Devaluation of Nobel Peace Prize Continues But EU Could Show Way For Better Crisis Management

October 18, 2012

The stabilizing part played by the E.U. has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” (Thorbjorn Jagland, chair of awarding committee)

The leader of the E.U. is Germany, which is in an economic war with southern Europe, I consider this war equal to a real war. (Comment of Mr. Polychronopoulos, Greece)

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its 2012 peace prize to the European Union, lauding its role over six decades in building peace and reconciliation among enemies who fought Europe’s bloodiest wars. So far I have noticed this selection described as scandalous, parody, joke, sarcastic and bizarre act and late April fool. Also timing has been seen wrong as Europe is facing “increasing violence and division, the EU now appears to critics impotent amid a debt crisis that has widened north-south divisions.

I can agree that the origins of peace in Europe lie in the alliance made between France and Germany it gave birth to the European Coal and Steel Community, a forerunner of the EU. However in my opinion it is questioned whether the EU’s track record in the Balkan wars of the 1990s justified a Prize for spreading peace. However I hope that Peace Prize will give some self-confidence to EU to develop this content so that the block could increase its role in relation of conflict prevention and crisis management.

There are hundreds of worthwhile grass roots organisations and individuals for whom the award of the Nobel Peace Prize would have made a huge difference. For EU the Prize probably will be only one lucky event and photo-opportunity. Interesting but trivial alltough describing detail will be which EU president should collect the prize – Mr Barroso, Mr Van Rompuy or Martin Schulz as none of them or their institutions during their time has done nothing to solve conflicts or build peace. In my opinion the right address of this years Nobel award in EU would be ”spiritual father” of EU, Mr. Robert Schuman, for creating peace by making former Nazi Germany a “member of the family,” in the European Community.

Nobel’s Will questioned

There probably never was a finer gift donated to ‘the greatest benefit of mankind’ than the prize that the Swedish inventor and tycoon Alfred Nobel (1833-96) established for ‘the champions of peace’. When, on November 27th, 1895, Nobel signed his last will he had concluded that his desire for global peace required global disarmament founded on global law. He intended his prize to promote a systemic change in international relations.

Many years there has been debate are peace laureates reflecting Nobel’s last will. Norwegian lawyer and Nobel historian Fredrik S. Heffermehl claims the Norwegian Nobel Committee isn’t following Alfred Nobel’s wishes. His interview in The Local (Swedish news in English) highlights the orginal idea of Alfred Nobel.

Nobel’s will states that the prize should be given to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. According Heffermehl the reason might be that ”the military sector in Norway is a strong sector and the reality today is that a majority politicians favoring a strong military defense are in control of a prize, which was initially meant for their opponents.”

There is justified doubt that the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision does not comply with Alfred Nobel’s mission statement, which sets out to reward peace activists’ efforts throughout the preceding year. Nobel did not meant the prize to be a reward or recognition of civil right movements, social reforms and taming of ethnic conflict, but precisely and exclusively for substantial achievements on behalf of demilitarization in the world. This and nothing else was – and is – the exclusive intention of the prize.

EU has sadly done little for the demilitarization of Europe. Whilst the EU imposes severe austerity measures upon many EU countries, it simultaneously supports the growing militarization of Europe through support for US/NATO (guilty of war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). It continues to support the policies of American nuclear weapons deployed to six EU States.

Degradation of Nobel Peace Prize

“Ahtisaari does not solve conflicts but drives through a short-term solutions that please western countries”. (Johan Galtung)

The best example of Nobel peace prize degradation during last decade could be President Obama who has ordered hundreds assassinations with drones, has accepted serious war crimes and human right violations e.g. in Guantamo, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen … and who has continued promoting interests of Military-Industrial-Complex.

Because Obama is too obvious choice in ”worst selections category” I would take other example which is No 119 peace laureate Mr. Ahtisaari. Personally I lost my respect to Nobel Peace Prize after his selection as laureate. No doubt that formally he has worked with many conflicts – Namibia, Yugoslavia(Bosnia and Kosovo), Indonesia – as ”peace broker”.

My critique is based first to his record and second to his methods and values behind them.

  • Ahtisaari, after consulting South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, agreed to a South African Defence Force “hunt and destroy” mission, which led to the deaths of some 300 SWAPO fighters. SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma condemned the massacre saying, “At this crucial and critical hour for Namibia’s freedom, [Ahtisaari’s] action betrayed our cause and resulted in the deaths of many civilians.” Despite calling Ahtisaari “very much a collaborator with the US and pro-British [and] more concerned with his career at the United Nations than with his responsibilities to the oppressed people of Namibia”. Now Namibia keeps white landownership and black misery.
  • The role of Ahtisaari in Bosnia was insignificant; anyway after him the bloodiest war since WWII started. The compromise solution in Dayton can be described as temporary one as it never respected the Croat wish to join Croatia and the Serb wish for independence (also of Beograd).
  • In 1999 he was the envoy who persuaded the Serb state to give in after NATO’s 78 days of bombing, the most brutal event in Europe since 1945, which also lacked a UN Security Council mandate. .He then was appointed as the “architect” of the plan behind the separation of now “quasi-independent” Kosovo which, following this bombing, broke off from Serbia. Kosovo bypassed the Security Council and set a dangerous precedent.
  • Aceh was one lucky strike due to a tsunami washing the arms into the ocean. Ahtisaari himself recalled how the 2004 tsunami in South Asia was one factor that came to help open talks he facilitated between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and Indonesia resulting in the August 2005 deal.

About peace broking methods of Mr. Ahtisaari the following quote gives good idea from2nd June 1999 when it was the task of Ahtisaari and Chernomyrdin visited President Milosevic to deliver NATO’s final terms to end bombings against Yugoslavia:

Ahtisaari opened the meeting by declaring, “We are not here to discuss or negotiate,” after which Chernomyrdin read aloud the text of the plan. Ahtisaari says that Milosevic asked about the possibility of modifying the plan, to which he replied, “No.” Milosevic took the papers and asked, “What will happen if I do not sign?” In answer, “Ahtisaari made a gesture on the table,” and then moved aside the flower centerpiece. Then Ahtisaari said, “Belgrade will be like this table. We will immediately begin carpet-bombing Belgrade.” Repeating the gesture of sweeping the table, Ahtisaari threatened, “This is what we will do to Belgrade.” A moment of silence passed, and then he added, “There will be half a million dead within a week. (Source How the Nobel Peace Prize Was Won by Gregory Elich at CounterPunch)

The result with Kosovo I have summarized following: Kosovo … a Serbian province, occupied and international protectorate, as quasi-independent pseudo-state has good change to become next “failed” or “captured” state; today’s Kosovo is already safe-heaven for war criminals, drug traffickers and international money laundry”. When Kosovo unilatarally declared intependence only less than half UN memberstates recognized it many of them after some pressure from U.S. Ahtisaari was not worried, describing to his values is following comment: “It really doesn’t matter if Paraguay hasn’t recognized,” Ahtisaari said. “Well over 65 percent of the wealth of the world has recognized. That matters.” This is in line with Ahtisaari’s role as messenger boy of U.S., if one doesn’t have money that opinion doesn’t matter.

I agree with Johan Galtung, who noted that “Ahtisaari does not solve conflicts but drives through a short-term solutions that please western countries”. My conclusion: Mr. Ahtisaari – an unofficial spokesperson of U.S. State Department and Nato who repeatedly functioned as “peace fixer” for Western power elites – good example of degradation of Nobel Peace Prize.

EU’s role with crisis management now and hopefully in the future

Putting Mr. Nobel and his Will aside, taking creative interpretation of peace award criteria of Nobel Committee as such I like to put focus on EU’s role with crisis management. The arguments given by the Norwegian Nobel Committee are not entirely false. I agree that “The stabilizing part played by the E.U. has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” The EU has played the historical role that it describes. Degradation of Peace Prize described above might have a positive follow-up; to avoid total devaluation of Prize the further selections should have more original content. I hope that Peace Prize will give some self-confidence to EU to develop this content so that the block could increase its role in relation of conflict prevention and crisis management.

Earlier The League of Nations and then The United Nations were created to prevent one nation-state from invading another nation-state and going to war with that other nation-state. Today most wars are intrastate ethnic conflicts. Current peacemaking, peace-building or crisis management structures are not designed to cope with this type of conflict.

U.S. itself has experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, that old military strategy is not effective. The integrated counterinsurgency, or COIN, strategy was strategic development from military alone approach. COIN has been applied last years in Afghanistan and it has many components: protecting Afghan civilians, rapidly expanding the Afghan army and police, reforming government, providing economic development assistance, weaning Taliban fighters and leaders away from Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda, reconciling them into the new government, and targeting those who refuse. This makes it a demanding strategy, maybe too demanding for U.S. However the good idea of COIN is that it emphasises a “population-centric” over an “enemy-centric” approach.

The events on Arab Street are reflecting also another problem with U.S. Strategies for dominating the rest of world. For similar reasons as the failure of COIN strategy in Afghanistan in Arab Street the strategy might be good in Theory but the Americans can not implement them. It seems that the Americans don’t understand deeply the operational theatre, they are unfamiliar in another cultural environment, in this case with Muslim world.

Hard vs. Soft Power
Hard Power Soft Power
Spectrum of behaviors Command, coercion and inducement Agenda-setting, attraction and co-opt
Most likely resources Force, sanctions and payments Institutions, values, culture and policies

EU has applied a bit similar approach. At theoretical level the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), launched in 1999, exemplifies the EU’s commitment to the so-called “comprehensive approach” – a strategy that emphasises the importance of combining civilian and military tools when dealing with external security challenges.

Crisis management in the future -by EU hopefully

I think that the conflict resolution by peacemakers is an ad hock fire department activity, important but secondary question. The primary issue from my viewpoint is prevention of problems and their causes, or at least awareness of them. Also important is to put single conflicts in wider context such as game between great powers, struggle over global energy resources and their supply routes, economic profits of military-industrial-complex etc. So in my view peace mediation is one part of handling conflicts.

