WASHINGTON, DC - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 -
Conflict-riddled Afghanistan is capable of rising above the violence of
the last decade and establishing a vibrant flourishing democracy,
former Afghan diplomat and author M. Ashraf Haidari said this week.
The stability of Afghanistan is a critical issue for Central Asia,
as three states in the region – Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
– border the country. The ability of Afghanistan to create a stable
governing structure and reel in the destructive forces of the Taliban
and international drug smugglers will have a positive impact on Central
Asian states, which are trying to fend off those destabilizing
influences and ensure the security of their citizens.
“I think that sustainable peace is winnable in Afghanistan,”
Haidari told Central Asia Newswire (CAN). However, several challenges
need to be met by the international forces now working to create peace
in the country, he said in the Friday interview.
Haidari emphasized that regional factors, including terrorism and
the international drug trade, must be addressed to enable Afghanistan
to ensure a lasting peace.
“Transnational actors such as Al Qaeda have capitalized on
Afghanistan’s internal and regional sources of instability and formed
strategic alliances with the Taliban. These groups form symbiotic
relations with one another for their mutual survival and success,”
“Al Qaeda and its Pakistani affiliates continue to inspire,
indoctrinate and brainwash jobless and frustrated youth in the
Pakistani madrassas where the Taliban recruit fighters for their
terrorist operations in Afghanistan,” Haidari noted.
Central Asian states, particularly Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and
Uzbekistan, have also been struggling to contain the spread of militant
Islam in the region.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon last summer told Tajik parents that
students studying in foreign religious schools should return to the
country, in an effort to curb the influence of Islamists in the
impoverished post-Soviet state.
Haidari also emphasized the danger of drug trafficking in Afghanistan and the region.
“Transnational drug mafia have found a permissive environment in
the south and east of Afghanistan where the Taliban financially benefit
from taxation of poppy farmers and protection of the trafficking of
precursor chemicals into Afghanistan and finished narcotic products out
of the country,” he said.
As a result of this phenomenon, Tajikistan and its neighbor
Kyrgyzstan struggle with containing the international trafficking
networks, because their security infrastructure is weak and they are a
major thoroughfare for drug supplies originating in Afghanistan.
Tajik forces have seized hundreds of pounds in illegal drugs in its
many anti-drug raids, while the drug mafia is believed to have played
an instrumental role in Kyrgyzstan’s deadly ethnic violence that
erupted in 2010.
However, despite these regional problems, Haidari believes that
Afghanistan has every reason to be optimistic that a stable, democratic
future is within the country’s grasp.
“Today, we have a democratically elected president and parliament;
the most progressive constitution in the region; some eight million
girls and boys in school; over a dozen universities operating across
Afghanistan; access to electricity and health-care expanding each year
since the fall of the Taliban; millions of Afghans using mobile phones
and connected with the outside world for the first time; and thousands
of small, medium, and large infrastructure projects have been
implemented across Afghanistan,” he said.
“These achievements constitute the key building blocks of success
in Afghanistan. They should be consolidated to deepen democracy in
Afghanistan and to effect an orderly and irreversible transition of
military and civil responsibilities to full Afghan sovereignty beyond
Stabilization of the Afghan territory will do much to improve the
security situation not only in that war-torn country but also for its
neighbors in Central Asia as well.