). Can Afghanistan be part of a containment process that is developed in parallel with a dialogue with Russia?
There is no straight answer to this question, but one has reasons to believe that this is potentially an approach used by the new administration. One should note, however, also the fact that stability in Afghanistan is of great interest to Russia as well, which is why the administration in Moscow has really shown its interest in working with the U.S. In stabilizing Afghanistan. There are several reasons for this. First, an unstable and uncontrolled Afghanistan is a source of drugs, which generally find the market in Moscow a very profitable one. Second, an insecure Afghanistan is a source of potential extremist and fundamentalist Islam, which is a great source of concern for Russia, especially given its own troubles with the republics in the Northern Caucasus and the terrorist acts that Islamists have organized in Russia (namely Beslan or the attack on the Moscow theatre).
The potential surge in the military effectives of the U.S. In Afghanistan is not due to the necessity of either containing Russia or a conflict with the Muslim civilizations. As it has been shown in this paper, these types of scenarios are circumstantial and explicable only at a certain moment in history. It is certain that Russia is more aggressive now, but it was not so in 2001, when the campaign was launched. At the same time, the new administration in Washington has clearly showed an intention of discussing with its European partners and an openness to dialogue with the Muslim world, including with countries with opposite interests.
The only explanation that does stand its ground is the fact that Afghanistan has a strategic position between the East and West and in the proximity of the Middle East and that a stable and secure Afghanistan would also be in the interest of the entire area. At the same time, another good explanation of the increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is given by the asymmetrical threats that the world faces, many of them originating in countries such as Afghanistan.
These types of risks and threats including drugs and weapons trafficking, as well as person trafficking, but, most of all, the terrorist threat. In terms of the different forms of trafficking, these have numerous negative effects at a global level. Drug trafficking obviously encourages consumption by ensuring that there is a constant supply of drugs on the global market. Afghanistan is the number one producer of poppies from which most of the opium-based drugs are made. Additionally, opium is the most important export in Afghanistan. A reduction of the opium trade having Afghanistan as its starting point would reduce consumption worldwide and help the global effort and fight against narcotics.
With weapons trafficking the effects are significant and with a similar global perspective. The bottom line is that these weapons can always end up in the wrong hands, including in the hands of various terrorist groups that will be using them against either in internal civil wars or against the Western countries, both with the same horrendous effect on civilians.
It is also about the terrorist threat. A badly governed, insecure Afghanistan will lead back to the 1990s, when the Taliban had provided the needed internal security, but had also closed their eyes in the face of the terrorist entities with activities in Afghanistan. If this occurs again, then the entire effort that the U.S. has led against the wave of terrorism that started with 9/11 will have been in vain. The fight against terrorism does not start with the effects, that is, with the terrorist acts. It needs to start with fighting the causes of terrorism and eradicating the terrorist structures and entities that encourage such events.
This is why the goal of the U.S. troops and personnel in Afghanistan will need to be not only the eradication and fight against terrorist entities, but the creation of functional institutions, an increase in the standard of living and providing the basic necessities for the Afghan population. This is also why many of the projects that the U.S. proposes for the region include electricity connection with Central Asia or borderline security programs.
So, the Obama Administration's efforts in Afghanistan should go beyond the simple fight against the enemy structure and more towards reconstruction and stabilization of a country in need of some of the basic functionalities of any region or economy. With that ensured, the fight against the Taliban will be much more sustained and successful in the future.
1. Eckholm, Eric. A Nation challenged: Penalties; Taliban Justice: Stadium Was Scene of Gory Punishment. The New York Times. December 2001. On the Internet at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C00E6DD1231F935A15751C1A9679C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all.Lastretrieved on March 14, 2009
2. Griffiths, John C. Afghanistan: A History of Conflict. Andre Deutsch, London. Updated edition, 2001. Andre Deutsch Ltd., 2002
3. Rashid, Ahmed. "Taliban - Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia," Yale University Press, 2000.
4. Toynbee, Arnold J.Between Oxus and Jumna. Oxford University Press, London. 1961
5. Huntington, Samuel P., the Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1996
Eckholm, Eric. A Nation challenged: Penalties; Taliban Justice: Stadium Was Scene of Gory Punishment. The New York Times. December 2001. On the Internet at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C00E6DD1231F935A15751C1A9679C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all.Lastretrieved on March 14, 2009