Permanent Guests!

Of all the earthly games, politics seems to be the most amusing. The eyes of the beholder see strange things. They would see day at night and night in the daytime. And yet, the world forgives the disparity.

In the middle of April, the United States Secretary of Defense, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, on a quick visit to Afghanistan found himself in talks with the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai. The Daily News of New York reported on April 14, 2005, that when in his plea for a permanent U.S. military base in his country, Karzai posed the Afghan base question at a meeting in Kabul, Rumsfeld said, “That is not a matter for the Department of Defense, that is a matter for the President of the U.S. and the president of Afghanistan to discuss in an orderly way.”

The diplomacy of the incident is one thing while the political implications of the issue are another. Presently, Hamid Karzai is heavily dependent on the US military support for his government and even his person. His government is direly in need of the support of a national army that has been in the making for the past four years but is still considered in its infancy. His nation is in dire need of a legislature the making of which has been postponed for another six months. His government’s priority regarding the legislature is somewhat in odds with that of his nation. Because lack of a legislature gives the president a free hand in making decisions some of which are as grave as that of a request for permanency of the stay of the American military in Afghanistan. Normally and based on the Afghan constitution, issues such as foreign military bases in the country must be approved by the legislature. No man, no matter how benevolent he may be, has the right to decide for a nation without having a clear mandate and in democracies, the people through their representatives are empowered to do so.

On the other side of the coin, Afghanistan because of its strategic location, is a prize nation whose friendship is sought after for military, economic and social issues in one of the world’s most important regions namely, South-Central Asia. Her proximity to the resources of the newly established central Asia republics, China, Iran and the Indian sub-continent gives her extra-ordinary prominence in international arena. The United States that has made enormous investment in its military operations in Afghanistan would hardly consider leaving the scene without securing any permanent presence in this vital region in Asia. US politicians, off and on, have touched on the issue. US Senator Mc.Cain, during his visit to Kabul, raised the subject and the US military officials have too, off and on, referred to the issue. Secretary Rumsfeld’s comment made on the spot seems to infer to the sensitivity of the issue at a time that he is expected to announce closures of some US bases around the globe on the one hand and to try and safeguard new military interests of his country on the other.

A third dimension of the issue of US permanent military bases in Afghanistan would be a parallel in recent Afghan history, when the world started an outcry over the Kremlin’s decision to call its military presence in Afghanistan as a bilateral issue between the a puppet regime in Afghanistan that had invited the Soviet Red Army to defend the regime against the reactionary nationalist movement in the country. Permanency of the communist regime supported by the Soviet military in Afghanistan was condemned, as it should have, by all Afghan national institutions and its people and all democratic nations of the world. Now only about fifteen years later, a regime in Afghanistan calls for US permanent military bases in that country to defend it against reactionary and extremist forces, and it is called supporting democracy!

Afghanistan and its friends must fight terrorists there and everywhere, and the US after meeting its pledge of defeating terrorists in Afghanistan must leave behind a trained Afghan military machinery to be able to cope with the national demands from a national army. The Afghan government should aim at depending on its own national army and police to maintain security in the country and defend its national leaders and institutions against reaction and terror. If there should be any need for inviting foreign military to help the country, the issue should be decided by the Afghan parliament rather than individual politicians. 4/23/05