The dramatic turn of events in Afghanistan over the past week does not necessarily mean that the struggle against Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaida terrorists is closer to victory. The Taliban regime had offered Bin Laden and his minions sanctuary but very little in the way of direct logistical or financial support.
Just as the post-cold war transition to a new international system seemed to be ending, the terrorist acts of September 11 and the U.S. responses have re-opened the question of Central Asia’s strategic orientation and, through that, the structure of the entire international system.
Uzbekistan has sought a special relationship with the U.S. since the early 1990s. The country received designation as an American “strategic partner” in 1995 in a bilateral communique. This “strategic partner” relationship has, until recently, been largely a rhetorical designation.
Before September 11, South Asia’s problems loomed large. The region, with over a billion people, a history of war, rising religious militancy, newly tested nuclear weapons, and a get-tough mood, was on the brink of instability. Adding to South Asia’s long list of troubles is the U.S. war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Hasty U.S. actions could deepen the problems facing South Asia. Over the long term, the U.S. has the opportunity to foster regional stability–but only if it pursues a different set of policies in the region.
Central Asia: On the Periphery of New Global War By Abid Aslam September 24, 2001
Bin Laden and Mandela: Yesterday’s Freedom Fighters, Today’s Terrorist? By William G. Martin September 2001
The Tuesday tragedy in the U.S. is already having a profound impact on Pakistan. The apocalypse in the U.S. has forced upon the Pakistani ruling elite its day of reckoning sooner than it had anticipated. The Pakistan military, which is also running the government here since October 1999, now has to choose clearly and unequivocally between a direct confrontation with the militant religious groups–and there are dozens of them–and the wrath of a wounded and angry America.
Toward the end of President Bush’s September 24 statement about freezing terrorists’ assets, one finds the overlooked but no less remarkable assertion that the U.S. is “working closely with the United Nations, the EU and through the G-7/G-8 structure to limit the ability of terrorist organizations to take advantage of the international financial systems.” Still more remarkably, he declared, “The United States has signed, but not yet ratified, two international conventions, one of which is designed to set international standards for freezing financial assets. I’ll be asking members of the U.S. Senate to approve the UN convention on suppression of terrorist financing and a related convention on terrorist bombings and to work with me on implementing the legislation.”
Not a shot has been fired–yet–at Afghanistan’s Taliban, but the country’s beleaguered population already is paying a heavy price for the ruling militia’s pariah status as host to alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
It appears that the United States is preparing for a major military strike against Afghanistan. There is no question that the United States needs to respond forcefully to bring the perpetrators of last week’s terrorist attack to justice and to prevent future attacks. A large-scale military action against that country, however, would be a big mistake.