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Western Press Review: Afghan Security Force And Phase II Of Antiterrorism Campaign

Prague, 20 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Commentary in the Western press is dominated by the situation in Afghanistan, following the approval yesterday of a draft resolution by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council on the deployment of a British-led security force to Afghanistan. The full council is expected to vote on the force as early as today. It's hoped the first troops will be in place in and around Kabul by Saturday, 22 December -- the day the Afghan interim government, led by Hamid Karzai, is to take power.

Other issues include debating the so-called Phase II of the antiterrorism campaign and the conflict in the Middle East.


An editorial in "The Times" of London considers yesterday's UN draft resolution on a security force for Afghanistan. Britain will have day-to-day control over the operation, but U.S. troops will stand ready to evacuate them, if necessary. The Pentagon will also have the authority to ensure the mission does not interfere with U.S. military objectives.

But the paper calls the peacekeeping mission "a risky and uncertain venture" and says there are fundamental conflicts within the operation. It will be difficult to define the force's relations with the American-led force on the ground still fighting the remnants of the Taliban. "Confusion between the two forces, either by the Afghans or in the command structure, would be disastrous. Peacekeeping and war-making are different jobs that will be difficult to carry out at the same time," says the paper.

But "The Times" says it is necessary for the U.S. to have a "decisive say" in military operations. It notes that Germany does not agree "and is already arguing that the peacekeeping force must be independent of the American command. [This] is a recipe for confusion and mistrust," writes the paper. "The peacekeeping force can play a role, but only if the Americans, the Afghans and the contributing nations understand what it is there to do and how it will stabilize a post-Taliban Afghanistan."


Writing in Germany's "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," columnist Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger says that after the military operation in Afghanistan draws to a close, we should expect to see the United States take the antiterrorism campaign to other areas of the globe.

Frankenberger notes that Somalia has recently come into focus as a potential headquarters for Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network and other terrorist groups, and says the antiterrorism alliance has good reason to focus its efforts there. "For people of Mr. bin Laden's ilk, the country makes an ideal area of operations: more or less without state control, an ideal strategic location, an Islamist hotbed, a criminal political milieu. That the German navy is being dispatched to the seas around the Horn of Africa is no coincidence," he adds.

Frankenberger notes that the United States has already alluded to taking some sort of action in east Africa. But he adds that what sort of action to expect in the region remains unclear. He says, "The U.S. hint that political and financial means alone may not be enough to combat terrorism in Somalia is so vague that it cannot automatically be taken to signify imminent major strikes."


A Stratfor commentary takes a dismal view of the future of Afghanistan. Factional fighting between warlords will likely get even worse, says Stratfor, "especially in the coming months as winter snows melt and movement through the country becomes easier."

The commentary says many Afghan tribal leaders have already expressed their displeasure with the interim agreement reached on 5 December at a conference near Bonn. "Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, say they do not have enough representation in the new government. Also, the southern province of Nangarhar is reluctant to enter the ruling coalition. Its governor, Haji Abdul Qadir, stormed out of the Bonn talks, apparently feeling that he was marginalized during negotiations. [The] list goes on."

Ayatollah Mohsini, General Abdulrashid Dostum and Ismail Khan, a western warlord, have all indicated their disapproval of the agreement. And former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was forced to relinquish power to interim government leader Hamid Karzai, "continues to agitate against [the] power-sharing agreement, condemning it as 'an offense' to Afghanistan."

Stratfor adds that several political disagreements "have already escalated into open warfare. The past weeks have seen continued infighting between various anti-Taliban elements."

"Warfare is a convenient alternative to politics for many factional leaders," it says. And this trend will continue, eventually compelling many European governments and the United States to distance themselves from Afghan politics.


An editorial in "The Christian Science Monitor" says that U.S. President George W. Bush must choose his words and his military objectives carefully. The editorial notes that "a list of potential wars in the campaign against global terrorism is being drawn up in Washington," to be pursued after military operations in Afghanistan.