The new approach should in my opinion cover the whole crisis cycle, from prevention to crisis management to post-crisis stabilization and capacity-building measures. The European Union prides itself on being able to deal with fragile and failing states outside its borders, from Kosovo to Kabul, through what it believes to be its distinctive combination of “hard” power – coercion by military or other means – and “soft” power – persuasion through trade, diplomacy, aid and the spread of values.

The key question is how to replace U.S. hard power with EU soft power. In Eastern Europe U.S. controls crucial foreign and/or domestic policies of another nation through ties with its military and intelligence institutions. EU’s military, political, and corporate elites have already increasingly become dependents or confederates of the US military-industrial complex. To take step forward EU must work to establish its own security structure in order to free itself from tactics which are now used under the current US-dominated Alliance. EU should stop outsourcing its strategical planning to U.S. The key question is focusing on EU civilian capabilities.

EU already has remarkable financial resources for capacity building measures. The EU accounts for half of all global aid. Last year, it donated €53.1bn (£42.8bn). The European commission by itself is the world’s second largest bilateral donor after the US, providing €12.3bn of external aid in 2011. Aid constitutes about 9% of the EU budget. EU is a formidable player in global development.

Replacing U.S. Cowboy policy by EU’s soft power in conflicts and crisis management is possible, if EU can find a common vision, strategy and position with its external relations. Even better would be if the OSCE could make this. It can be argued that the OSCE has a much better claim to represent all the states of Europe, (and possibly a better candidate for Peace Prize) since it has 56 States from Europe, Central Asia and North America – compared to the EU’s 27 — a “Europe with the windows open” rather than the “Fortress Europe” image associated with the EU. Ihope that Nobel Peace Prize can help with this even in EU.

More e.g. in my related articles:

Civil Crisis Management: Filling the Gaps Between the Aims and on the Ground Effectiveness of a Mission

Nobel: Do you hear Mr. Nobel rolling in his grave” – and more specific about Ahtisaari’s mediator tactics in my article500.000 bodies or sign” –headlines are describing quite well the content and my shock after his selection

Interventions in general: R2P vs Facades of Interventions, Multifaceted Intervention Practices , Is Peace more than absence of the War? , Could EU lead the 3rd Way out from Confrontation? , Quality Peace? and Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too?

About U.S. strategy in Afghanistan: Will COIN work in Afghanistan? andAfghanistan – to be or not?

U.S. practising intervention first in the Bosnian War 1992-95 and selecting terrorist/OC-groups to U.S. alliese.g. Srebrenica again – Hoax or Massacre? and Krajina – Victory with Ethnic Cleansing and the outcome Bosnia on the road to the EU, sorry to Dissolution

Racak fabrication and “humanitarian intervention” aka since WWII first ever full scale bombing operation in center of Europe 1999 High pressure to fabricate Racak reports and 10th anniversary of Nato’s attack on Serbia

Other related articles: Libya Intervention is creating problems instead of solving them and Some framework to Syrian crisis

Article (short version) first published as Devaluation of Nobel Peace Prize to be Continued on Technorati.

Balkan Route – Business as usual

July 9, 2010

Transnational organized crime is considered as one of the major threats to human security, impeding the social, economic, political and cultural development of societies worldwide. It is a multi-faceted phenomenon and has manifested itself in different activities, among others, drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings; trafficking in firearms; smuggling of migrants; money laundering; etc. In particular drug trafficking is one of the main activities of organized crime groups, generating enormous profits. (UNODC)

The World Drug Report 2010, issued on June 2010 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), shows that even drug cultivation is declining in Afghanistan (for opium) and the Andean countries (coca), and drug use has stabilized in the developed world, the famous Balkan route still facilitates a lucrative business. Some 85 mt (metric tn) goes vie Balkan route to western Europe markets. What is significant for Balkan route that other transit regions – Iran and Turkey – are seizing 6-11 times more drugs that Balkan countries. Even in northern route – via Central Asia and Russia – seizures are 5 % of heroin flow while in some countries of South-Eastern Europe, including EU member states, are intercepting less than two per cent of the heroin crossing their territory. It is clear that these figures are reflecting one of then fundamental problems in the Balkans – the big role of transnational organized crime in Balkan societies.

The 2010 World Drug Report states that 37% of all Afghan heroin is annually trafficked via the “Balkan route” towards the European market. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the region has become a key link in the chain in the transport of heroin, from Afghanistan to the West.

The illicit opiate industry also has a detrimental effect on stability and security in a number of places, including through the funding it provides for insurgents in production areas, particularly in Afghanistan. Links between illicit drug production, trafficking and involvement of terrorist groups, criminals and transnational organized crime are clear. In some regions, the nexus of illicit drugs, organized crime and instability has taken the form of growing infiltration of state institutions by drug trafficking groups.

In this article I try to highlight some aspects of drug trade via Balkan route and their links to society. My main source is The World Drug Report 2010 of UNDOC, which I refer if nothing else is mentioned.

Source and demand

If we are already bombing Taliban positions, why won’t we spray their fields with a harmless herbicide and cut off their money? ( counterterrorism expert David Kilcullen)

After the drought during Taliban rule, opium production surged to over 4,000 mt in 2000. In 2001, the Taliban, caving into international pressure declared opium production illegal. This campaign was very effective, and in 2001, only 200 mt of opium was produced. But, in 2002, when the new, weak Karzai regime took control over Afghanistan, opium production increased and reached record levels, with an unprecedented yield of 8,200 mt, or 193,000 hectares in 2007. The rise in the opium economy has created many opportunities for insurgent groups, militia, and warlords to finance their operations against one another. Other opium producing countries have stopped production. Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey have clamped down on opium production and are now poppy‐free. Combined with a growth in demand, opium prices have increased, and Afghan farmers have more of an incentive to grow opium (World Bank 2005). (Source:Vicious Circle: An Analysis of the Role of Narcotics in Insurgent Violence in Afghanistan From 2001 to 2008”thesis by Jared Stancombe)

The Karzai government that has prevented efforts to engage in aerial eradication of poppy crops, which is one very important tool in any counter-narcotics toolbox. However UNODC officials interviewed by the authors in April 2007 believe that the “Taliban are completely dependent on the narco-economy for their financing.” Where the Taliban are able to enforce it—mostly in the south and some eastern districts—they are said to levy a 40% tax on opium cultivation and trafficking. A low estimate of the amount that the Taliban earn from the opium economy is $10 million, but considering the tradition of imposing tithes on cultivation and activities further up the value chain, the total is likely to be at least $20 million. One should also make a difference between Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Taliban are mainly local Afghans who do not want to be occupied by any invading army, local Afghan nationalists resisting occupation, ISI pakistani agents fighting a proxy war against the US, drug smugglers and opium growers protecting their drug territories, foreign jihadists working with the pakistani ISI and the angry relatives of Afghans killed by coalition forces getting revenge. As much as one-third of Afghanistan’s GDP comes from growing poppy and illicit drugs including opium and its two derivatives, morphine and heroin, as well as hashish production.

It is estimated that 37 per cent of all Afghan heroin, or 140 mt, departs Afghanistan along the Balkan route, to meet demand of around 85 mt. Most of the heroin interdicted in the world is seized along this route:  the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey were responsible for more than half of all heroin seized globally in 2008. The world’s largest heroin market is West Europe, and about half of this market is contained in just three countries: the United Kingdom, Italy and France.

The fight against the illegal use of drugs has almost 100 years long history. In February 1909, the Shanghai Opium Commission, which comprised 13 states including Russia, tried to find the ways to restrict drug import from the Asian countries. At present there are about 30 million drug addicts in the world. In particular the number of marihuana users is between 143 million – 190 million people, about 20 million people consume opium and cocaine, from 16 million to 50 million take non-natural drugs and about 17 million people take ecstasy. The Afghan drugs hit Russia, Europe, the US and the main attack is aimed at the young generation. Over the last 8 years almost one million of people younger than 35 died of the Afghan heroin.

The Balkan route

The Balkan route to West and Central Europe runs from Afghanistan via the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey and south-east European countries. This route and its various branches form the artery that carries high purity Afghan heroin into every important market in Europe. UNODC estimates that 37% of all Afghan heroin or 140 mt is annually trafficked into the Islamic Republic of Iran, from Afghanistan and Pakistan, towards the European market. The bulk of the supply (at least 80%, or 85 mt) travels the traditional overland Balkan route. An additional 10 mt reach Europe by air or sea from various points of departure. The so-called ‘northern Balkan route’ is a relatively recent variant on the Balkan route which transits the Caucasus rather than Turkey. Every year, approximately 9 mt of heroin are estimated to be trafficked from the Islamic Republic of Iran along this route. Joining this flow is a smaller volume of about 2 mt from Central Asia (not shown on map). In all, 11 mt of heroin are estimated to enter the Caucasus. After consumed or seized amounts around 7 mt, is thought to be trafficked to Europe.

The US State Department International Strategy for Narcotics Control report, released on March 2010, says that the Balkan countries remain major transit points for Afghan heroin, while the war against traffickers is hampered by corruption and weak state institutions. According to the report, Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are used by narcotics traffickers to move Afghan heroin from Central Asia to destinations around Western Europe. To a lesser extent Macedonia, Romania and Montenegro are also considered as staging posts for traffickers. Apart from being an important transit country for heroin and cocaine, Bulgaria is also a producer of illicit narcotics, the report says. With its geographic position on Balkan transit routes, Bulgaria is vulnerable to illegal flows of drugs, people, contraband, and money.

Balkans – the worst link of seizures

“There’s nobody to stop them.” (heroin middleman on the Kosovo route)

Interception rates vary widely between regions; however, estimated global interception rates are approximately 20% of the total heroin flow worldwide in 2008. Once heroin leaves Turkish territory, interception efficiency drops significantly. “In 2008, the countries and territories that comprise South- East Europe (a total of 11 countries, including Greece and Cyprus) seized 2.8 mt of heroin in 2008 – only 3% of flow. This is in sharp contrast to what is seized upstream in Turkey (15.5 mt in 2008) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (32 mt in 2008) every year. In other words, for every kg seized in the South East Europe, nearly 6 are seized in Turkey and 11 in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In the Balkans, relatively little heroin is seized, suggesting that the route is exceedingly well organized and lubricated with corruption. Across Europe, many countries directly straddling the main heroin trafficking routes report rather low levels of heroin seizures, such as Montenegro (18 kg in 2008), Bosnia and Herzegovina (24 kg), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (26 kg), Hungary (28 kg), Albania (75 kg), Austria (104 kg), Slovenia (136 kg), Croatia (153 kg) and Serbia (207 kg).

