Smith, Hayden, New Zealand International Review
Since information coming out of Afghanistan is scarce at the best of times, the lead article -- `Afghanistan: a never ending challenge' -- in the last issue (vol XXV, no 4) was especially welcome. However, I found the views of the author, Peter Vasilieff, toward the Taliban regime to be somewhat biased. Notwithstanding the fact that the author is a Russian commentator and not a political analyst, one must in all sincerity ask whether he has actually been to Afghanistan and if not what the sources for his information were. Since little reportage comes out of the country, how are we supposed to know if the information is factually correct?
Secondly, the author's usage of the term `terrorist' is particular to the Taliban. This is especially true when one considers the reality of life on the ground in the Central Asian region and the multiple sources of terror and oppression in it. Why is it, for example, that the hardships inflicted on the Afghan people by the regimes of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Iran and China, all of which are interfering in a sovereign state, are not compared with the `terrorism' exhibited by the Taliban and its chief sponsor, Pakistan? All of these countries have an appalling record when it comes to human rights abuses in the cause of `anti-terrorism', and only one -- Russia -- can approach that elusive status of `democracy'. All the above are dictatorships of questionable value to their peoples. However, the fact that the Taliban controls 80 per cent of Afghanistan, and would control 100 per cent and be the legitimate government were it not for the foreign-backed and increasingly shaky Northern Alliance, surely shows some measure of popular domestic support for the movement.
It can also be seen that of the eight nations represented in the `Six plus Two' talks, so arranged to decide Afghanistan's fate, only one -- Pakistan -- is not allied to Russia. One must remember that in these talks Russia does not go in alone as one country out of eight. On the contrary, it stands as four countries -- Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan -- since all are reliant on Moscow in the CIS regime. Two countries, the United States and China, are affiliated to Russia in that both are also engaged in the effort to corner Islamic resistance, and one, Iran, is becoming economically dependent on Russia and the United States due to its recent importation of Russian nuclear technology and through its desire to participate in the growing Central Asian oil network, which is currently funded by both. Since Russia and China are pursuing near-genocidal policies against their own Muslims, and the fact that it was Russian aggression that laid Afghanistan to waste as a functional country in the first place, it seems almost incredible that one could entrust these great powers to engineer some kind of just and meaningful peace for the Islamic Pushtoon people.
In conclusion it must be said that Vasilieff's assessment of conditions in Afghanistan, his praise for on-going intervention of foreign powers in a country wearied by foreign interference, and his conspicuous absence of comment on the Taliban's relative domestic popularity do not address the real problems at hand. …