Complicating the choice of targets for the so-called Phase II of the war on terrorism is the 13 December suicide attack on India's parliament, which left 14 people dead. The paper says India "claims it has evidence that all five of the suicide attackers were Pakistani and members of [Kashmiri separatist] terrorist groups, which are based in Pakistan. [If] India's evidence is accurate, how should it -- and the U.S. -- respond to this case of international terrorism?"

The paper says, "The U.S. can hardly let India strike Pakistan now, as the U.S. did the Taliban in Afghanistan, when Pakistan is helping the U.S. track down Al-Qaeda. Both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons; the U.S. can't just let a war erupt."

In addition, India claims the group responsible for the attack on its parliament has ties to Al-Qaeda -- the network that the U.S. has sworn to hunt down and root out wherever it might operate.

The paper says Bush "must be more specific, being careful that loaded words don't unleash unnecessary wars."


In a news analysis in the "International Herald Tribune," Andrew Johnston looks at the results of a new IHT/Pew poll. He says the poll suggests that much of the world views the 11 September attacks as a symptom of the increasingly bitter and widening gap between the rich and the poor around the world. Poverty can breed resentment and, in turn, terrorist activity, he says.

Johnston cites international affairs analyst Marwan Bishara, who says that when people have fewer military and economic means at their disposal, they tend to rely on "asymmetric," rather than conventional, methods to achieve their objectives, or to "even the playing field." One such asymmetric method is terrorism.

Johnston says that, significantly, most of those around the world "see U.S. policies as a principle cause of the September 11 attacks -- but Americans do not." There is a general perception that the U.S. does not want to address issues on which the disadvantaged may try to voice their claims.

Analyst Bishara says, "Either we live together as a neighborhood where even if there are poor and rich, everyone feels that they have a stake, or we have a system of apartheid, where the rich will be always scared or anguished because of the poor and the poor's demands and the poor's anger."


In France's "Liberation," Patrick Sabatier says that the question is not if the U.S. will broaden its antiterrorism objectives after Afghanistan, but rather "when, which ones and, especially, how."

The next phase of the campaign will probably involve the police, he says, as well as military and diplomatic means to encourage regimes suspected of harboring terrorists to begin clearing them out. Some nations, such as Somalia, have indicated their willingness to cooperate, "but one doubts their ability to act," says Sabatier. Others, such as Sudan, "assert that they have long ago ended all business with international terrorists."

American operations against these states will probably arouse "only limited feeling," says Sabatier. But he notes the British, German, and French, as well as Arab, leaders have warned against equating Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden. "Not that Saddam Hussein is more respectable, nor is he immune to suspicions of terrorism. He could also be accused of crimes against humanity," says Sabatier. But the "war on terrorism" should not just be an excuse to finish the job left unfinished 10 years ago, he says.

The campaign will be most successful if it clearly focuses on its stated objective -- getting bin Laden. One cannot run several campaigns against terrorist cells at the same time, he says, "at the risk of toppling none of them."


In Britain's "Financial Times," Birkbeck College history professor Mark Mazower says that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories will eventually end in defeat. As Israel struggles to make its military operation work, he says, the government has met with armed resistance. Israel has consistently treated this resistance as a job for the military rather than the police -- which emphasizes the militant aspect of the occupation rather than the law-and-order issue.

The Israeli government has come to expect the Palestine Liberation Organization to police the territories, says Mazower. "When this has not happened, Israel has assassinated opponents and used overwhelming military force. Now that the attempt to turn the Palestinian Authority into a surrogate police agency appears to have failed, the lack of an alternative to the military option is even more glaring. [The] Israelis may now be finding that overwhelming military power can generate the opposition it seeks to destroy," says Mazower.

He writes: "The [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon government has taken the country down a path that cannot lead to success. After 1967, military occupation failed to integrate newly conquered lands into Israel proper. Now it is failing to guarantee even the safety of Jewish settlers. These failures, and the war that they have brought within the bounds of Israel itself, point to a deeper failure. Mr. Sharon's achievement is to have underlined the political limitations of military occupation in the modern world."