Afghanistan: optimism from some, pessimism from others

Claims by an ex-minister of Pakistan that Washingtonґs frustration could lead to use of nuclear weapons as buoyant confidence and optimism from Blair and Bush is balanced by scepticism and pessimism from Afghanistan’s neighbours.

According to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, president Bush of the USA and the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan is proceeding as planned. The military objectives are being achieved as expected and the Taleban are seriously weakened, their demise being a question of days away.

Daily reports that Mazar-i-Sharif is about to fall are now over a week old and those of the Northern Alliance build-up near Kabul, ready to strike at any moment, have been made for a fortnight.

Taleban claims about downing aircraft and strikes on civilians are unreliable unless they are backed up by independent sources. However, those from neighbouring countries are highly sceptical at the optimistic tone of the campaign so far.

In a conference at the Institute of Political Studies in Islamabad on November 7th, Pakistan’s ex-Minister of Information, Mushad Hussain Syed, summed up the first 30 days of the military campaign against the Taleban. He considers that when Washington expresses concern that Al Qaeda is looking for nuclear material, it is preparing an excuse for the deployment of nuclear weapons. “If this war continues until February or March, the Americans will end up using nuclear weapons against Afghanistan”, he declared.

He claimed that the majority of people in Moslem countries do not share the moderate views of their leaders, because “there is a lack of clarity from Washington in relation to the reasons which led them to enter this conflict”. He added that the White House has failed to convince Moslems of the connection between Bin Laden and September 11th.

Mushad Syed, an ex-student of Georgetown University, claims that the USA has made three mistakes: firstly, attacking the Taleban without having any idea about what to replace them with, dividing Afghanistan into Pashtun and non-Pashtun peoples. Secondly, underestimating the Taleban’s fighting strength and determination and thirdly, believing in the Northern Alliance as an effective fighting force. “The USA is in a cul-de-sac” from which it does not know how to extricate itself”, he stated.

The Taleban’s fighting capacity is legendary, according to Asif Khan, a flight attendant from Peshawar, who knows Afghanistan well. He declared to a group of international journalists that “they are extraordinary fighters, strong, and used to all types of deprivations. When the Americans launch their ground offensive, they will be beaten like the Soviets”.

An ex-Soviet soldier in Afghanistan, Abdunabi, gave his opinion on the best way to proceed with the conflict to a Portuguese journalist in Duchanbe, Tajikistan, reported in the Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias. He said that the best was to defeat the Taleban is to arm the opposition Northern Alliance heavily and use them to perform the military operations. “At the most, occasional and very well planned Special Forces operations”, he advised.


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