suffering and a dead-end in the dark of a tunnel that has no opening.
What do the local residents of Afghanistan see on their side of the coin? We want them to see us as liberators and friends. But perhaps we did not play our cards right because their perception of us seems to be the opposite. Could it be that they see us, contrary to our and their wishes and intentions, as occupiers, as enemies to their values and customs, as foreigners interested only in our own goals, as a mighty military that wants to impose its own dictates on the people, go where it wishes, do what it wants, behave as masters of the land and the government. Over the near one decade that we have been engaged, we have failed to create the image in the minds of the residents that we are truly friends that we do not subject them to arbitrary body and property searches and insults or commit any other excesses. Repeated collateral casualties among the civilians have played havoc with our image. We have not been able to couple our military efforts effectively with diplomatic strides to conquer the minds and souls of the ordinary Afghans.
We have deputed our best military generals and personalities, our dedicated troops, and our war machinery to fight a war that began easily but has proven difficult to win. We must win this war for the sake of democracy and for the sake of peace. It is therefore a must that we think of ways and means, together with or apart from the military solutions to get the general Afghan public on board, on our side. We must prove to them that we are truly their friends that we are in their country only to help them succeed in further building their democratic government and institutions and especially their economic infrastructure. This requires helping them fight corruption, build their economic institutions, develop their agriculture and industries, expand and develop their educational institutions and above all strengthen their legal system. More importantly help them develop their own capabilities for maintaining peace, security and justice. We need to take stalk of what have we done in the areas above and whether we have done enough or the right thing at the right time. And if there have been problems in these areas have we seriously thought of solutions?
Many might ask what could the solutions be or how could the solutions be found? The answer could be found in joining hands with the government of Afghanistan, coordinating our efforts and assistance with the people of the country, respecting their values and engaging in extensive public education measures to reach maximum number of Afghans with messages of peace, mutual respect and human dignity. We need also to expose the enemies of Afghanistan, the Taliban and the insurgency, and their ill intentions regarding the well being of the Afghan society. By now we know enough about the evil of warlordism and the deep hatred the Afghans have developed towards them. We should advise and help the government control this evil, ban private militias of warlords, collect their arms and make them answerable to open courts to explain how they have collected millions in cash and property? We should support the government in its realistic plans and measureable goals.
We should be aware also of the selfish objectives of Iran and Pakistan, Afghanistan’s two neighbors who think they benefit from unrest in Afghanistan and have reportedly interfered and are interfering in the affairs of Afghanistan and supporting Afghan government’s enemies with arms and funds. We can use our diplomatic resources in overcoming this problem.
Our research has shown that Afghanistan is sitting on immense mineral resources worth about three trillion Dollars. We should help the Afghan government to plan for sound exploitation of this wealth in a just and equitable way so that the Afghan general public would end up to be the beneficiaries of this wealth and that it is not wasted in anyway or stolen by middlemen or other exploiters.
This will bring us closer to the people and the people of Afghanistan closer to peace and prosperity and democracy that are our joint goals. 7/03/2010