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United States diplomacy should follow bombing



Published: Fri, November 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



As the United States launches the final push in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, the Bush administration has made it clear that it has no intention of walking away once the Taliban have been ousted and the world's leading mastermind of terrorism, Osama bin Laden, has been captured or killed.

President Bush's decision to replace American bombs with American diplomacy is the proper course of action, if for no other reason than to ensure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorists who view the United States as their main enemy. Through its display of military might over the past seven weeks, the U.S. has reaffirmed its role as the world's lone superpower, which means that it alone has the ability to persuade the five factions in Afghanistan to develop a post-Taliban government and to cooperate in the rebuilding of their war-torn nation.

It will take billions of dollars -- one estimate puts the figure at $10 billion -- to feed, clothe and house the millions of Afghans who have lived in abject poverty ever since the Soviet Union ended its 10-year occupation of Afghanistan in 1989. The Soviet withdrawal, along with the United States ending its support for anti-Soviet fighters, ultimately gave rise to the Taliban, a group of Islamic extremists that not only drove the country back to the stone age, but embraced bin Laden and his Al-Qaida terrorist network.

It was from his headquarters in Afghanistan that bin Laden directed the Sept. 11 attack on the United States that claimed thousands of lives. The attack was seen by President George Bush and most Americans as an act of war. The Taliban's refusal to hand over bin Laden and his top lieutenants resulted in the military campaign in Afghanistan.

Future: Now, with the Taliban controlling less than 10 percent of the country and with bin Laden's terrorist operation in shambles, the U.S. and its coalition partners in the worldwide war on terrorism must look to the future. And that future must be viewed from the perspective of what occurred in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union pulled out.

As Rosanne Klass, author of "Afghanistan: the Great Game Revisited" and an Afghan expert, told The Philadelphia Inquirer: "At the root of Afghanistan's instability, there is absolutely no question it's foreign involvement. Foreign countries ... wanted Afghanistan for their own regional interests. The Americans, the Brits today don't want a slice of the country, to control the country. They've wanted to do a job and go home."

A broad-based Afghan government based in the capital, Kabul, will not be established overnight, which raises the question of how to maintain peace among the various factions during the transition. There has been talk of a multinational force under the auspices of the United Nations.

While we have been uncomfortable with this country's being the primary peacekeeper in hotspots around the world, we recognize that in the Afghanistan undertaking, the United States is leading the charge.




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