However, some cross-border efforts have seen success – not exactly with heroin but coce. The so-called ‘Balkan Warrior’ anti-narcotics operation involved officers from Serbia, Argentina, the U.S., and Uruguay, and in October last year the joint effort resulted in the seizure of over 2.1 tons of high quality cocaine intended for the European market.

Heroin – the core of lucrative business for organized crime

Getting opiates from producer to consumers worldwide is a well-organized and, most importantly, profitable activity. The most lucrative of illicit opiates, heroin, presently commands an estimated annual market value of US$55 billion. When all opiates are considered, the number may reach up to US$65 billion. Traffickers, essential to the transportation of drugs from production areas to lucrative end-user markets, pocket most of the profits of this trade. One kg of heroin is worth around US$2,000-2,500 in Afghanistan, but rises to US$3,000 on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and to US$5,000 on the Iran-Afghanistan border. It increases yet again by around 60%, to approximately US$8,000, at the Iran-Turkey border. An average of US$44,300 per kg in West and Central Europe.

Corruption and insufficient regional cooperation in transit countries, including in the Balkans, are noted as significant challenges facing the effort to clamp down on drug trafficking. Drugs seized in Southeast Europe is considered to be quite low, with corruption, strong organised crime groups, and a lack of regional cooperation pointed to as contributing factors. Networks of local diaspora in Western Europe are described as part of the heavily used Balkan route, while inter-ethnic cooperation is also found to be flourishing in the trafficking world.

Organized crime in the Balkans involves a large variety of criminal activities and as such, heroin is but one, albeit among the most lucrative, commodities illicitly trafficked through this region. The profits accrued as the opiates move downstream are substantial. Organized crime groups managing heroin trafficking between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey and on to the Balkans are estimated to earn around US$8,000 per kg of heroin or a total of US$600-700 million per year. The routes through this region also operate in the reverse direction with cocaine, precursor chemicals and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) moving eastward into Turkey and beyond. Organized crime groups controlling these corridors thus have comparatively better access to more numerous and diversified crime markets than their Northern route counterparts. Thus, many tend to be poly-drug (heroin, cannabis et cetera) and poly-crime (trafficking in human beings, weapons and stolen vehicles, to name but a few).

Estimated annual value of some global criminal markets in the 2000s is following: Firearms 1 bnUS$, Trafficking in persons 32 bnUS$, Opiates (retail) 65 bn US$, Cocaine (retail) 88 bn US$. For example the 2010 report, published by the U.S. Department of State, points that Kosovo is a source, transit side, and destination of women and children, victims of human trafficking. Criminal groups in Europe are making around €2.5 billion per year through sexual exploitation and forced labour. In Europe over half of the victims come from the Balkans (32 per cent) and the former Soviet Union (19 per cent), with 13 per cent originating in South America, seven per cent in Central Europe, five per cent in Africa and three per cent in East Asia. (UNODC presented its report Trafficking in persons to Europe for sexual exploitation on 29 June 2010)

Click a related picture from The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN), BiH P19_Overview_ENG

Clan society as success factor

Organized crime in the Balkans has its roots in the traditional clan structures. In these largely rural countries, people organized into clans with large familial ties for protection and mutual assistance. Starting in the 15th century, clan relationships operated under the kanun, or code, which values loyalty and besa, or secrecy. Each clan established itself in specific territories and controlled all activities in that territory. Protection of activities and interests often led to violence between the clans. The elements inherent in the structure of the clans provided the perfect backbone for what is considered modern-day Balkan organized crime.

Many years of communist rule led to black market activities in the Balkans, but the impact of these activities was limited to the region. When communism collapsed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it led to the expansion of Balkan organized crime activities. Criminal markets once closed to Balkan groups suddenly opened, and this led to the creation of an international network. Within the Balkans, organized crime groups infiltrated the new democratic institutions, further expanding their profit opportunities. Albanian organized crime activities for example in the U.S. include gambling, money laundering, drug trafficking, human smuggling, extortion, violent witness intimidation, robbery, attempted murder, and murder. Balkan organized crime groups have recently expanded into more sophisticated crimes including real estate fraud. (More e.g. in FBI sites )

Another notable feature of the Balkan route is that some important networks have clan-based and hierarchically organized structures. Albanian groups in particular have such structures, making them particularly hard to infiltrate. This partially explains their continued involvement in several European heroin markets. Albanian networks continue to be particularly visible in Greece, Italy and Switzerland. Italy is one of the most important heroin markets in Europe, and frequently identified as a base of operation for Balkan groups who exploit the local diaspora. According to WCO seizure statistics, Albanians made up the single largest group (32%) of all arrestees for heroin trafficking in Italy between 2000 and 2008. The next identified group was Turks followed by Italians and citizens of Balkan countries (Bulgaria, Kosovo/Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and to some extent Greece).The combined GDP of Kosovo/Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania at US$20 billion is equivalent to the value of West-Europe’s heroin market. A number of unresolved conflicts and/or remaining inter-ethnic tensions along sections of this route continue to prevent the emergence of effective regional counterdrug cooperation and to facilitate trafficking.

New business opportunities?

Though recent years have seen a proliferation of entry points, including some in the Balkan region, most of the cocaine entering Europe does so through one of two hubs: Spain and Portugal in the south, or Netherlands and Belgium in the north. A few groups from the Balkan region have also emerged as players in the international cocaine trade in recent years.

Some 500 kilos of cocaine were seized Nov 25 in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Núñez. Investigators said the drugs belonged to a Serbian criminal organization –the same one that shipped more than two tons of narcotics on a yacht bound from Buenos Aires only to be busted by the Uruguayan navy on October 15 when the boat was at anchor at a fishing pier in Santiago Vasquez, near Montevideo.

Over the past several years the Serb mafia has established vital business relationships with the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) in Colombia and in Mexico with Sinaloa/Guzman and Zetas/La Compania, which in turn interfaces with another partner of the Serbs– the Ndrangheta in Calabria, Italy. According to Serb police sources jointly organized criminal groups from Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina take in 200 million Euros per year off the cocaine trade. (Source Narcoguerratimes)

Political aspect

The US got involved in massive drug operations, importation, processing and distribution during the Reagan years, supposedly to finance covert CIA operations involving death squads tasked with murdering Sandinista “infrastructure” in Nicaragua. The deal involved Israel, Iran and the Colombian cartel. Saddam was even involved. In the end, President Reagan was put on the stand only to remember little or nothing of his tenure in office. Lt. Col. Oliver North was convicted as was Secretary of Defense Weinberger and many others. Pardons and “other methods” were used to keep the guilty out of jail. (Source: Did Bush/Cheney rebuild Reagan’s “Iran Contra” drug gang? article by Gordon Duff, in Salem-News)

Radical Islam has enforced and widened their activities in Balkans last 15 years. During Bosnian war many foreign Islamists came to fight in mujahedeen brigade also many Al Quida figures – including Osama bin Laden – were supporting Bosnian Muslims 1990’s. US took the side with these “freedom fighters” in Bosnia and later in Kosovo. Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) were established mid-90s. This made the base to successful (Kosovo) Albanian traffickers who now control some 70 % of heroin entering EU markets. Kosovo is serving as a junction for heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to West Europe through famous Balkan route. Ethnic Albanian traffickers have been described as a “threat to the EU” by the Council of Europe at least as recently as 2005. In fact, ethnic Albanian heroin trafficking is arguably the single most prominent organized crime problem in Europe today.

So from my point of view US foreign policy tactics helped to create logistics between markets via Balkan route and producers of heroin. This creature has been further developed by itself more strong by financial connection between Wahhabi organizations e.g. in Kosovo and international terrorism and Wahhabis as potential pool for operations. Same time there is historical and social link between organized crime groups and Kosovo’s political leaders. All this has also its international dimensions. Today Kosovo is a pseudo-state with good change to become next “failed” or “captured” state if international community does not firm its grip in province. Today’s Kosovo is already safe-heaven for war criminals, drug traffickers, international money laundry and radical Wahhabists – unfortunately all are also allies of western powers. I have earlier described circumstances in Kosovo with Fourfold or “Quadruple Helix Model” where government, underworld, Wahhabbi schools and international terrorism have win-win symbiosis. (More in “Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo”)

Kosovo – Captured state?

“It is the Colombia of Europe” (Marko Nikovic)

Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) were established mid-90s. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society. In some other important drug transit zones trafficking is reflected in high levels of violence but not in Balkans. UN report explains this that good links between crime organizations and commercial/political elites have ensured that Balkan organized crime groups have traditionally encountered little resistance from the state or rival groups.

A relatively universal model of terrorist operations in the world – which is, as a rule, usually funded from criminal sources (trafficking in drugs, arms and people, as well as in excise goods) – was applied, at one time, by the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), and was taken over, and is applied now, by the leaders of the Albanian National Army (ANA). Drenica group, loyal to Hashim Thaqi (PM of Kosovo, under UNSCR 1244) is mainly involved in arms trafficking, dealing in stolen vehicles, in human beings, excise goods and, above all, cigarettes and fuel. Through his family connections, Thaqi has direct control over the local institutions through which he provides and secures an unhindered performance of the said criminal activity. The Thaqi family has ties with the Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian and Check mafia. The so-called Metohija group, led by Ramush Haradinaj (ex-PM of Kosovo), is active in Dukadjin zone in cooperation with Lab region,. The Haradinaj family is mainly oriented toward the illegal trade of weapons, drugs, excise goods and stolen cars, but also toward the racketeering of the Albanian population in K&M. there are also some ten other families whose operations are oriented toward illegal trade and smuggling and who conduct the described activities in cooperation with, or under the supervision of, one of the listed chiefs.

