One of the theories doing the rounds in the aftermath of the mysterious disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 claims that it all began in Afghanistan, which goes to the polls tomorrow to elect a new president.
The story in a nutshell says that the US-made Boeing 777 was taken control of by US and Israeli agents who were following the plane in a highly-advanced AWACS aircraft. The new generation or post-9/11 Boeing aircraft was built in such a way that US experts could disable the cockpit system and guide the plane to a chosen destination with the help of a remote control device. According to this theory, the plane was carrying Chinese scientists and a top secret cargo – dismantled parts of a drone controlling system. The Chinese had bought the system from the Taliban, so the story says, after it fell into Taliban hands following a battle with US soldiers who were preparing to leave Afghanistan. The plane had been guided to the US base in Diego Garcia. After the cargo was unloaded there, the remote control system diverted the flight to the southern Indian Ocean to be crashed with the passengers.
Whether one believes this story or not, it brings out a reality rarely spoken about: Afghanistan is a hub of international spy agencies. Apart from the United States, almost all the major powers and regional powers have a spymaster presence in war-torn Afghanistan which is strategically located where South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East meet. The games big powers play in Afghanistan remind us of the Great Game of the 19th century when Britain and Russia vied for the control of Afghanistan. However, the present competition is much more complicated because it has so many players: The Americans, the Russians, the British, the Chinese, the Israelis, the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Iranians and the Saudis among others. Each country pursues its own agenda in Afghanistan and none appears to give a damn about peace in Afghanistan. Some support the Afghan government, others help the Taliban and yet others back both.
Come December 31, the US says its troops will withdraw from Afghanistan. But wait a minute, they are going to stay. The December 31 deadline is not for a complete troop withdrawal. It is a deception by which the US is trying to mislead the Americans who are sick and tired of seeing their country meddling in the affairs of other countries and the Afghans who will be more than happy to see the back of the last American soldier.
Rather December 31 is a deadline to mark a shift in US strategy – from a combat role to a support role. President Barack Obama in June 2011, said, “Our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”
To play the support role, the Americans want to keep a large number of US troops – probably tens of thousands of them. The Americans are not naive to leave Afghanistan and withdraw from the Great Game, conceding victory to China and Russia. They have plans to stay on indefinitely. Besides, the support role Obama speaks of also means a support role in combat.
The Americans are set to stay on in Afghanistan. Defeating the Taliban is not their sole objective. They have other things to deal with in Afghanistan. Their other objectives range from exploiting Afghanistan’s “new-found” mineral deposits such as lithium to checking China’s growing influence in the region, weakening Russia and keeping a close tab on developments in nuclear Pakistan.
But the war-weary Afghans are made to believe that the Americans are leaving. In yet another poli-trick connected to tomorrow’s elections, President Hamid Karzai has overnight transformed himself into an anti-American hero. He is probably trying to impress the voters, a majority of whom want all foreign troops to leave the country, and get them to support his chosen candidate – Zalmay Rasoul, a former foreign minister with royal ties. Karzai, who is barred by the constitution from contesting for a third time, has built himself a residence close to the Presidential palace which he will leave in a few months once a winner is officially declared. He says he will play an advisory role if asked to by the new president. Perhaps, he will advise the new president to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States – the agreement he refuses to sign now, ostensibly on the grounds that several clauses give the American troops licence to commit blue murder and get away.
With the BSA virtually assured no matter who wins, the Americans play a hands-off role in the Afghan presidential election. Thus many believe that tomorrow’s polls will be relatively free and fair unlike the two previous fraud-ridden elections which the Americans wanted Karzai to win. Tomorrow’s contest has boiled down to a battle between three pro-US candidates.
But whoever is elected has a big task ahead in cleaning up the country which is ranked among the ten poorest countries. What has happened to the billions of dollars Afghanistan has received over the past 13 years? The answer lies in Afghanistan’s pathetic position on the corruption perception index
Among them is Zalmay Rassoul, Karzai’s favourite, a former foreign minister. The other two are Abdullah Abdullah, also a former foreign minister and a key leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, and Ashraf Ghani, a World Bank vice president and former finance minister.
But the Taliban have vowed to disrupt the elections and in recent weeks increased attacks on government targets. They have asked the Afghans to stay away from the elections; but observers say voter enthusiasm is high in Kabul and other urban areas where the Taliban wield little influence.
But whoever is elected has a big task ahead in cleaning up the country which is ranked among the ten poorest countries. What has happened to the billions of dollars Afghanistan received over the past 13 years? The answer lies in Afghanistan’s pathetic position on the corruption perception index. It came 175th out of 177 countries that were scrutinised for the WB survey. As a result of corruption and the mismanagement of the economy, many people have taken to poppy cultivation. By failing to eradicate poppy cultivation, the Afghan regime and the main occupying force, the US, are complicit in the spread of the drug menace, which is a growing global problem that requires that the UN should do more to combat this than what it does through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
But drugs also play a political role. Moscow, for instance, believes that Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation is a political weapon the United States uses to destabilise Russia. In June 2010, an angry Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was reported to have told Russian troops that they should be prepared to confront American forces in Afghanistan. The remarks followed the then Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov’s warning that Afghanistan’s thriving drug trade supported by the US and NATO had become the “greatest threat to international peace and security”.
But the war-weary Afghans are made to believe that the Americans are leaving. In yet another poli-trick connected to tomorrow’s elections, President Hamid Karzai has overnight transformed himself into an anti-American hero. He is probably trying to impress the voters, a majority of whom want all foreign troops leave the country, and get them to support his chosen candidate – Zalmay Rasoul, a former foreign minister with royal ties
Russia is the world’s largest per capita heroin consumer, with an estimated 30,000 people dying of abuse annually. According to UN estimates, 70 metric tons of Afghan heroin worth US$ 13 billion is consumed by Russians every year. UN figures also show that US$ 352 billion of drug profits were absorbed into the international banking system to prevent the crash of the banks during the 2008 financial crisis. A UN conference held in 2010 in Moscow was told that Afghanistan accounted for more than 90 percent of the global heroin production which had seen a marked increase after the US invasion in October 2001.
Russia has complained to the US and Nato saying Afghan heroin is killing Russian youths. But the Americans’ argument is that if they crack down on poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, it will push despondent Afghan farmers into the hands of the Taliban.
So the real picture behind the exercise of picking a president is much more than meets the eye, especially in view of the crisis in Ukraine.
Send the Madam US Ambassador in Colombo, she would take care of everything in Afghanistan. She is excellent at sticking her finger into anything and everything that dos not concern her. She would do well in Afghanistan.
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