Afghan Domestic Opinion Neglected in Ashdown Plan

Afghan Domestic Opinion Neglected in Ashdown Plan

FINANCIAL TIMES 02/15/08
By Michael Shank

Sir, Paddy Ashdown still does not get it. His three-pronged policy prescription for Afghanistan (“A strategy to save Afghanistan”, February 13), while meritorious on many levels, nowhere implies consultation with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai.

This approach, unfortunately, is consistent with years of interventionist neglect of local opinion by the US, UK and Nato.

Ironically, Lord Ashdown recommends talking to and working with Mr Karzai, while failing to make it clear whether his policies were co-ordinated with Kabul. This is one of many reasons Mr Karzai did not want Lord Ashdown as the United Nations special envoy; it follows on the heels of disregard for the host country’s voice in any matter.

In 2001, post-invasion, the interventionist US had an opportunity to restore power to the King, a move thought wise by many in Afghanistan. Instead, the US propped up former oil executive Hamid Karzai, a move no doubt beneficial to interventionists’ interests.

Lord Ashdown’s approach is thus founded on this ideology, that external preference trumps internal logic. And while his three-pronged plan is a somewhat sound one, and his emphasis on human security essential, the fact that it was apparently formulated in the UK and not in Kabul is deeply disconcerting.

Michael Shank,
Government Relations Adviser,
Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution,
George Mason University,
Arlington, VA 22201, US