More about link between organized crime and Kosovo political leaders one can find e.g. from “Albanian Terrorism and Oraganized Crime in Kosovo and Metohija (K&M)”, White paper published by the Serbian government, September 2003. Related background information can be found also from “leaked” German Intelligence reports BND report 2005 and BND-IEP report Kosovo 2007 which can be found from my document library under Kosovo headline.

Is Yemen the next target for the War on Terror?

January 7, 2010

Somebody in our government said to me in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act pre-emptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.” (Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.)

On December 25 US authorities arrested a Nigerian named Abdulmutallab aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from to on charges of having tried to blow up the plane with smuggled explosives. He was “suspected” of having been trained in for his terror mission in Yemen. A new target for the “War on Terror” has been found. Is it really so that a guy who burnt his trousers with some powder hidden there has so big influence to geopolitics – I have some doubts. More than from trousers of this desperate Nigerian wannabe terrorist the hidden agenda may be found again from great energy game and from interests of military-industrial complex.

Yemen has a population 23.8 million is located at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula , bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, Oman to the east, Red Sea to the west and Gulf of Aden to the south. It is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world. Per capita GDP estimated at $2,500; 45% live below the poverty line, and 35% are unemployed. The Republic of Yemen was created in 1990 when North and South Yemen united. President is Ali Abdallah Saleh became the first elected President in reunified Yemen in 1999 (though he had been President of unified Yemen since 1990 and President of North Yemen since 1978). 53% of the Muslim population is Sunni and 47% is Shi’a. Among Yemen’s natural and cultural attractions are four World Heritage sites.

The fight now

Yemen’s southern provinces have recently been the scene of US air strikes which Washington claims to be aimed at uprooting an al-Qaeda cell operative in the Persian Gulf state. But the residents of the area dismiss the claims that al-Qaeda members are being targeted in the US-sponsored air strikes, while Yemen’s government says the strike targeted militants and their relatives.

The Yemen-based group, which claims to be affiliated with Osama bin Laden’s organisation, had earlier claimed responsibility for the failed attack and called for strikes on embassies in Yemen.

The US operation in southern Yemen comes on top of a joint Saudi-Yemeni military campaign in the country’s war-weary north where Sana’a and Riyadh forces are engaged in a fierce fighting against the Houthi fighters. The Houthis, who accuse the Sunni-dominated Sana’a government of discrimination and repression against Yemen’s Shia minority, were the target of the army’s off and on attacks before the central government launched an all-out fighting against them in early August. Saudi Arabia joined the operation later following alleged clashes between its border guards and the Houthis, carrying out regular air strikes and ground incursions against the fighters.

One presumption is that US has gave the Saudis a green light to militarily intervene in Yemen to defend the Sunnis against Shias. It remains to see if this outsourcing of US foreign policy to the Saudis is enough or will escalation occur.

The Oil

The actual reason for planned U.S. involvement can be the fact that the U.S.-backed dictator, Yemen’s President Saleh, increasingly is losing control after two decades as despotic ruler of the unified Yemen. Economic conditions in the country took a drastic downward slide in 2008 when world oil prices collapsed. Some 70% of the state revenues derive from Yemen’s oil sales. The central government of Saleh sits in former North Yemen in Sana’a, while the oil is in former South Yemen. Yet Saleh controls the oil revenue flows. Lack of oil revenue has made Saleh’s usual option of buying off opposition groups all but impossible. The government has little control outside the capital, leaving a power vacuum in large swaths of the mountainous, impoverished nations.

For U.S. Yemen is important for two energy related issues: one is Yemen’s geopolitical location as one of the world’s most important oil transport routes and the other is undeveloped – some say one of the world’s largest – petroleum reserves in the territory.

The U.S. Government Energy Information Agency states that “closure of the Bab el-Mandab could keep tankers from the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal/Sumed pipeline complex, diverting them around the southern tip of Africa. The Strait of Bab el-Mandab is a chokepoint between the horn of Africa and the Middle East, and a strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean.”

Important World Oil Transit Chokepoints

In addition to its geopolitical position as a major global oil transit chokepoint, Yemen is reported to hold some of the world’s greatest untapped oil reserves. Yemen’s Masila Basin and Shabwa Basin are reported by international oil companies to contain “world class discoveries.”

The US military-industrial-complex

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” (Dwight Eisenhower)

The same forces that steered the Bush Administration still seem alive and well today. The Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC) has its decisive say in U.S. foreign policy. Why so? The explanation can be found from picture above describing spending in U.S. federal budget.

The military industry is a dominant player in the US economy. Military orders drive America’s manufacturing sector. More than one-third of all engineers and scientists in the US are engaged in military-related jobs. Several sections of the country and a number of industrial sectors, particularly shipbuilding and aerospace, are greatly dependent upon military spending or foreign arms sales. The Department of Defense (DoD), together with the top defense corporations – or what is known as the “military-industrial complex” – controls the largest coordinated bloc of industry in the US. Roughly 75% of federal research and development expenditure is devoted to military projects.

While military contractors are looking for new markets, the Pentagon is seeking a new mission. Pentagon and U.S. intelligence are moving to militarize a strategic chokepoint for the world’s oil flows, Bab el-Mandab. The Somalia piracy incident, together with claims of a new Al Qaeda threat arising from Yemen, are serving as good excuse to this campaign.

Citing an unnamed former top CIA official, the New York Times wrote that a year ago the Central Intelligence Agency sent many field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country. At the same time, some of the most secretive special operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counter-terrorism tactics, the report said. The Pentagon will be spending more than 70 million dollars over the next 18 months, and using teams of special forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels, the paper noted.

Without doubt, the military-industrial complex has a stake in expanding areas to be exploited for oil as well as protecting U.S. oil sources. This is good news to the weapons industry. While many sectors in the US are suffering from the economic crunch, top weapons manufacturers are awaiting new orders, hiring new people, looking for new investments and gaining attention on the stock market. Political connections are also helpful in ensuring business and creating new markets. This connection helped influence overthrows of several foreign governments perceived as unfriendly to American business. It also allowed the companies to be at the right place at the right time to take advantage of new business opportunities with puppet regimes.

Military Industrial Complex is much more than only developing, producing and marketing weapons. One part is hired guns – private armies – like DynCorp and Xe (formerly Blackwater USA) costing tens of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lack of oversight so scandalous that rampant waste, fraud, and abuse plus war crimes go unmonitored. While U.S. troops are implementing COIN strategy in Afghanistan these companies like the infamous Blackwater, now called Xe, are at work for the CIA, which is spearheading the covert Pakistan war, and this all costs money, big money. Fortunately, the agency still has the opium crop to cover the shortfalls in budget or cash.

War vs. Solution

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi warned that the United States

should learn from its experiences in Pakistan and Afganistan and not repeat the mistakes in Yemen, both in dealing with the government of Yemen and confronting al-Qaeda. The United States and other Western powers need to provide long-term economic development to reduce poverty and raise educational standards, which can help combat terrorism in a more effective fashion than just using military force.

Recently in his interview to Al Jazeera al-Qirbi stated that

Yemen is going to deal with terrorism in its own way, out of its own interests and therefore I don’t think it will counterfire, … The negative impact on Yemen is if there is direct intervention of the US and this is not the case.

One task is to prevent exaggeration of problem. The “war on terror” can be used as Yemen’s internal policy instrument when the President tries to transfer his power to his son by stamping the opposition as supporters of al Qaeda. In overall Yemen’s fragile government is in a delicate balancing act between its allegiance to the United States and tribal, political and religious forces that resent U.S. interference in Yemen and sympathize with al-Qaeda’s ideology.

From my point of view this the core question which often seems to be forgotten while U.S.MIC tries to secure its quarterly bonuses. I hope that at least EU understands that for solution one needs to take account sociological, religious, tribal and political aspects.

U.S. Coin strategy in Afghanistan tries to be more comprehensive than pure military attack, but it also can fail if presumptions are false – or moderated to get political acceptance. More about this in my article “Will Coin work in Afghanistan?

Sure also civil crisis management operation can fail like it has been case in Balkans Some examples in my articles “Bosnia collapsing?” and “Kosovo update” . However this failure probably does not cost so many lives than failed or even successful military operation.

With these kind of economical interests it is easy to understand that a guy with burning trousers serves only as part of marketing plan to gain public acceptance. The planning of war started much earlier and probably MIC has already started planning of next invasion options after Yemen.

Will Coin work in Afghanistan?

December 11, 2009

“After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.” (Barack Obama)

They are coming already in coffins.” (Ari Rusila)

US President Obama finally announced his new counter-insurgency (aka “Coin”) strategy in Afghanistan – which continues mostly the strategy of his predecessor Mr. Bush. Generals and influential – if not decisive – military-industrial complex got what they want and once again USA is seeking military solution to mainly political problem. I am interested to see if the selected strategy can be implemented, against or for whom it is planed, what is the role of Europe in this game and whether there would be maybe better alternatives available.

President Obama justified sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan at a cost of $30 billion a year. US mission is seize the initiative against a resurgent Taliban while building the capacity of Afghan forces so that American and NATO forces can gradually hand off security responsibilities to the Afghans. Also, support the further development of the Afghan economy and key Afghan civilian institutions. The troops should start to return after 18 months on Summer 2011 just before next US President election.


Counterinsurgency: military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency. Political power is the central issue in insurgencies and counterinsurgencies.

A figure of Mr. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency strategist and aid of General Petraeus, describes well the different elements of Coin.

Coin theory emphasises a “population-centric” over an “enemy-centric” approach. It disinters the language of “clear, hold and build”, resonant of the Vietnam era, and describes soldiers and marines as “nation-builders as well as warriors” (to borrow a phrase from the US army’s much-lauded 2006 counter-insurgency field manual, co-authored by the celebrated General David Petraeus). Coin is predicated on the idea that it is possible to win supporters for an insurgency by providing security and basic services, and ensuring the presence of a strong, legitimate government.

