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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Know your allies

Many Americans were surprised to learn that Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban allies had been supported during the Soviet-Afghan conflict by the CIA, who provided them with training camps, weapons, and finances in an effort to fight the spread of Communism.

Now that the U.S. has nearly forced the Taliban out of power, we are in a position to participate in the selection of the interim government (and, given the tendencies of the CIA, probably the new permanent government).

It seems like a good time to be aware, not only of the character of our enemies, but of the character of our allies as well.

Ex-king Mohammad Zahir Shah, who was deposed in 1973 by Daud Khan and his Communist supporters, has been included in talks about the nature of the interim government, and has suggested the formation of a Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, to facilitate the creation of said government. Many of the remaining members of Afghanistan’s old liberal status quo would welcome back the constitutional monarchy that ruled Afghanistan in the 1960’s, a time of expansion for the rights of Afghanis, and especially women.

Many of the Shah’s detractors insist, however, that the ex-king’s brand of monarchy, which focused on involving the educated class in government, would take away the voice of the people and create a government with a puppet legislature, run by the executive branch.
Another influence on the interim government selection process is Burhanuddin Rabbani, exiled President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, the officially recognized government of Afghanistan. Rabbani is a hero to many Afghanis for having ended years of oppression and poor governing when he and his mujahideen took Kabul from the Communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Rabbani supports the Shah’s call for a Loya Jirga, but questions his involvement in the process, and has spoken out against the reintroduction of an Afghani monarchy.

Though Rabbani is not a fundamentalist Muslim, he is in favor of an Islamic state, which threatens the voice of Afghani socialist and communist intellectuals, with whom political Islam has always been at odds.

Also in line for power, with or without political recognition from the outside world, are the competing factions of the United National and Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (known primarily by Americans as the “Northern Alliance”). They are just that: a group of people with no greater uniting factor than a desire for the end of Taliban rule. With the support of the people, and the advantage of the arms and training given to them by the U.S., many of the UNIFSA leaders may take the opportunity to make a bloody bid for control of the country, like the Taliban did in 1996, and with similar results.

The one lesson that we, as a nation have not learned in our years of involvement in international policy is to pick our allies better than we pick our fights.

In the case of Afghanistan, I hope we learn that the best government to implement is the one that free people elect into power themselves.

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