Saturday, 1 December 2007

Looking for a Good Reason to Die

(Photo: Kids on Tank, Kabul, by swiss.frog)

Saturday, November 24th, an Italian soldier died trying to prevent a terroristic stroke in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mr Daniele Paladini, warrant-officer of the Italian Army, lost his life putting out of action a suicide killer on a bridge yard where the Italian soldiers were working. Nine Afghan civilians were killed: three of them were children. Three other Italian soliders suffered injuries (bbc.co.uk, repubblica.it, corriere.it).

Acknowledging Mr Paladini's heroic sacrifice, the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said that the Italian Army won't leave: "Noi restiamo, ma serve una riflessione per impostare la futura presenza in Afghanistan con una strategia di lungo periodo con forte contenuto politico" [We stay here, but a meditation is due to set up our future presence in Afghanistan according to a long term strategy and a strong political substance] (repubblica.it, corriere.it, ilmanifesto.it).

Why Italian soldiers are in Afghanistan? Let's cast our minds back to six years ago. On September 9th, 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the leader of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, is killed. The strongest and most representative Afghan general struggling against the Talibans falls during a trap interview.

Two days later, on September 11th, 2001, a series of suicide plane attacks strike the United States of America: roughly 3,000 people are killed. Mr Osama Bin Laden, leader of Al-Qaeda, then releases some videos celebrating the attacks.

On October 7th, 2001, the War in Afghanistan begins. The U.S. President Mr George W. Bush aims to capture Osama Bin Laden and defeat the Talibans, which are accused to support Al-Qaeda and hide Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

On December 20th, 2001, the United Nations Security Council launches the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) aiming to restore peace in Afghanistan. The Italian Army joins the mission with roughly 2,000 soldiers.

Six years later the Talibans control six Afghan provinces over 36 and they're strongly engaged over the 54% of the Afghan State territory (repubblica.it). Mr Osama Bin Laden still rules over Al-Qaeda and is supposed to hide himself in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas over the border with Pakistan.

First, the media and the public opinion took for granted that the Talibans and Al-Qaeda are all the same. This is definitely false. As Mr Syed Saleem Shahzad reported in Le Monde Diplomatique (July, 2007): "En Afghanistan, de violents incidents ont opposé les talibans aux combattants étrangers d'Al-Qaida, les premiers privilégiant une stratégie nationale (et la recherche d'un modus vivendi avec le pouvoir pakistanais) et les seconds appelant au renversements des régimes musulmans en place, dénoncés comme 'impies'". [In Afghanistan, violent conflicts opposed the Talibans and Al-Qaida's foreign fighters. The former privilege a national strategy (and want to find a modus vivendi with the Pakistani rule). The latter aim to overthrow the Muslim regimes in charge, appointed as 'unfaithful'.].

Second, the Talibans were created by the Pakistani intelligence and were supported by the U.S. in Afghanistan. As Ms Barbara Spinelli reported in La Stampa (November 11th, 2007): "I talebani sono il Golem fabbricato dai servizi segreti pakistani (Isi: Inter-Services Intelligence), col pieno appoggio della Casa Bianca e dell’allora premier Benazir Bhutto, che oggi si propone come alternativa a Musharraf. Nella primavera del 1995, quando incontrò Clinton a Washington, Bhutto presentò i talebani come forza filo-pakistana che sarebbe tornata utile per stabilizzare l’Afghanistan." [The talibans are the Golem made by the Pakistani secret intelligence (Isi: Inter-Services Intelligence). The White House gave its full support as well as the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who now proposes herself as an alternative to Mr Musharraf. In Spring 1995, when she met Mr Clinton in Washington, Ms Bhutto presented the Talibans as a force on behalf of Pakistan that would have been useful to make Afghanistan stable.].

Mr Daniele Paladini undoubtedly died like a hero, but he was worth dying wearing a blue helmet. Italy should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and engage herself within the United Nations to set up a peace conference for Afghanistan between the Afghan Government and the Talibans.

"L'important, c'est surtout de faire comprendre aux talibans que la solution militaire ne résoudra en aucune manière le problème de l'Afghanistan. Ils doivent en être autant convaincus que nous le sommes aujourd'hui afin d'accepter de négocier la fin de la guerre. Le Pakistan et les autres pays qui soutiennent les talibans doivent eux aussi comprendre et admettre que la guerre ne sera jamais plus la solution. Ainsi pourrons-nous stopper l'effusion de sang en Afghanistan."

[The important is to make the Talibans understand that the military option won't anyway solve the Afghan problem. They must come to believe it, just as we believe it today, so that they can accept to negotiate the end of the war. Pakistan and other countries supporting the Talibans must themselves understand and admit that war won't ever be the solution. In this way we will be able to stop the shedding of blood in Afghanistan]

(Ahmad Shah Massoud, interview with Christophe de Ponfilly, Massoud l'Afghan, Gallimard, 2001, Ch. XII).