Mike Whitney in his article Obama’s plan for Afghanistan gives an other perspective to new strategy:

Militarily, the goal is to pit one ethnicity against the other, to incite civil war, and to split the country in smaller units that can be controlled by warlords working with Washington. But instead of unifying the different ethnic regions of Afghanistan, the NATO occupation seems headed more toward a de facto partition of these regions. The foreign policy team that President Obama has assembled includes some of the same figures who advocated the ethnic-sectarian partition of Yugoslavia and Iraq. Obama’s Special Envoy to Af-Pak, Richard Holbrooke, authored the agreement that partioned Bosnia into Serb and Muslim-Croat republics in 1995, in effect rubber-stamping the ethnic cleansing that had forcibly removed populations during a three-year civil war. He also turned a blind eye when Serb civilians were expelled from Croatia the same year, and from Kosovo in 1999.

During his inaugural visit to Washington, new German defence secretary, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg said it was necessary to put aside “the romantic idea of democratization of the whole country along the lines of the western model” and instead “transfer control of individual provinces step by step to the Afghan security forces.” The new strategy of “regionalization” is aimed at dividing Afghanistan into individual cantons—in a similar manner to what took place in Lebanon and the former Yugoslavia. Up to now the US-NATO occupation supported the government of Hamid Karzai and sold the process to the public as “democratization”. However, occupation forces are moving increasingly to hand over power directly to regional warlords and their militias—on the assumption that such regional forces will follow the orders of their imperial masters. As soon as there is no more danger in a specific province, Guttenberg declared, then the international troops should be withdrawn from that area.

Will it work?

“It’s an expensive gamble to undertake armed nation-building on behalf of a corrupt government of questionable legitimacy.” (Russ Feingold, Democrat Senator of Wisconsin)

Leave the Rag Heads to their rocks . Close the borders. (one alternative strategy in discussion forums)

The only Afghans that will welcome US troops are the ones that can successfully exploit them to wipe out rival tribes. The rest want them dead. However the new plan hopes that U.S. troop numbers and operations will set the Taliban on its heels and give the Afghan government and friendly regional authorities the time and space they need to hold off the Taliban on their own.

The US Army Field manual (2006) emphasises the importance of “troop density”, or the ratio of security forces to inhabitants: “20 counter-insurgents per 1,000 residents (or 1:50) is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective Coin operations”.

The CIA estimates Afghanistan’s population, as of July 2009, to be roughly 28.4 million. Thus, going by the 1:50 ratio, the size of the US-led coalition force would need to be approximately 568,000 troops. Even adding in the 97,000 Afghan police officers and the 100,000-odd Afghan soldiers leaves the NATO-led force more than 200,000 counter-insurgents short of the “minimum”.

Mehdi Hassan gives even more pessimistic view over Coin numbers game in his article “Two sides of the Coin”. He claims that the Afghan National Army is plagued by desertion: 10,000 recruits have disappeared in recent months. Soldiers are under-equipped and underpaid; some 15 per cent of them are thought to be drug addicts. Dominated by Tajik troops from the north of the country, the “national” army has little or no credibility in the southern, Pashtun areas of Afghanistan, where the Taliban mainly operate, and from where they draw ethnic support.

A quote from mentioned article of Mr. Hassan:

The Afghan army is useless and the police are corrupt,” says Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies. “So what does McChrystal propose? More useless troops and corrupt police. It’s a counter-intuitive solution.” According to Plesch, there is a yawning gap between Coin theory and practice. “It’s all fine on paper, but that doesn’t translate into success on the ground,”

According to a recent statistics, one gallon oil costs the invading troops $ 400 and annual expenditure of one soldier is almost one million US dollar. They have to pay $ 30 billion more per year for the troops surge recently announced by Obama. The administration already planned to spend $73bn on Afghanistan in the fiscal year 2010. Now the total will be over $100bn.

To these numbers, add a shadow footprint consisting of tens of thousands of private contractors – 73,968 according to a September 21, 2009 Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report as of June 2009. Included are familiar names like Kellogg, Brown and Root, Fluor Corp, Lockheed Martin and hired guns like DynCorp and Xe (formerly Blackwater USA) costing tens of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan for lack of oversight so scandalous that rampant waste, fraud, and abuse go unmonitored and will worsen with more troops. Additionally the infamous Blackwater, now called Xe, is at work for the CIA, which is spearheading the covert Pakistan war, and this all costs money, big money. So, fortunately, the agency still has the opium crop to cover the shortfalls in budget or cash.

President Karzai said that Afghanistan would not be able to pay for its own security until at least 2024, underscoring his government’s long-term financial dependence on the United States and NATO even as President Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing American troops in 2011.

Against whom?

Afghanistan is no longer home to al-Qaeda (Pakistan is), and al-Qaeda doesn’t need Afghan territory to be a threat. Nor is it certain the Taliban would invite al-Qaeda back in if it had the chance. President Barack Obama’s description of the al Qaeda “cancer” in that country left out one key fact: U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country. With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30 billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year.

A powerful grass roots movement has blossomed in Afghanistan, giving its people new hope, self-esteem and a sense of belonging. The problem for US is that this movement is the Taliban. The Taliban and their allies have shadow governments in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. There is a fear among Western military officials and diplomats that the Taliban insurgents are doing much more than the Afghan government to establish good governance and accountability. The Taliban aid groups also coordinate widely their activities with the Taliban in remote areas, so the Taliban can claim the credit and not the government. In the remote provinces, the Taliban’s efforts have reinforced two images: on the other hand an absent and/or corrupt Afghan central government and effective and accountable Taliban administration on the other. It seems logical that what Afghanistan needs is not solutions from the top down but from the bottom up. Now it seems that the Taliban — a dispersed people’s movement, spanning thousands of villages, through which the Afghan people can regain a sense of control over their government – is answering better the to the needs of ordinary citizens than US and their puppet government in Kabul.

If local commitment or participation to “new” strategy is weak I think that it does not have any possibilities to realize. Speaking about local motivation to help Yanks to implement their task it might be good idea to recall a couple of years old CBS documentary – “Bombing Afghanistan“- A little comparison of the Russian past and current practice of a Yank in Afghanistan. A couple of extracts:

“During the Russian invasion we have not heard of 10 members of one family being killed by Russians in one incident. But the Americans did that, “remarked a Villager.

“We used to hate the Russians much more than Americans,” replied the Villager. “But now when we see all this happening, I am telling you Russians behave much better than the Americans.”

Instead of terrorists or Al Oaeda US seem to fight against just ordinary citizens.

For whom?

If it is difficult to find the real enemy for new US strategy in Afghanistan the better question could be for whom the strategy will be implemented. Given the influence of military-industrial complex in US (foreign)policy the answer may be found from that direction.

The vital interest of US could be to ensure that Pakistan does not become a failed state with, in the worst case, its nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Ironically the US provides one-third of the entire budget of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, which e.g. India consistently highlights as the mastermind of terrorism in the region.

One can have an reasonable understanding that the core issue in this war is not Afghanistan or “defending the American people” — but establishing a stable U.S. domination over a broad and highly strategic swath reaching from Iran (east of Afghanistan) to Pakistan (west of Afghanistan).

Equally, there is better awareness in Delhi that the war in Afghanistan is not merely about hunting down Osama bin Laden but is also a war with an agenda towards Central Asia, Russia, China and Iran.

US military-industrial complex has been shaping the country’s economy and affecting its foreign policy. the last decade of military adventurism A recent count found the Department had 47,000 primary contractors, or over 100,000 firms, including subcontractors, and if a full tally of the Federal money headed their way were made, it would lift the published defense budget by about two-thirds, or $300 billion. The avalanche of money sustains and coopts everyone from Halliburton ($6 billion in one recent year) to Electronic Data Systems Corporation ($2.4 billion) to Verizon ($277 million) to Proctor & Gamble ($362 million) Even academia is in tow, with about 350 colleges and universities agreeing to do Pentagon-funded research. Amid all this waste the Pentagon spares no effort to keep the media on its side, both in the US and elsewhere. Believe it or not, the military allocated at least $4.7 billion this year to “influence operations” and has more than 27,000 employees devoted to such activities.

Besides military industry also energy sector has its interests in Afghanistan. In his article “The Great Game – The War For Caspian Oil And Gas” Christopher Bollyn describes following:

Those that control the oil routes out of Central Asia will impact all future direction and quantities of flow and the distribution of revenues from new production, Enron, the biggest contributor to the Bush campaign of 2000, conducted the feasibility study for a $2.5 billion Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which is being built under a joint venture agreement signed in February 1999 between Turkmenistan and two American companies, Bechtel and General Electric Capital Services. Enron, a Texas-based gas and energy company, together with Amoco, British Petroleum, Chevron, Exxon, Mobil and Unocal are all engaged in a multi-billion dollar frenzy to extract the reserves of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.

Noble rhetoric about fighting for justice and democracy is masking a less noble struggle for control of an estimated $5 trillion of oil and gas resources from the Caspian Basin .,” The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline is slated to be completed in 2014, with $7.6 billion in funding from the Asian Development Bank.

EU as bystander – Russia proposes Security Treaty

From an European perspective has it has been humiliating to wait months what President Obama will decide about Afghanistan – where is the EU alternative given the praise above in my quote? There is much talk in EU of civilian crisis management skills and soft power to resolve conflicts. If such expertise exists why there is no alternative strategies prepared in EU, why EU is outsourcing strategical planning to USA.

I am not saying that an Afghanistan strategy prepared in EU machinery or by European think tanks would be better than that now planned in Pentagon. What interferers me is that there is even try to make it. There is some civil-military co-operation models in Europe, some experience about implemented missions, some studies about “comprehensive approach”. Why EU’s machinery has not developed a program for Afghanistan with its own LogFrame methods?

How the EU’s role in international politics can grow if it does not create alternative models from EU’s own strengths. and not anticipated the initiative to implement them?

