Plea to G.W. Bush Against Invasion of Afghanistan
Plea to G.W. Bush Against Invasion of Afghanistan
Honourable George W Bush
President of United States of America
2 October 2001
Dear Mr President,
Re: Invasion of Afghanistan would be a Grave Error
Almost every Muslim country is signing up to join the coalition against terrorism while the scope of the campaign is still undefined. The concentration and deployment of American and British forces indicates that preparations are being made for massive strikes. Rag tag army of Taliban and the infrastructure of Afghanistan already in ruin do not need the type of forces that are being assembled. India and Israel have since been joined by Russia to urge the US to attack not just Afghanistan but all the Muslim countries that harbour terrorists. India, that has been engaged in suppressing resistance in Kashmir with 700,000 troops for twelve years, is adamant that the US adopt that war as it own. TV commentators in the US raise the question, "Is it wise to have Muslim countries in the coalition? Can we trust Them?" The very same questions are being raised in the Muslim World. They worry if the clash of civilisations that many in the West see as inevitable has been abandoned or merely postponed?
The horror of 11 September has brought these questions into sharp focus. It is impossible to decry freedom movements in Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya as terrorists and build a coalition against terrorism. All the Muslim countries joining the coalition on grounds of 'national interest' would be pounced upon by enraged masses if America were to accept or accommodate the desire of Israel, India or Russia to keep whole nations captive. The USA would be accused of betrayal; Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden would be proved to be right. It is in the interest of the Muslim World as well as the West that they know what they are fighting for? Are we fighting for justice to triumph and prevail, or are we engaged in destruction of one Muslim country at a time in a process culminating in all of them losing sovereignty? The Governments of Muslim countries may not dare raise the question but the people do eason and reflect. They are pondering over the situation resulting from the horror of 11 September.
The Muslim masses agree that the organisation of Al-Qaeda is a legitimate target for the United States. Osama bin Laden has declared war on the USA even though his principal quarrel is with the Saudi government. The USA is right in law to go after Al-Qaeda; their action would not be pre-emptive - the offence has already been committed. Their operation is global in its scope because the reach of Al-Qaeda has been proved to be global. However, they do not believe it is lawful, just or proper to attack Afghanistan or change its Government. Many see Osama as a hero because he also supports popular Muslim causes. But when his role is subjected to closer scrutiny, they agree he may have undermined popular causes by making the world indifferent or hostile. The case of the Taliban is the exact opposite. They are widely slated for their obsessive zeal in implementing their view of Islam but on close scrutiny it emerges that they took control not by force but by popular approval and their government is the first ever legitimate government in Afghanistan.
Afghans have never had elections; they are unfamiliar with the concept of electoral legitimacy. They have had a warrior knight as a king - an absolute ruler who consulted tribal chiefs and elders he recognised or appointed to an assembly called Loi Jirga. But there has always been the institution of Shoora comprising of the ulema that can overrule the ruler. It has been called to deal with crucial issues including removal of the king or appointment and replacement of the supreme leader. Mullah Mohammed Omar has been appointed the Supreme Leader by the Shoora. He is the legitimate ruler under the Sharia - the law that underpins legitimacy of rulers of Afghanistan. Shoora remained suspended under Kings who disregarded the polity under protection of foreign powers. King Zahir Shah offended against Islamic solidarity in deciding to be hostile to Muslim Pakistan and friendly to India and Russia. He accepted patronage of USSR that encouraged the Communists to eventually take over his country.
The liberation war from 1979 to 1988 was won by the reassertion of Islam as polity that brought the solidarity that is the pre-requisite for Jihad. Rabbani regime violated that polity and lost legitimacy to rule. The rhetoric of leaders of the Northern Alliance shows they have learnt little. Bringing to power those who defy the polity of Afghanistan is not a solution; it is a recipe for continued crisis and war. Pakistan has been consistent and steadfastness in its loyalty to its polity that it shares with Afghanistan. It has a role and a duty to avoid the catastrophe that would follow the replacement of Taliban by foreign military intervention. I believe President Musharraf underestimates the outrage that would be felt in Pakistan and all over the Muslim World upon invasion of Afghanistan. The fallout from it is unpredictable but it would be serious. The impact on world economy would be disastrous. The invasion of Afghanistan would be grave mistake. The fight against terrorism would be undermined, not facilitated.
Air strikes and heliborne operations would be more dramatic but are not likely to be very effective. The USA is likely to get involved in a wider and a longer war before it is able to eliminate Al-Qaeda. What is needed is to separate that objective of fight against terrorism, which is legitimate, and replacement of Taliban in power, which is illegitimate and militarily unwise. The survival of the successors of Taliban in power would require deployment of troops on foreign soil. That would establish a time constraint; the enemy would win merely by outlasting American presence in Afghanistan. The war against terrorism can be won by diplomacy founded on a coalition that can outlast the welcome to terrorists. It would achieve success faster if the government in Afghanistan were based on present rather than the past legitimacy.
1. Taliban, who played no direct role in the horror of 11 September, and Osama bin Laden who is alleged to be its mastermind, should be de-linked.
2. The aim of the US operation should be restricted to getting those responsible for the horror of 11 September. USA cannot take over the battle of the UK against IRA, or of Spain against ETA, or of India against Kashmiris, or of Russia against Chechens. Liberation movements should be dealt with by the country concerned in accordance with the wishes of the people, and international law.
3. The Taliban should not be insulted and isolated, they are the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The educated and sophisticated Afghans living in the USA, who hold the ignorant and the poor of their country in disdain and Pakistan in contempt, are a part of the problem, not the solution. The poor have inherited Afghanistan; they would cling to power more tenaciously than any king would. Even if a broad based government is the objective, the recognition of Taliban as legitimate government of Afghanistan would be the first step.
4. USA has spelt out what it wants from the Taliban but has not said what it would give in return. Taliban want recognition and Afghanistan needs help to rebuild the country. Without that on offer, the USA appears bent upon a pointless war against an ex-ally already ravaged by war and drought. This is not good for the image of America or the prospects for a stable and peaceful world.
I believe it is possible to secure the objectives of a campaign against terrorism as stated by you and also lay the foundation for a peaceful world based on justice for individuals as well as for peoples. The West has de-colonised completely and thoroughly. There is no need for it to support neo-colonialism or neo-imperialism. I have been saying for two decades and I reiterate that there is no conflict of interest between the West and the Muslim World; our interests are complementary. The Afghans are poor but a proud people. They may be guilty by association, but almost every country carries that kind of guilt. The invasion of Afghanistan would be a grave mistake and the removal of Taliban from power is an illegal objective. The Taliban have offered to negotiate, I plead with you to accept that offer. You have already made a beginning to right the wrongs of the past by endorsing a Palestinian State. We pray and hope that you would endorse a plebiscite in Kashmir according to existing UN Security Council Resolutions. But it is the restoration of the dignity of Afghanistan with its sovereignty and legitimacy given recognition and respect that would truly mark the beginning of a new era ending the clash between the Western and Islamic civilisations.
Brigadier (retd) Usman Khalid
Leader of Al-Ansaar