Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy
The Twofold Western Dilemma
By Alberto Negri
To help the Afghans at this stage means to help the Americans too, to come out of this abyss where they have fallen.
Translated By Hourya Herrou
13 March 2012
Edited by Rica Asuncion-Reed
Italy - Il Sole 24 Ore - Original Article (Italian)
Every war has its turning point. In Bosnia, the Srebrenica massacre forced Americans to intervene. In Kosovo, it was the Racak massacre that triggered the last conflict against Milosevic. The mass murder of Kandahar in Afghanistan and the carnage in Homs in Syria put the following dilemma in front of us: Despite the mistakes made, we cannot leave Kabul, and in Damascus, the West does not move an inch. Moscow and Beijing have repeated that what happened in Libya will not happen in Syria and have prevented any action from being taken, even humanitarian.
The massacre of Homs was announced, although there is still no irrefutable evidence of the regime’s responsibility. However, the video showing tortured women and children is an indescribable horror. The international community and the U.N. have not concluded anything so far. Neither the government nor the opposition has accepted proposals of a cease-fire or talks. The regime thinks it can stop the revolt, while the rebels hope for help from Arab countries. Instead, they may end up crushed in a civil war in the same way Lebanese or Iraqi rebels were. From here, however, we are not able to give a convincing response, whether in Afghanistan or in Syria.
As we had predicted, we ended up in the Afghan trap. The date 2014 to withdraw troops is virtual; we will have to stay, perhaps with military advisers, to prop up Hamid Karzai. Kabul cannot be left to its destiny to repeat the same mistakes of the past. It is necessary to attempt a civil reconstruction, otherwise all that has been done will be to no avail. Here is some information: If in the next 10 years the GDP increases to 12 percent per year, Afghanistan in 2022 will reach the current level of Bangladesh. 30 billion dollars in aid could vanish into thin air. This is a significant amount of money in a country where people live on less than a dollar a day.
The real enemy here, besides the war, is the lack of motivation. This is one of the reasons why some unjustifiable events keep happening, from the offense on corpses by Marines to the burning of the Quran at Bagram Air Base — this last episode being a fit of madness as the commanders know very well, “outpost syndrome” developed due to the isolation, the feeling among those who risk their lives on the field of being disconnected from the reasons that led us to the peaks of the Hindukush. The same happened in recent years in Somalia.
After the killing of bin Laden, the war lost much of its meaning. The 300 million dollars spent every day and the military and civilian casualties represent an unbearable weight. Ten years have passed since the start of what has been the longest military intervention in American history, and the only way out now seems to be negotiation with the Taliban. It is regrettable to see the guerillas being gifted the most powerful weapon, namely, anti-Western propaganda. And it also makes sense if the Taliban refuses any form of negotiations when they can still take time to wear down the foreign troops and the Kabul government.
The truth is that if Americans do not have a strategy, neither can we. So to convince us to stay they will need to elaborate one, as they are not alone in Afghanistan. To help the Afghans at this stage means to help the Americans too, to come out of this abyss where they have fallen. In Syria, Europe — which already failed in the Balkans — needs to find an autonomous solution. We are dealing with a Mediterranean tragedy, which concerns all of us.
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