If Americans needed any reminding how, during the cold war, U.S. policymakers subordinated Wilsonian principles of self-determination to the larger anticommunist struggle, they should read several secret U.S. documents surrounding Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor obtained and released this week by the independent National Security Archive (NSA). The documents confirm that visiting U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave a green light to President Suharto for the invasion.
Afghans are accustomed to “hoping for the best and expecting the worst.” The fragility of the current situation begs for great care and concern not to repeat past failures of Western policy. Great care must be taken in any steps in formulating a post-Taliban Afghanistan that includes an acceptable government as well as provisions for development and economic stability. Most importantly, efforts must reflect the wishes of ordinary Afghans inside of Afghanistan in order to gain credibility and long-term stability. Sadly, these sentiments seem to be ignored.
Operation Enduring Freedom? By Ritu Sharma and Robert Gustafson November 1, 2001
In the vaguely defined international coalition in the “war against terrorism” India and Pakistan occupy perhaps the most uncomfortable positions. Pakistan was an ally of the United States during the cold war, and India, a significant leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, was seen as an obstacle to U.S. goals and objectives. Throughout the 1990s U.S. relations with India warmed, while they cooled with Pakistan. Prior to September 11, Pakistan, an authoritarian regime, was one of three countries to recognize the Taliban, and its intelligence services had close ties to the Taliban. India, on the other hand, was a democracy, and had ties to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. By warming up to Pakistan in the aftermath of the attacks, the U.S. has reversed the tilt toward India for which it had assiduously worked for some three years, favoring its “tactical ally” (Pakistan) over its “natural ally” (India). The Indian government appears, however, to be sacrificing its traditions of non-alignment and support for international law in order to rebuild an alliance with the U.S.
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 when it looked the Central Asian countries were facing the growing joint political hegemony of Russia and China in the region, the events of September 11 opened the door to an increased and indefinite-term U.S. military presence. This not only involves the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan but also, in particular, a new agreement recently signed with Uzbekistan to establish a U.S. military presence in this Central Asian nation. This agreement provides for American use of military bases and facilities, and it paves the way for a long-term U.S. military presence, not excluding the stationing of U.S. troops on a standing basis.
Since September 11, the United Nations has gained a rare prominence in Washington’s calculations. Of course it did once before, when Iraq invaded Kuwait–but that was more like a one-night stand turned date rape than a long-term relationship. This time, it could be a more durable courtship, based on more modest and realistic expectations on both sides.
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.