Representants of the federal German government with its minister of Foreign Affairs, Guido Westerwelle, and its minister of Defense, Thomas de Maizière, have celebrated the closure of the German PRT in Kunduz today together with the official handing over of the camp to the Afghan security forces.
What seems like a solemn end to the German engagement in Afghanistan leaves in fact more questions open than can be answered at this point in time:
Will the fragile gains of security on different district levels last for good as a result of mostly US-American anti-terrorist missions accomplished against Taliban and alleged insurgents in the Kunduz area? The recent weeks have seen the killing of the Head of the Independent Election Committee. Also the Char Dara district, famous in Germany for the first heavy air bombardment a German officer has ordered there after WWII back in September 2009, saw a reemergence of violence partly caused due to the existence of the newly created militias and local police structures, with a variety of political and security challenges ahead for the coming months that could generate more violence to come (see here).
German analysts for the occasion have pointed out different scenarios for Afghanistan ahead, ranging from a new civil war to a division of the country up to the Taliban seizing power again over most of the country like in 1996. While Taliban assert to be a player in the coming political struggle for power in Afghanistan, analysts also agree to say that history will not repeat itself. This could mean a model of sharing power with the new political as well as economical elites, including legal impunity for both sides smart enough to be communicated to a public opinion highly skeptical of its political leaders. It is highly interesting but in a way scaring also in this respect that intellectual and politically westernized Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has formed a coalition of circumstances with General Abdul Rashid Dostum with a ticket as vice-president for the letter in the coming elections. If Ghani, who is relatively trusted by western governments and diplomats and was once said to be a potential UN secretary general, joins hands with Dostum, who has a record of ruthless brutality, opportunism and in a way incarnates all sorts of anti-democratic values that play a role in Afghan poltical life, everything seems possible at once. May be also the inclusion of (former or reconciled) Taliban more or less directly coming from the battlefield in a future deal of the kind.
Civil war or not could largely depend on how the elections will run. A tiny majority after the second round of voting might open up the doors for allegations of fraud and vote rigging. What will count a lot for in the upcoming months is the behaviour of Afghanistan's leading politicians and long time mujaheddin leaders and their aptitude to compromise or not. The starting election campaign has shown some signs of realism in this respect, but truth will show itself only as election day nears.
Postponing the date could lead to major unrest, as it would be felt as a betrayal by many.
A division of the country in some regards (language wise) already exists. Here as well, most will depend of the ability of the present political elites together with the neighboring countries Iran, Pakistan, Russia, China and India to engage or not in a multilateral dialogue that could appease or inflame the whole region. I don't personally belong to those who buy in a total withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan. The so called zero-option seems a part in the bargain for the US-Afghan bilateral agreement. The US strategically have more to loose in withdrawing from the region than in staying and having to go on fighting Taliban and insurgency. For this is clear: the insurgency does not seem ready to disappear any time soon. Several reasons that cause the fighting today will remain beyond a potential pecae agreement, as things look now.
Coming back to the German presence: Afghan students I spoke to in Kabul the other day were asking me why the German footprint in Afghanistan has come to be so weak in the past few years and why other countries showed a much bigger appetite to engage with the Afghan youth, trying to establish heavy and convincing ties for their academic and economic future. In fact, there is an impression among young Afghan elites that Germany is not investing what it could invest seen its enormous economical potential. Security wise – with a look back to Kunduz – it was the military and strategical weakness of the Germans, pointed at by Afghans and Americans at some point in 2008 and 2009 that brought in a heavy contingent of US soldiers to fight the Taliban. Germans always stood in the second line, covering the anti-terror measures applied in public silence allong the years from 2009 onwards in Kunduz. They could have looked at it,
as a German profiled journalist said, but they prefered to turn their eyes away from it and to act deafly.
This is an independent blog on Afghanistan. I have been working regularly in Afghanistan as a freelance reporter and correspondent mostly with national German media in the past ten years. I've also been a trainer for a new generation of Afghan journalists and with organisations of the Afghan civil society, last not least an guest author with AAN Afghanistan Analysts network. All photos on this page are from the author, unless signaled differently. Reproduction in any illegal form is prohibited. This blog comes in English and in German language.
Dieser Blog versteht sich als ein unabhängiges Informations-Angebot zum Thema Afghanistan. Als freier Autor und Korrespondent arbeite seit Anfang 2004 regelmäßig am Hindukusch für deutsche Medien und ARD-Hörfunk, daneben vor allem auch in der Ausbildung afghanischer Journalisten/
-innen und der afghanischen Zivilgesellschaft. Der Blog versucht u.a. Stimmen von Afghanen stärker in die Debatte einfliessen zu lassen. Fotos in diesem Blog stammen sämtlich vom Autor soweit nicht anders gekennzeichnet. Das Reproduzieren oder die Verwendung in anderen Formen bedarf der ausdrücklichen Zustimmung.