Which is why it reached out to the SCO. Of course the SCO is sitting on its hands, but it is able. The regional solution will be difficult, given that it would have to scrub off the effects of thirty years of warfare. The SCO is not going to welcome the Taliban with open arms and hand over Kabul to Mullah Omar. After 2001, the US welcomed the warlords into Kabul, handed them the keys to the kingdom and gave them a tacit amnesty for their grievous crimes (even making Ahmed Shah Masood, a ghastly warlord, the nation’s icon). Such a positive fate does not seem to be on the horizon for the Taliban. It will come above ground with much less fanfare. The Taliban and the warlords obviously command a following in Afghanistan (something that was not true in the 1970s). Thanks to US, Saudi and Pakistani funding and assistance, the warlords and the Taliban have become a social force and have to be combated politically. The US and the Saudis cannot broker their entry into the political process. But the SCO has a better chance.
Right after the Taliban fled in 2001, the US convened a “donor’s conference” in Bonn, where Europe, Japan and the US gathered to promise money for the reconstruction of the country. No one invited the SCO players. This has not changed. Europe, Japan and the US, the countries with the least legitimacy in Afghanistan are the ones calling the shots. Rather than conference calls with Brussels (the NATO headquarters), and Paris and London, and Kabul (with the shaky government of Karzai), the Obama administration should have called a political conference of the SCO, to see what it would have taken to hand over the Afghan imbroglio to them. The SCO met in Bishkek (capital of Kyrgyzstan) on November 24 to discuss the problem of the region, and made all kinds of suggestions. None of these are operational till the US-NATO withdraws from Kabul. China is the only power in the region with the wealth and expertise to genuinely rebuild Afghanistan (people might criticize its development policy in Africa, but mark this: Chinese investment enters countries in Africa without IMF-type conditionalities and Chinese engineers and managers live in modest conditions, not creating the kind of high-overhead NGO lifestyles of the European and US humanitarian workers).
India and Pakistan have competing interests in Afghanistan. Their Cold War is fought between their Afghan proxies. If the SCO were responsible for the situation, India and Pakistan would be forced to work together. India’s sober reaction to the Mumbai attacks of 2008, and to the two bombings of its Kabul embassy have shown the Pakistani civilian leadership that it is prepared to negotiate in a serious fashion. On December 2, the Indian government announced, for the first time in decades, that it would begin to withdraw troops from Jammu and Kashmir. The moment is nigh for the Pakistani civilian leadership to put itself at the center of diplomatic discussions in the region, to isolate the ISI and the Pakistani military who have otherwise defined Pakistan’s Afghan policy. But an escalation is going to set this backwards: more bloodshed in the northern borderlands of Pakistan will inflame the population, and it might set in motion a forward policy not only into Afghanistan but also its twin, Kashmir. If all this happens, I fear for the future of South Asia. In a decade it will resemble West Asia. Both broken by empire.
The US media has portrayed the escalation of the Occupation in a very simplistic fashion: either the US solves the problem, or the Taliban returns. This is a false choice, one that assumes that only the US can act, the White Knight riding in to save the world. America is not exceptional. Others are ready. But they don’t want to act unless they have a commitment that the US is not going to use their blood and treasure to build its empire. (Posted by Bulatlat)
Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His new book is The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, New York: The New Press, 2007. He can be reached at: email@example.com