Afghanistan: Asia’s Congo

February 9, 2012

 

  

 

                                   By Dan Magnowski

For many in the West, Afghanistan and Iraq have much in common.
 Both are Islamic countries whose nasty regimes were kicked out by
the U.S. after September 11 2001; in both places, the Americans,
British and others stayed and spent huge amounts of money on nobody’s
quite sure what; and both were examples of ‘evil’, back when that was
a cornerstone of foreign policy thinking.

But Afghanistan isn’t just another Iraq. In many respects, it’s
much more like another country beloved of the international community:
Democratic Republic of Congo.

 In both, violence is so common that it’s practically background
noise, and only spectacular outrages win international attention.
Armed rebel groups continue to roam the east of Congo at will, while
the latest United Nations figures, to nobody’s great surprise, showed
the number of civilians killed in the Afghan war rose again last year.

Many Afghans and foreigners fear that, come the end-2014 exit of
the 100,000-plus foreign combat troops who, after more than a decade,
are still fighting to keep the Taliban at bay, attacks will grow even
more frequent, and civil war is always on the table as a possible
outcome.

 Both countries suffer from extreme border insecurity and outside
interference, in Afghanistan most notably from Pakistan. The Afghan
government has suggested Pakistan’s spy network backs the insurgents
who blow people up in its cities, plant bombs along its roads and
shoot its soldiers, a charge which is an article of faith among most
Afghans.

Pakistan strongly denies the allegations, but a fence-mending
visit to Kabul in early February by Pakistani foreign minister Hina
Rabbani Khar was totally overshadowed by a leaked U.S. military report
which repeated the claim, and many Afghans believe there will be no
peace in their country until Pakistan ceases meddling.

Domestically, thievery and disorder is the order of the day, from
the pettiest official to the upper echelons of the administration.
Transparency watchdogs rate both countries as among the most corrupt
in the world, and regard among the public for their governments is
pitifully low.

 Allegations of vote-rigging — hardly a new phenomenon in central
Africa — surrounded President Joseph Kabila’s re-election late last
year, while scandals like the 2010 Kabulbank collapse, in which senior
Afghan officials among others pocketed almost half a billion dollars
in undocumented loans, undermine domestic and foreign support for the
political classes.

 Public trust in the security forces is also fragile where it
exists at all: according to a recent survey, only two in ten Afghans
think their policemen can uphold law and order.

 The army, despite the best efforts of willing Western soldiers, is
dragged down by Afghan soldiers shooting their foreign
comrades-in-arms; in Congo, the police and army have been accused of
sex crimes and other atrocities.

Governments in Kabul and Kinshasa alike talk about natural
resources as the magic solution that’s going to employ their legions
of jobless people, and bring cash into state coffers that would by
near-empty without foreign aid.

Afghanistan, one of the most recent beneficiaries of Chinese investment in minerals, will have to careful how it manages
exploitation of its iron and copper: in Congo, many mineral deposits
still finance nobody but the armed gangs who control them, and the
corrupt officials who allow it to happen.

 All these things common to Congo and Afghanistan feed into a
general perception that the state does not serve the people but is
instead a mechanism for enriching officials, and that the country,
even when not actually at war, is ungovernable.

 Diplomats and the international community at large insist the
transition to full Afghan responsibility for security does not mean
foreign abandonment post-2014, and that the global commitment to a
secure, sovereign, well-governed Afghanistan is undiminished.

The voters back home aren’t interested though, and when
‘austerity’ is the watchword in a Europe that can barely pay for its
local excesses, let alone those in other parts of the world, appetite
for engagement is shrivelling daily: in January, France said it wanted
to get its boys out by the end of 2013, a year ahead of schedule.
    Privately, some foreigners posted in Kabul say Afghanistan is
neither worth the blood that’s been spilt nor the cash spent, and that
its problems are so great and so many that whatever is done will not
be enough.

 This echoes a line of thinking about Congo that began with
Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ and has taken root in literature,
perception and ultimately policy: that the place is so broken, so bad,
that fixing it is impossible.

 There are vast differences between the two of course, but trends
in Afghanistan suggest that the country it is becoming could end up
looking even more like Congo than it does now. Without the river.

5 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I disagree with the comparisons between Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraq has oil and Afghanistan has none.

Iraq was run by a dictator who did not thrust radical Islam on his people. The country was secular. His foreign minister was Tariq Aziz who was a Christian. Afghanistan had become a swamp for radicalized religious fanatics who took the country back by a thousand years.

There was absolutely no compelling reason to invade Iraq and dethrone Saddam Hussein. He had no nuclear weapons or enrichment capability. Everything the US was accusing of about Iraq, was in Pakistan, the closest ally of the US.

