At last, it has dawned on the U.S.A. and N.A.T.O. that the old strategy was not working and that something new has to be tried. Pres. Obama has sent his Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke to discuss and review strategy, which must include an exit strategy and a greater emphasis on economic development, a need for a regional approach to the Afghan problem, including Pakistan, and stepping up both civilian and military efforts. " I found a very encouraging symmetry of views between our NATO allies and other troop contributing countries and the United States", he told reporters after the meeting in Brussels. He also mentioned that a heavy emphasis on increasing the the size of the Afghan police force was supported.
Pres. Obama has announced that an additional 4,000 troops ( on top of the 17,000) will sent to Afghanistan and be embedded as trainers with soldiers of the Afghan army. He called on " others to join us in doing their part". Canada welcomed this " clarion call", says Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, noting that there are "many elements", that jibe with Canada's strategy, such as calls for an integrated military-civilian strategy and an emphasis on training Afghan army and police faster and sending more troops "to secure and hold areas, thereby facilitating development and reconstruction efforts". Now is the time for NATO countries such as France , Germany, Italy the Poles, the Czechs and others to ante up.
The Taliban of Pakistan and Afghanistan have decided to combine their forces with al Qaeda, to meet this latest increase of combat forces. The Taliban control large areas of the border and al Qaeda have safe havens in the rugged, lawless tribal areas. The weather is changing and it is exspected to bring about a rash of attacks. The poppy crops are blooming and harvesting is on full swing. Last Sunday (March 22), Iranian authorities seized 4.5 tonnes of opium, hashish and other drugs from smugglers around Teheran and two days later, in eastern Iran near the border with Afghanistan another bust of a quarter ton was seized, and another quarter ton was seized in the border town of Zabol. Iranian authorities are very concerned over this increase in drug dealing and also human trafficking and violence seeping across its border and are very interested stopping it before it becomes unmanageable. This is a good opportunity for America and Iran to come together and deal with this common threat. The Iranians may be somewhat hesitant , given their past experience with the Bush in 2001 and 2002 when they quietly co-operated in the defeat of the Taliban but then were include in "the axis of evil". This time, they may be willing to work with Pres. Obama, not only because of the co-incidence of interests but also because of the approach that Pres. Obama has taken in trying to begin a dialogue with Iran. There is another very important reason why Iran will be willing to see the defeat of the Taliban again. They are Sunni, while the Iranians are Shia ( there has been a war between these two factions of Islam for centuries).
Elections are to be held in Afghanistan in August. It is important that this election take place and is seen as legitimate. The ineffective Karzai must be replaced legally. Elections are also coming soon to Iran. It is possible that a new president will be elected ( we must remember that real power in Iran rest with the religious leaders, especially Ayatollah Kameini).
American and Iranian interests overlap in Afghanistan. Here is a great opportunity to work together. If they can get over their mutual suspicion, then the possibility of working in other areas.......Lebanon, Palestine etc. may mean that some of the more intractable problems that have plagued the world over the past 30 years may be closer to a solution. They can begin mending fences at two conferences that they will be attending on Afghanistan, one in the Netherlands ( the Americans have welcomed Iran's presence), and another one, the Shanghai Co-operation Organization conference in Moscow. The United States will be sending Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Moon and Iran will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Madhi Akhundzadeh. Also, it is interesting to note that even some Iranian hardliners are begining to welcome the idea of co-operation between the two countries, to secure Afghanistan, where they have been steadfast in their opposition to the Sunni Taliban. On a practical note, the drug war has cost Iran $600 million in the last two years. Also some 3,700 Iranian security officials have killed, 11,000 injured and there have thousands of clashes between traffickers and police according to a UN report.
CARPE DIEM..... The time is now. This a great opportunity. It must not be missed. It must not be messed up.