In his daily briefing, Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledged lately that some warplanes are coming back without fulfilling their mission. When asked for explanation, the defense Secretary did not hesitate to say ” we are running out of targets”!
This is quite an understandable statement, which by the way reminds us of what an American-Afghan was saying a few days before the strikes: ” New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs.” For Mr. Tamim Ansary, all what the Americans do in Afghanistan had already been experimented by the Soviets… to no avail! The only issue in his opinion is to go in there with ground troops. That is the only way to catch bin Laden, and he is probably right. (: salon.com – an Afghan-American speaks).
So, why are they bombing Kabul and Kandahar and other cities where live innocent people if they know that there is little chance to get bin Laden and Mullah Omar that way?
Besides, it seems that despite the reassuring tone of the American officials in respect of Pakistan, there is a little dissent with Gen. Musharraf. The latter declared lately that ” a government imposed from abroad cannot successfully replace the Taliban in Afghanistan”. Otherwise, if ever the Americans succeed to ousting the Taliban from power, the government they seek to establish with the help of former Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah, would have to put up with Pakistan and accept some kind of trusteeship, as has always been the tradition in this region. The example of the particular relations between Syria and Lebanon is here cogent. But the king himself acknowledged in an interview with Newsweek (Sept.29) that all the Afghans think that they have been abandoned by America and by almost all the world after the defeat of the Soviet Union. During his reign, he said, he” tried very hard to be sure that people from the north and south intermingled”. Apparently, that was the greatest failure of this country. The question is therefore: is the northern alliance armed and supported by the West able to achieve this purpose, once the Taliban toppled, despite the serious disability that is the absence of its famous leader Massoud? Needless to add that if Pakistan is worrying about the post-Taliban stage, it is also because Massoud and his northern alliance were fighting against those whom they deemed to be the stooges of Pakistan. This is why Gen. Musharraf emphasized on the necessity of a ” broad-based multi ethnic government” to take over. How would he view the current attempt to form such a government by king Zahir Shah is another unanswered question.
Furthermore, Gen. Musharraf, unlike Mr. Bush, is talking about a very short war, which is altogether understandable. For the durable unrest in Afghanistan would inevitably cause trouble in Pakistan. As long as Islamabad was able to control the Kabul regime, it was reassured that its own people would not be involved in continual demonstrations and useless and tragic confrontations with the government. Yet, Musharraf himself owes his ascension to power to such unrest in Pakistan. Like many rulers of this kind, he knows that he would last in power as long as he is able to maintain some quietness and stabilty. Unfortunately for him, quietness and stability are precisely what is being refused both to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.