These are my answers to questions posed by Javier MÃ©ndez, a journalist for El Mercurio newspaper, in Santiago, Chile, regarding Afghanistan after the death of Osama Bin Laden:
Q. Do you believe there is a chance that the U.S. and NATO forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan?Â Do you think it is convenient for the peace and stability to Afghanistan?
A. I believe there is a respectable chance that U.S. forces will be drawn down according to the schedule President Obama has outlined. The degree to which the draw-down will contribute peace and stability in Afghanistan will depend heavily on whether or not the administration can achieve its professed goal of restoring the pre-intervention balance among the central government, the tribal leaders, and the religious authorities. A failure to withdraw however, will only exacerbate the violence within the country and the anti-Americanism in Afghanistan and the broader Muslims world.
Q. How do you see an internal situation today in Afghanistan? Do you think that there is an existent relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda?
A. There is a relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, if for no other reason than their common grounding in the Wasabi movement. However, that relationship has been dangerously exaggerated. Taliban claims that they would have surrendered bin Laden during their period in power are not new. They offered to do so at the time on the condition the U.S. provided evidence of al-Qaeda’s complicity in the 9/11 bombings. Although U.S. government officials professed to have secretly provided such evidence, the Taliban denied it. The U.S. could have easily resolved the matter by making such evidence public, which it has not done to this day.
Q. Has the Karzai regime strengthened the Islamic hard line factions, especially al-Qaeda in Afghanistan?
A. The corruption in the Karzai regime certainly benefits the hardliners n general, but I don’t think it has provided al-Qaeda any special advantage over others. Al-Qaeda’ interests are international, not Afghani.
Q. After the Osama Bin Laden, what is the role that U.S must play in the war against terrorism and Afghanistan and Pakistan? How important is Afghanistan to the U.S?
A. Al-Qaeda’s primary concern has always been the “near enemies” of the regimes governing the Muslim world. Their actions against America were motivated by the perceived support the “far enemy” gave to their immediate enemies. Today, the relatively peaceful, primarily youth driven movement behind the so-called “Arab spring” is a greater threat to the authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world than are the terrorists. The U.S. should desist from any military intervention and shift its support to the indigenous movement for liberalization and democratization. That support must not be military in nature, but should be manifested in moral support combined with facilitation of for tactical and strategic support by the Muslims of Western civil society who are respected by the youth of the Muslim world. Direct intervention by the Western powers (especially military) will taint the movement, while intellectual ammunition provided by Western Muslims will be seamlessly incorporated into the struggle as it has in the Turkish reform movement.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D
Minaret of Freedom Institute