Situation in Afghanistan requires urgent solution
Two-day conference "Afghanistan and Regional Security: 5 Years After the Talibs" is taking place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Representatives of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Great Britain, United States, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan (scientists, diplomats, independent researchers) participate in the debates. Organized by A. Knyazev's Public Foundation and Center of Conflict and Regional Studies, the conference is taking place on the premises of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Tajik Academy of Sciences.
Discussion on the first day of the conference came down to evaluations of the state of affairs in Afghanistan. Victor Korgun, Professor of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a renowned specialist in Afghanistan, appraised it as resembling "the Soviet one". According to Korgun, "European" garrisons in the southern part of the country only defend themselves. The locals side up with the Talibs. "Not because the Talibs are strong but because Hamid Karzai's government is weak," was how Korgun put it. Total corruption, theft, and pillage are hard facts of life in Afghanistan. "Election of the parliament was even more democratic and free than it is in Russia, but the parliament of Afghanistan now includes former field commanders and criminals who were murdering Afghani and Soviet soldiers," Korgun said. According to the specialist who referred to insiders, over 500 officials of Karzai's government are associated with armed formations totalling 150,000 men.
The population of Afghanistan wants to know how come 31,000 servicemen of the counter-terrorism coalition have failed to "hunt down Usama bin Laden." "The impression is that someone finds it convenient to have Number One Terrorist hiding in the mountains," Korgun said.
Hazrat Vahriz, Director of the Institute of Strategic Studies of the Afghani Foreign Ministry, said that the Afghanis "appreciate what the allies are doing all the same." "Troops of the counter-terrorism operation in the country are the guarantee of peace, fragile as it is," he said.
"The West does not even have a policy in Central Asia. It cannot be amended because it does not exist in the first place. This is my personal opinion, I'm not talking on behalf of the government of Great Britain," Henry Plater-Zieberck, senior analyst of the British Defense Ministry, said. As far as the specialist is concerned, the regional military and analysts themselves do not understand what they mean when they speak of "the West", "regional security", etc. The analyst is convinced that Central Asian countries themselves should be helping Great Britain, Germany, United States, France, and other countries to understand life in the region, they should be open and cooperative.
Guzel Maitdinova, Professor of the Russian-Tajik Slav University, spoke of the Eastern countries' policy in Central Asia. Maitdinova was referring to Russia, China, India, and Pakistan promoting their objectives in the region, individually or within the framework of international structures like the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation. "It will be nice of members of the Shanghai Organization of Cooperation to pool efforts in maintenance of peace in the volatile Ferghana Valley. It will be nice of them to draft and put into motion some regional program that will enable countries of the region to develop in peace and forget constant tension," she said. In the meantime, "the West does not contemplate any planned and creative policy with regard to Afghanistan, something that will extricate the country from the blind alley it is in," Maitdinova said and added that this was what was making the regional situation so tricky.
Victor Dubovitsky, Deputy Director of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Ethnography of the Tajik Academy of Sciences, elaborated on the effect ethnic relations were having on stabilization in Afghanistan. According to Dubovitsky, the problem of relations between the largest ethnic group and others (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazareans) requires an immediate solution, attention, and delicate approaches to the decisions that may disrupt the existing situation.
Speakers at the conference promoted establishment of some permanent international center for Afghani studies. Professor Vladimir Boiko, Director of the Russia and East Center, said that everything happening in Afghanistan warranted a careful study, given the situation. Seminars and conferences like the one in Dushanbe help, but they are short and irregular and that diminishes their effect, Boiko said.
"Production of opium-based drugs is the only profitable article of Afghani export. Export of heroin will earn traffickers $36-30 billion in 2006," said Saidanvar Shohumorov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies.
Referring to the UN, Shohumorov said poppy fields in Afghanistan shrunk by 40% in 2005. Knyazev, one of the organizers of the conference, pointed out that it had happened because of the "crash of the raw opium market" where "prices are but 50% or so of what they were in 2003."
The conference will continue on December 12. Ferghana.Ru news agency is its official partner.