How 'liberation' has brought anarchy to Kabul, and now history is repeated in Baghdad

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The Independent Online

So security is the problem in Afghanistan, is it? Who would have believed it? Those freedom-loving Afghans feel no more liberated than their Iraqi brothers 1,200 miles further west, it seems.

For Fallujah, read Kandahar. For Baghdad, read Kabul. Jack Straw visits Kandahar and what happens just before this expert on weapons of mass destruction arrives? Someone tries to blow up a local mosque, wounding 16 people, four of them seriously. Turns out the Imam, Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz, had condemned the Taliban's interpretation of Islam. Those pesky Taliban "remnants" - always "remnants", mark you - strike again. But it's much more serious than this.

Afghanistan was "liberated" by Mr Straw's government and that of George Bush. And now it's in a state of anarchy. Then Iraq was "liberated" by Mr Straw's government and that of George Bush. And now it too is in a state of anarchy and increasing guerrilla insurrection. What on earth did Mr Straw learn in Kandahar?

With Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's loquacious Foreign Minister, he talked about security, reconstruction and - of course - opium. But according to the United Nations, Afghanistan is once more the world's top opium exporter. And narcotics production goes hand-in-hand with lawlessness.

So what does Mr Straw tell his hosts in Afghanistan? "As in any other country, security must lie in the hands of the people. At the end, we can do what we can, but it's both your responsibility and your duty."

Mr Fayaz saw the waistcoat in the mosque - the waistcoat covering the bomb - just before it exploded. He was head of the local council of ulema (Muslim scholars) who have supported the government of Hamid Karzai. So he became a target.

Yet the one demand almost all Afghans make - that international troops should be deployed in other cities, not just in Kabul, and hoover up the millions of rifles and rocket-propelled grenades - is denied them by the United States (and, of course, therefore by Britain). Why? The Americans are keen to confiscate weapons in Iraq. Why not in Afghanistan as well?

Well, most Afghans have a shrewd idea of the answer. The Americans know that al-Qa'ida is re-forming in Afghanistan, that they are doing so around the Taliban and that the "Allied success" (aka George Bush) and "victory" (aka Tony Blair) is beginning to look more and more like a disaster.

So the Americans are buying the local tribes to fight the Taliban, just as they bought the Northern Alliance with millions of dollars in 2001 to fight the Taliban. And the tribes don't want to be disarmed and made amenable to Kabul.

So these tribal warlords have no interest in the kind of "security" about which Mr Straw was talking. They want personal power; and as long as the Americans are in Afghanistan they will have it.

And Mr Straw is indeed very worried about "security". Tell this, as they say, to the Afghans.