More over EU foreign policy possibilities e.g. in my article “Could EU lead the 3rd way out from confrontation

There is also possibilities for wider preparation to deal with international conflicts by developing the ideas proposed Russian President Medvedev. From my point of view his Treaty of European security –draft should be given the change. In his speech in the Serbian Parliament 20/10/2009 he summarized as follows:

Preparing and signing a European Security Treaty could be a starting point for creating a common security zone in the Euro-Atlantic region, and would provide equal and reliable guarantees to all states.

The idea is to build an international cooperation mechanism under UN Security Council responding to threads and challenges in the security sphere. I think that now it is time at least discuss about lessons learned, develop, copy and apply better practices and the forum should be much more wider than Pentagon only. Will the outcome be a new structure or updated old one shall be seen but even more important is to start process itself.

A guestion of Pashtunistan?

Pashtunistan is not on any map, but it’s where leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban both hide. It straddles 1,000 miles of the 1,600-mile Afghan-Pakistani border. It is inhabited by the ethnic Pashtuns, a fiercely independent people that number 12 million on the Afghan side and 27 million on the Pakistani side. They have a language (Pashto), an elaborate traditional code of legal and moral conduct (Pashtunwali), a habit of crossing the largely unmarked border at will, and a centuries-long history of foreign interventions that ended badly for the foreigners. Today, the enemies of the United States are nearly all in Pashtunistan, an aspirational name coined long ago by advocates of an independent Pashtun homeland.

The Americans can fight openly only in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan, and the Taliban know it. What to do with Pakistan, bomb it to stone age or what? I hope that planning of Pakistan case has started and is going on with higher standards that Afghanistan case has implemented.

Grass root approach needed instead top to bottom

A revolutionary war is 20 per cent military action and 80 per cent political is a formula that reflects the truth.” (David Galula, Counter-Insurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, 1964)

U.S. spending in Iraq 2003-2006 was 1.4% civilian, 98.6% military” (Dan Sullivan, Sep 2006)

The strategy which Obama now selected has been in public more than three months. I really wonder how the brainstorming during this time has not better outcome than to continue strategy which President Bush already began years ago.

In my previous article “Afghanistan – to be or not” I present other options and summarize my idea as follows:

My conclusion is that the core question is not in or out. I would see the word with as best practice for future relations between the US / EU and Afghanistan.

The civil component and its use is a core question related to further developments in Afghanistan. Normally in US operations the numbers of civilians are normally a tiny fraction of what the military surge numbers are. Capacity building is critical not just in Kabul or inside military compounds, but out there in the field at the district and local levels.

Without local commitment any solution – military or civilian – is not sustainable. Of course if the perspective is only to next U.S. election campaign then real solutions are not the core question.

Bottom line

15. Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is.” (T.E.Lawrence, “Twenty-Seven Articles”, 20.08.1917)

This is a 10-year, trillion-dollar effort and does not match up with our interests,” Obama said while receiving a memo over costs of McChrystal plan. I agree and have doubts whether the new strategy will serve only to guarantee the wins of military-industrial complex.

The Taliban wrote in a statement emailed to news organizations that they have “no agenda of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries and is ready to give legal guarantee if the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan,”

Critics of the new focus on counter-insurgency theory claim it is a tactical gimmick that enables policy-makers to avoid thinking long and hard about what the endgame in Afghanistan will actually look like. It is not a recipe for winning the war in the long run, they say; it is only for avoiding defeat in the short run.

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War following: “Strategy without tactics is the slow road to victory, but tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” I agree and would add that if there is no vision about endgame one does not even know is the road leading to victory or defeat.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed…. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people…. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. (President Dwight Eisenhower)

Afghanistan – to be or not?

November 2, 2009

“democracies make elections, elections don’t make democracies”

After Afghanistan’s fraudulent elections President Obama’s future politics in failing state is still foggy. Conflicting views of Obama’s staff, escalation of War to Pakistan, lack of clear vision and strategy are not making choice easy. The rest of the world is waiting U.S. leadership and considering same time their exit strategies. For EU latest now it is time for a rethink (European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) and crisis management practice.

After catastrophic first round there is a plan to have a bit more fair second round on 7th November. However Karzai’s opponent former FM Abdullah Abdullah has indicated that he does not believe election system and is planning to withdraw his candidature. After that people can make the democratic choice between one candidate only. This mess with elections shows clearly that central government in Kabul can not be effective partner while seeking new strategy for Afghanistan. It also underscores how ridiculous it is to import desk drawer plans from Brussels or Washington to totally different environment. On the other hand on country side the Taliban are the residents of that place and historically they have proved how resistant they are towards the foreign invaders and their ideas.

Some historical background

In Afghanistan, prior to the Russian invasion, the PDPA or ( the Peoples Democratic Party of
Afghanistan) invited the USSR to assist in modernizing its economic infrastructure, mainly exploration and mining of minerals and natural gas. The USSR also sent contractors to build hospitals, roads and schools and to drill water wells. They also trained and equipped the Afghan army. The country was then renamed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), and the PDPA regime lasted, in some form or another, until April 1992.

Once in power, the PDPA moved to permit freedom of religion and carried out an ambitious land reform waiving farmers’ debts countrywide. They also made a number of statements on women’s rights and introduced women to political life. A prominent example was Anahita Ratebzad, who was a major Marxist leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council. Ratebzad wrote the famous May 28, 1978 New Kabul Times editorial which declared: “Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country … Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention.”

As part of a Cold War, in 1979 the United States government began to covertly fund forces ranged against the pro-Soviet government, although warned that this might prompt a Soviet intervention. The secular nature of the government made it unpopular with conservative Afghans in the villages and the countryside who favoured traditionalist ” Islamic” restrictions on women’s rights and in daily life. Many groups, led by members of the traditional establishment were formed, some of them resorting to violence and sabotage to the country’s infrastructure and industry. under the umbrella of Mujahideen, or ” Holy Muslim Warriors”. The Mujahideen belonged to various different factions, but all shared, to varying degrees, a similarly conservative ‘Islamic’ ideology.

The Soviet Union intervened on December 24, 1979. Over 100,000 Soviet troops took part in the invasion backed by another one hundred thousand and by members of the Parcham faction. For over nine years the Soviet Army conducted military operations against the Afghan Mujahideen rebels. The American CIA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia assisted in the financing of the resistance also because of the anti-communist stance. Among the foreign participants in the war was Osama bin Laden, whose MAK ( maktab al-Khidamat/Office of Order) organization trained a small number of Mujahideen and provided some arms and funds to fight the Soviets. Around 1988 MAK broke away from the Mujahideen to expand the anti-Soviet resistance effort into a world-wide Islamic fundamentalist movement.

The Soviets withdrew its troops in February of 1989, but continued aid to the government led by Mohammed Najibullah. Massive amounts of aid from the CIA and Saudi Arabia to the Mujahideen also continued. Fighting continued among the victorious Mujahideen factions, which gave rise to a state of warlordism. It was at this time that the Taliban developed as a politico-religious force, eventually seizing Kabul in 1996 and establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. By the end of 2000 the Taliban had captured 95% of the country.

During the Taliban’s seven-year rule, much of the population experienced restrictions on their freedom and violations of their human rights. Women were banned from jobs, girls forbidden to attend schools or universities. Communists were systematically eradicated and thieves were punished by amputating one of their hands or feet. Opium production was nearly wiped out by the Taliban by 2001.

Now war in Afghanistan has slogged on for nearly nine years, making it longer than America’s involvement in World Wars I and II combined. U.S. has already spent $228 billion, almost 1000 Americans have been killed (nearly 200 so far this year), and Obama’s summer surge has muscled up America’s Afghan presence to 68,000 troops (plus another 42,000 from NATO. After last elections there is some base to claim that Obama is strengthening a central government that is “infamously incompetent, openly corrupt, criminally abusive, and thoroughly despised”.

Interactive tracking the U.S. War in Afghanistan here!

COIN: McChrystal’s plan

“Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces; our objective must be the population. In the struggle to gain the support of the people, every action we take must enable this effort.” (Gen. McChrystal)

The integrated counterinsurgency, or COIN, strategy that McChrystal wants to pursue has many components: protecting Afghan civilians, rapidly expanding the Afghan army and police, reforming government, providing economic development assistance, weaning Taliban fighters and leaders away from Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, reconciling them into the new government, and targeting those who refuse. This makes it a demanding strategy that McChrystal reportedly believes will require providing at least an additional 10,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops and more than doubling existing Afghan forces to a total of 400,000 indigenous soldiers and police.

McChrystal says that, “Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying insurgent forces; our objective must be the population. In the struggle to gain the support of the people, every action we take must enable this effort.”

McChrystal’s strategy can be seen as an applied version of Gen. Petraeus’ strategy in Iraq. However when in Iraq could be found an inner conflict between Shia and Sunni factions, between Kurds and other ethnic groups in Afghanistan there is no popular revolt against the Taliban, only a culture in which dominant local warlords flit from one allegiance to another. It defeated the British in 1842 and the Soviets in 1989.

Now the coalition has enough troops to carry out a “clear, hold and build” strategy – but only in a few districts. Overall force levels remain far below what they were in Iraq during the surge – when 174,000 foreign troops worked with 430,000 Iraqi security personnel. Afghanistan, which is bigger than Iraq, has just 102,000 coalition troops and 175,000 local security forces. More from article by Max Boot “There’s No Substitute for Troops on the Ground” October 22, 2009/New york Times.

Integrated COIN is itself no guarantee of success. Social scientists have estimated its success rate at somewhere between 25 and 70 percent at best.

Other alternatives

Today, the war in Afghanistan is at a historic juncture. At this crucial stage President Obama is set to take a risky decision. He has to decide between sending more troops in line with General McChrystal’s demand or to reduce forces in accordance with an exit strategy. There is alternative strategies and quite comprehensive analysis can be found e.g. from article “Is There a Middle Way” by Stephen Biddle in The New Republic on October 20th, 2009 which has been my main source with options below.

1) Use Drones

Another popular middle way is to rely on drone attacks, of the kind now ongoing in northwest Pakistan, to suppress Al Qaeda without a major ground commitment in Afghanistan. By killing key leaders and limiting the others’ freedom of action, it is argued, the drone strikes make large-scale terrorism much harder. Drone-based counterterrorism cannot destroy Al Qaeda outright, but it might be able to constrain it far more cheaply than a major counterinsurgency campaign could.

The biggest challenge to relying on drones is the need for intelligence. Drones are not wonder weapons; in particular, they require information on targets’ whereabouts that is normally provided by other assets–and especially by host government cooperation on the ground. It was Pakistani government penetration of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, for example, that reportedly enabled a U.S. Predator drone to kill terrorist leader Baitullah Meshud in August 2009. In general, such spies, informants, and other tipsters are key intelligence sources for drone attacks on secretive terrorist groups. This “human intelligence,” however, is very hard to get if the government on the ground decides to deny it to the United States.

According to media reports, significant elements within the civilian leadership of the government, led by Vice President Joe Biden, have opposed McChrystal’s plan for an intensified counterinsurgency campaign aimed at breaking the resistance of the Afghan people to US occupation. Instead, Biden and others have proposed an alternative strategy, which reportedly relies on air strikes, accelerated training of Afghan puppet forces and the use of US special forces troops to strike against insurgents across the border in Pakistan.

2) Reconcile with the Taliban

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to have good and positive relations with all neighbors based on mutual respect and open a new chapter of good neighborliness of mutual cooperation and economic development. We consider the whole region as a common home against colonialism and want to play our role in peace and stability of the region. “

The quote above is from open letter of Taliban leader Mullah Omar to Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit on 19th September 2009. The letter indicated a shift in Taliban’s general policy and approach towards neighboring countries, the US and Europe.In the same tone, he assured China, India and Russia that the Taliban is going to play positive role in establishing peace and stability in the region. According to some observers who closely monitor the Taliban’s activities, these are new efforts to set out their priorities by focusing on Afghani interests rather than holding to a wide global network.

Recently the Taliban have become more watchful of the foreign Jihadists in Afghanistan. They require foreign militants to work the under supervision of the Taliban provincial commanders. Foreign militant are now not allowed, like before, to carry out their activities. independently.

Another common proposal is to negotiate a power-sharing deal with some or all of the Taliban as a means of ending the war without the escalation embodied in the McChrystal recommendations. America’s real interests are quite limited, it is often argued, so why not pursue a settlement to bring the Taliban into a coalition government on the proviso that they keep Al Qaeda out and deny the use of Afghan territory for destabilizing Pakistan?Karzai has reportedly been reaching out to the Quetta Shura and Hekmatyar factions of the Taliban via Saudi intermediaries for some time now; the talks have never made real progress because the Taliban insist on a total withdrawal of foreign forces as a precondition for negotiation.

3) Buy Off Warlords

It is sometimes argued that the West should stabilize Afghanistan and control Al Qaeda by paying warlords, tribal leaders, or other local power brokers to police their own turf, rather than relying on the national government in Kabul to control the entire country. Afghanistan has never had a strong central government, and order in the provinces has often been maintained by local authorities, legal and otherwise. The British, it is said, found direct control impossible but managed to wield influence by paying tribal or factional leaders. If the United States is willing to settle for government-by-warlord, then it could avoid the expense and risk of an orthodox counterinsurgency campaign while still denying militants access to Afghan havens.The traditional tribal leadership is one thing, but many of Afghanistan’s former warlords and current narcotics kingpins are hated figures whose predatory rule is disliked even more than that of the Taliban.

About a month ago there was stories that some Nato troops bribed local Taliban in exchange for safer environment. Now same idea is considered also by U.S. Americans believe that local Taliban fighters are motivated largely by the need for a job or loyalty to the local leader who pays them and not by ideology or religious zeal, so there could be change to attract these fighters to the government’s side.

The idea of bribing people, local guys, is one of the most cost-effective ways to get people to lay down their arms. It’s based to believe that most Taliban are not politically motivated but are operating for pay or due frustration. However while the plan has a reasonable chance for some success it may not be a long-term solution, it’s more a temporary allegiance.

4) Send Aid, Not Troops

Another proposal would shift the international contribution from combat to development assistance. Prosperity and an economic stake in the government, it is argued, can wean the population from the Taliban more effectively than force, which inevitably causes collateral damage and kills innocent civilians.

Aid is inherently political and is clearly understood to be so by the Taliban, who systematically target Western aid projects for attack. Without large security forces to defend them, aid projects cannot survive. In fact, development projects in Afghanistan are often destroyed even when they are defended, if those defenses are inadequate. No sensible Taliban would allow aid projects to undermine their control over the population when insurgents have the means at their disposal to destroy them or to intimidate their staff. Aid without security in Afghanistan would be fruitless.

EU’s role

EU Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan), launched June 2007 has a mandate to support the Afghan government in establishing a police force that respects human rights. Intended to employ 400 police officers, the mission has struggled to attract 280 and has seen its leadership change three times in two years. The mission’s mandate is due to expire in June 2010, though is likely to be extended.

European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) report “Can the EU rebuild failing states?” is a critical analysis about EU’s ESDP practice and I have used it as my main source related to EU’s role in Afghanistan.

The next generation of ESDP missions are likely to look more like Gaza, Afghanistan and Somalia: fluid, violent and with few clear-cut good and bad guys. To ensure that speed, security and self-sufficiency are at the heart of future interventions, the EU must scrap the idea that civilian missions are best designed by diplomats and European Council officials in Brussels. Responsibility must shift to civilians on the ground, whom the EU should deploy early to develop scalable assistance partnerships with unstable countries.

The European Union prides itself on being able to deal with fragile and failing states outside its borders, from Kosovo to Kabul, through what it believes to be its distinctive combination of “hard” power – coercion by military or other means – and “soft” power – persuasion through trade, diplomacy, aid and the spread of values. The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), launched in 1999, exemplifies the EU’s commitment to the so-called “comprehensive approach” – a strategy that emphasises the importance of combining civilian and military tools when dealing with external security challenges. The new mission concept can only be effective if complemented by developments in Brussels. First, assuming the Lisbon treaty is passed, the new high representative for foreign policy should appoint a senior deputy to oversee the EU’s policy towards fragile and failing states. Second, the new External Action Service (EAS) should be structured to support integration in the field. Each mission should have “best practice” officers, reporting directly to the EUSR, who would draft reports on how to avoid past mistakes. Additionally, a “lesson-learning” unit should be set up in the Council Secretariat to synthesise reports from the field. Finally, each intervention must work to a set of benchmarks, progress of which should be tracked regularly.

While the total Afghan population is 28,150,000. Some 3.3 million Afghans are now involved in producing opium. A low estimate of the amount that the Taliban earn from the opium economy is $10 million, but considering the tradition of imposing tithes on cultivation and activities further up the value chain, the total is likely to be at least $20 million. As part of EU’s soft power one priority is developing agriculture in Afghanistan. One concrete project could be investigate a licensing scheme to start the production of medicines such as morphine and codeine from poppy crops to help it escape the economic dependence on opium. As much as one-third of Afghanistan’s GPD comes from growing poppy and illicit drugs including opium, morphine and heroin as well as hashish production. Proposed development project however can be difficult to implement politically as Ahmed Wali Karzai – The brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai – is a suspected player in Afghanistan’s opium trade and has been paid by the CIA over the past eight years for services.


The history of Afghanistan shows that they’ve practised pure Greek democracy at the village level for two millennia – to export today’s western democracy idea to Afghanistan without understanding this background may work in cabinets but not on the field. It’s arrogance to think that West easily could come in and install Jeffersonian representative democracy on Afghanistan.

Maybe the best democratic idea could be use an emergency loya jirga (a temporary council traditionally made up of representatives from Afghan tribes and opposing factions used decide matters of national significance). Loya jirga with 1,500 to 2,000 delegates representing all of the major players and parts of the countries could resolve today’s problems like they have traditionally resolved them in the past.

Real U.S. Motives?

It appears that the U.S. military may be a wholly owned subsidiary of the international (i.e. American and British)oil companies). U.S.military’s involvement in Afghanistan is directly related to the large reserves of natural gas in Turkmenistan. It seems that the U.S. interest in increasing troop levels in Afghanistan jumped a notch along with the recently publicized discovery of the very large large natural gas reserves in the Yoloten-Osman gas field in southern Turkmenistan. The TAPI gas pipeline can be one answer why U.S. invade Afghanistan. The wider picture is that U.S. tries to implement its Silk Road Strategy (SRS) by securing control over extensive oil and gas reserves, as well as “protecting” pipeline routes and trade on Eurasian corridor. This militarization is largely directed against China, Russia and Iran. More about SRS in my article “Is GUUAM dead?


While Afghanistan could be an attractive terrorist base, it is not at all crucial to al Qaeda, which now has many ‘homes,’ including fiery spinoffs in Indonesia, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, as well as in enclaves in France and England. The anti-Taliban operations launched in the valley of Swat in May 2009 forced some parts of foreign hirelings move to Central Asian states bordering with Afghanistan. This May a 100-men detachment led by the former field commander of the United Tajik Opposition Mullo Abdullo (Rakhimov) showed up in eastern Tajikistan. In late May an Uzbek check-point in Khanabad on the Kyrgyz border was attacked at night, and a few blasts later hit Andizhan. In July two operations were carried out in Southern Kyrgyzstan. All these incidents are linked with the return of some militants from the Afghan-Pakistan areas to Central Asia.

By autumn the situation in Uzbekistan worsened. The republic saw an outbreak of violent attacks aimed at high-ranking religious figures followed by a series of armed clashes and detentions of suspected criminals. The exact number of militants from Central Asia who have been staying in the Tribe Zone (on the Afghan-Pakistan border) is yet unknown. In mid September western media reported some 5.000 Uzbek militants to be hiding in North and South Waziristan. The real thread is growing terror activity in Russia’s southern borders (in Central Asia) and in Russia’s North Caucasus.

Opium etc production and politics have interactive connection especially in Afghanistan. Earlier I have studied how US foreign policy tactics helped to create logistics between markets via Balkan route and producers of heroin. This creature has been further developed by itself more strong by financial connection between Wahhabi organizations e.g. in Kosovo and international terrorism and Wahhabis as potential pool for operations. Same time there is historical and social link between organized crime groups and Kosovo’s political leaders. All this has also its international dimensions. I have described the outcome as Fourfold or Quadruple Helix Model where government, underworld, Wahhabbi schools and international terrorism have win-win symbiosis. More in my article “Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo”.

Al-Qaeda does not require Afghan real estate to constitute a regional or global threat. Terrorists gravitate to areas of least resistance; if they cannot use Afghanistan, they will use countries such as Yemen or Somalia, as in fact they already are. The one issue that should be at the core of the United States’ Afghan strategy is Pakistan. It is there, not Afghanistan, where the United States has vital national interests. These stem from Pakistan’s dozens of nuclear weapons, the presence on its soil of the world’s most dangerous terrorists and the potential for a clash with India that could escalate to a nuclear confrontation.

My view

Speaking about “War on Terror” I think it is time to make a difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Taliban are mainly local Afghans who do not want to be occupied by any invading army, local Afghan nationalists resisting occupation. They may be ISI Pakistani agents fighting a proxy war against the US, drug smugglers and opium growers protecting their drug territories, foreign jihadists and the angry relatives of Afghans killed by coalition forces getting revenge.

One does not need to like about Taliban nor accept their ideology, but one should agree that they more or less represent their country. So if they concentrate – as indicated in last letter of Mullah Omar to SCO – Afghanistan’s inner policy without affection towards terror export to foreign countries why not give them change.

From my point of view the future strategy towards Afghanistan – if the aim is to get some sustainability – should be based on two principles:

  • Bottom-up principle, where the actions, development plans and administration are made starting from local, village level; not from high flown programmes made in Brussels or Washington.
  • Integrated approach where security, economy, local participation/commitment and administration are not separate sectors.

My conclusion is that the core question is not in or out. I would see the word with as best practice for future relations between U.S./EU and Afghanistan. The local stakeholder may or may not accept cooperation with foreigners but it is their choice as it is choice for U.S./EU to participate and invest to Afghanistan’s development plans or not.

Is there life in EP after Elections?

April 3, 2009

Have women’s rights in Afghanistan anything to do with Elections of European Parliament? Question came to my mind when I participated with my article –“Karzai’s administration “Worse than Taliban” into blogging campaign related to Elections 2009. The same could be said most of issues in electoral campaign. Both the voters as well candidates have foggy picture about the role EP in EU, about de facto power of EP in relation to its power de jure. Besides the public discussion is dominated by easy on-liners for media and comments about celebrity candidates on the other hand and integrating EU, EC and EP into a harmonious whole.

The electoral campaigns are mainly focusing to market a candidate and/or party to potential voters – the actual work in EP will be obscured and the whole idea of politics as dealing with mutual or particular reference group interests is forgotten.

My article

My “irrelevant” article referred the new law in Afghanistan which junked the women rights even behind those which were applied during Taliban regime. I asked how is this possible while EU is throwing billions of its taxpayers money to develop civil society in Afghanistan and I was afraid that the case is not unique in EU missions worldwide.

I criticized the gap between high flown aims and destructive practice, between progress in reports and backward development on the ground, which issues I earlier have handled in cases of Bosnia and Kosovo. I also proposed actions which could improve the practice.

EP and Afghan women

If EU is one of the main players developing Afghanistan so does EP have any role with this work? I cursorily checked EP actions with case and even if I got only small fragment of the whole the answer is yes – EP has had varied approaches to this topic. Here few examples:

  • EP has made many previous resolutions on Afghanistan e.g. that of 8 July 2008,
  • EP delegation made visit to Afghanistan from 26 April to 1 May 2008 with the purpose of examining the conditions of implementation of Community and international aid, and to the relevant mission report,
  • EP has appealed to all EU States and to the international community to ensure that all humanitarian assistance and future rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes integrate a gender perspective, that they actively attempt to promote the participation of both women and men, and that women benefit equally with men from those programmes;
  • European Parliament made resolution of 15 January 2009 on budgetary control of EU funds in Afghanistan (2008/2152(INI))
  • EP gets reports and has discussions on EU Aid effectiveness
  • European Parliament Resolution on Gender Aspects of Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding has been made(2000)
  • The Country Strategy Papers (for Afghanistan) and the Multi-Annual Indicative Programme (MIP) 2007 – 2010 are adopted by the Commission in agreement with Parliament,
  • EP recalls that gender equality and women’s rights are recognised as vital issues, both in the Afghan Government’s national development strategy and in the CSP 2007-2013, which establishes that the gender dimension will be an integral part of planning in the above-mentioned three focal areas (P6_TA-PROV(2009)0023 A6-0488/2008),
  • EP calls on the Afghan Government to ensure that the National Action Plan for the Women of Afghanistan (NAPWA), which was recently adopted, will receive satisfactory funding and be implemented in cooperation with civil society and women’s organisations; calls also on the Commission to ensure that its gender equality actions are transparent and harmonised with other actions of this type undertaken by the other donors in Afghanistan; calls, in this connection, for the Commission to submit a report analysing the extent to which gender equality has been taken into account to date in the programming of the overall financial assistance allocated by the EU (P6_TA-PROV(2009)0023 A6-0488/2008),
  • EP calls on the Commission and the Afghan Government, in view of the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 respectively, to continue to encourage and provide adequate funding for actions to promote the political emancipation of women, especially in the regions, given that in the last provincial council elections there were not enough women candidates to occupy the 124 seats designated for women in the provincial councils (P6_TA-PROV(2009)0023 A6-0488/2008),
  • EP Committee on women’s rights and equal opportunities has handled the Afghanistan gender question,
  • A View – Gender Aspects of Conflict Resolution – was given from The European Parliament,
  • In the European Parliament, the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) has approved a working document ‘Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan’ (23 March 2007). The document aims to bring the Parliament towards the “dynamism of the Council in the field of gender mainstreaming into ESDP” by gender mainstreaming in the SEDE itself. It also wants the SEDE to scrutinise gender issues in ESDP and missions, as well as to initiate a report on ‘The gender impact of ESDP operations’ by the end of the parliamentary term in 2009.

Candidates differ

Celebrities, athletes, entertainers, talk show hosts and populists are dominating headlines in EP electoral campaign giving real but deplorable one-sided image about issues related to EP. However there is a small amount of candidates who are focusing also to substance and topics which they like to highlight in EP if selected there.

I e.g. have a dialogue with one candidate who is designing her (Yes indeed a woman candidate who has more guts and brains than most of her fellow competitors) Policy program. Her campaign includes also Balkan questions, 3rd world etc., she also knows those issues due the fieldwork experience in Balkans and Asia. I be that this kind of MEPs could de facto place in EP to influent also Afghan women problems.

Those 5 % of MEPs who take their job seriously can have their say in issues where EP strictly does not have the ultimate decision power “de jure”. They can raise these issues via various forms in EP as well through national governments.

On the bottom line my wish is that during electoral hype also voters taka into consideration the time after Elections.

Karzai’s administration “Worse than Taliban”

April 1, 2009

I almost got stroke while reading yesterday a headline “Worse than the Taliban – new law rolls back rights for Afghan women” in the Guardian. Not due the act itself but because it reflects the substance and outcome of EU’s civil crisis management mission. First I thought it was April fools’ joke but it wasn’t and unfortunately the case is not so unique example among EU’s capacity building efforts in different missions.

On 31.3.2009 foreign ministers of 73 states had Afghanistan conference in Hague, Netherlands, to continue support for security and development projects in country.

The new law

So how are human rights and civil society developing in Afghanistan with EU’s help. Summarizing what really happens there the abstract below gives picture of one aspect (Source and full story in the Guardian):

Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan’s presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission. The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month.

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex. A briefing document prepared by the UNDP Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only. Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was “worse than during the Taliban”. “Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam,” she said.

Some female politicians have taken a more pragmatic stance, saying their fight in parliament’s lower house succeeded in improving the law, including raising the original proposed marriage age of girls from nine to 16 and removing completely provisions for temporary marriages.

EU’s development efforts

EU is doing capacity building activities in Afghanistan through supporting ISAF –operation (military peacekeeping), implementing its own EUPOL Afghanistan mission (building civilian police in accordance with international standards) and giving EU Aid for humanitarian purposes and development projects.

To contribute effectively to the stabilization of Afghanistan as well as responding to the immense development needs and challenges of the Afghan people is a major external priority for the European Union (EU). Since 2002 the European Commission (EC) has contributed more than 1.4 billion EUR to Afghanistan. EC aid has been used for humanitarian purposes as well as to support priority reconstruction and development efforts. (Source EC/EuropeAid)

The aims and targets of EU assistance are defined in Country Strategy Paper/Afghanistan (CSP/AFG). Human rights, gender and the environment are highlighted as key issues that affect a wide range of policy areas. These policy areas will be mainstreamed in all focal and non-focal areas. In public administration, increased female representation in all tiers of the public administration will be an important consideration … programmes will aim to promote the effective participation of women in local decision-making where this is possible…the CSP also aims to focus on human rights at a range of levels in its sector programmes.

Financing backward progress

EU seems to throw billions of its taxpayers money to development in Afghanistan which is going opposite direction than originally intended. Unfortunately this is not exemption. In Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnic groups are building their own statehood components against EU’s efforts to strengthen centralized state. Despite high-flown statements about developing “European” standards in Kosovo the province is still a tribe leaded protectorate with poor administrative record, unsustainable economy and captured by crime organized crime groups.

To close the gap between aims and practice the following actions could according my experience be useful:

  • improvement of situation analysis,
  • developing field experience feedback during missions,
  • applying “project cycle management” practice in operation/mission planning procedure,
  • Logical Framework Approach should be applied through the process,
  • Special need is also use there Participatory Planning methods so that all stakeholders can commit to actions.

Implementing the list above could produce positive news – real not only in oriented progress reports to Brussels – in future from Afghanistan as well from other mission regions.  The minimum demand anyway should be that EU actions are not worsening the situations on the ground.

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