US was attacked by Arab radicals who used Afghanistan as their launching ground. These Arabs wanted the US to get out of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East altogether.

The US messed up Af-Pak in its pursuit of defeating the USSR. While succeeding in that mission, it helped create the monster of Islamic radicalism and terrorism that has come to haunt its own people.

The only thing common between Iraq and Af-Pak is that the US messed up both places. If left to itself, Iraq might have gone through the Arab revolution on its own accord and ousted Saddam Hussein by now. Gadaffi had a much stronger hold on his country than Saddam did. Yet Ghaddaffi was gone. There was nothing for the US to do in Iraq. On hind sight, the USSR was a better enemy than the one US is facing now.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

I think I would agree with Rex’s analysis that Bill Clinton fired the first missile in wrong direction at Laden. The first tomahawk should have gone to Islamabad. Pakistan’s Islamic monster is what is troubling everyone in this world.

But 50 more years and Islam will implode. Shia-Sunni conflict is on rise already. And when the oil wells dry up in Arab world and America pulls out its force then that will be the time for Islam to BEG for food, water, shelter from rest of the world. Drilling will start shortly in polar caps and downfall of Islam is to begin anytime soon. And then Saudi may get Iranian supreme commander murdered and Iran will respond with its nukes on Saudi. Pakistan will finish of Iran with its nukes and this will give excuse enough to US and Israel to nuke Pakistan. Lets hope and pray that Allah will be merciful in punishing its murderous and killer sons.

Posted by 007XX | Report as abusive

I think I would agree with Rex’s analysis that Bill Clinton fired the first missile in wrong direction at Laden. The first tomahawk should have gone to Islamabad. Pakistan’s Islamic monster is what is troubling everyone in this world.

But 50 more years and Islam will implode. Shia-Sunni conflict is on rise already. And when the oil wells dry up in Arab world and America pulls out its force then that will be the time for Islam to BEG for food, water, shelter from rest of the world. Drilling will start shortly in polar caps and downfall of Islam is to begin anytime soon. And then Saudi may get Iranian supreme commander murdered and Iran will respond with its nukes on Saudi. Pakistan will finish of Iran with its nukes and this will give excuse enough to US and Israel to nuke Pakistan. Lets hope and pray that Allah will be merciful in punishing its murderous and killer sons.

Posted by 007XX | Report as abusive

Since time immemorial it is the customer that has been GOD and not that what church tells us. But the Arabs DISOBEYED this number 1 commandment by entangling with USA. And now Allah has punished them fittingly. Arab revolution has scared off their biggest customer -> USA. Drilling is already underway on North Pole and fall of (Arabic) Islam is inevitable in foreseeable future. May Allah show no mercy to its murderous and killer children. Can Pak nukes fight the will of Allah?? Can Pakistan force USA to buy oil from Arabs only?? Can Pakistan pay for Arab oil and extravagance?? Will Pakistan nuke USA’s North Pole oil drills?? Is USA not buying oil from Arabs a red line for Pakistan??

P.S.
This post of mine is will of Allah, mind it.

Posted by 007XX | Report as abusive

when charles Darwin, the UK zooligist went to Africa studying animals, he came to the idea of evalution, the formation of humans from the nearest animal specie Ape.Ther are many today who still agree with his theory, but when you confront these people with the theory that many humans are not biolagicaly fully developed, they squak.

Ofcourse, Iraq and Afghanistan are similar for the marines, who prowl at night and go into village house and try to terrorise old , women and children and during the day time walk into the safety of childrens in the street and distribute sweets. And once in while they demonstrate their heroism against the deads by a weak stream pissing orgy on video to show to their folks back at home the evidence of their bravery.

Afghanistan is a burial place of empires, its lush valleys have over centuries of history provided the final place of peace to the invading warriors and those who survived went back to their families and related the stories of the braves who do not know what fear is and can outmatch the speed and the endurance of their famous Afghan dogs. Bring them on is the cry of the taliban soldiers who carry the heaviest armour on their torsos in the hilly tracks and which the conventional armies use mules and the Yanks helicopters for tranporting them.

No, Afghanistan has never been colonised like Congo or Iraq for that matter, it is a land of people who have harmed no one unless under attack, have not terrorised any one unless they are terrorised, instead they protect life and specialy of their guest who are given asylum. For them dignity and freedom go hand in hand together. Do not put yourself on their wrong side, they are not very kind towards this act. They do not negotiate surrender nor are prone to blackmail. You must defeat hem on the battleground or be ready annhilation.

The rest is cobblers and a diversion.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive