No faith in U.S. foreign policy Does the U.S. know what it's getting into in Afghanistan? By ERIC MARGOLIS September 30, 2001 Toronto Sun The first phase of the U.S. "war on terrorism" may be the attempted overthrow of the Taliban regime, which rules 90% of Afghanistan. Washington is massing powerful strike forces around Afghanistan and has unleashed a fierce propaganda offensive against the Taliban. The Bush administration says it will embark on "nation-building" in Afghanistan. Translation: imposing a pro-U.S. regime in Kabul that will battle Islamic militants and open the way for American oil and gas pipelines running south from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. Washington clearly hopes to make the Northern Alliance, a motley collection of anti-Taliban insurgents, the new rulers of Afghanistan, perhaps under its 87-year old exiled king, Zahir Shah. Before we examine this truly foolish plan, a quick review of Washington's record of "nation-building" in the Muslim world - i.e., overthrowing unfriendly governments and replacing them with compliant ones: Syria, 1948 - The U.S. overthrows the regime; Syria turns anti-U.S. Iran, 1954 - The U.S. overthrows nationalist Mossadegh, puts the Shah in power. Result: Ayatollah Khomeini's 1979 Islamic revolution. Egypt, 1955 - The U.S. tried to kill nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser. He turns to the Soviets. Iraq, 1958 - The U.S. puts Col. Kassem in power. He turns into an anti-American lunatic. Indonesia, 1967 - The U.S. overthrows Sukarno. The army and mobs then kill 500,000 Sukarno supporters. Libya, 1969 - The U.S. helps a young officer, Moammar Khadafy, seize power in Libya, then tries to kill him in 1986.=20 Iraq, 1975 - The U.S. helps young Saddam Hussein seize power. In 1979, the U.S. encourages Saddam to invade Iran in an effort to crush Iran's Islamic revolution. Some 700,000 die in the war. Lebanon, 1983 - U.S. forces intervene in the civil war to prop up the Christian government, 240 U.S. Marines die. Kuwait/Iraq, 1991 - The U.S. goes to war against former ally Saddam, but keeps him in power. Somalia, 1992 - The U.S. intervenes in a civil war, loses men and flees. Iraq, 1996 - A U.S. attempt to create a Kurd mini-state collapses under Iraqi attack. CIA agents run for their lives. Not a record to boast about. But undaunted by failure, the U.S. has found its latest client, the Northern Alliance, and is moving quickly to implant its leaders in Kabul. I write about the Tajik-dominated Alliance with unease. Its leader, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, is an old, respected friend from the earliest days of the great Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. A classical Persian scholar and poet, Rabbani is held in great esteem by his fellow Tajiks, Afghanistan's best educated, most sophisticated ethnic group. CONSIDERED A TRAITOR Rabbani's military commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was killed by Arab suicide bombers two days before the terrorist attacks against America. Massoud was adored by the western media, and was being groomed by his foreign backers as the next leader of Afghanistan. Few outsiders knew that the dashing Massoud was regarded as a traitor by many Afghans for allying himself with the Soviets during the war and turning against his fellow mujahedeen. In recent years, the Northern Alliance has been armed and financed by a very odd assortment of bedfellows: Russia, Iran, the U.S., India and France. The Alliance controls a toehold in northeast Afghanistan next to Tajikistan, a Russian satellite state where Moscow has 25,000 troops. The mainly Tajik Alliance has recently been joined by the Uzbek warriors of Gen. Rashid Dostam, a brutal Communist warlord who collaborated for a decade with the Soviets and was responsible for mass killings and atrocities. America should have no dealings with such criminals. Without Russian helicopters, armour, and "advisers," the Alliance would have long ago collapsed. NEW POLITICAL MAP In all my years as a foreign affairs writer, I have never seen a case where so many Washington "experts" have all the answers to a country that only a handful of Americans know anything about. President George Bush, who before his election could not name the president of Pakistan, now intends to redraw the political map of strategic Afghanistan, an act that will cause shock waves across South and Central Asia. Anyone who knows anything about Afghans knows: 1) they will never accept any regime imposed by outsiders; 2) an ethnic minority government can never rule Afghanistan's ethnic majority, the Pashtun (or Pathan), roughly half the population. Taliban members are mostly Pashtun. Tajiks account for 18%-20% and Uzbeks for 6% of Afghans. Washington's plan for "nation-building" in Afghanistan is a recipe for disaster that will produce an enlarged civil war that draws in outside powers. Let Afghans decide their own traditional way, through a national tribal council, called a loya jirga, to create a new, post-Taliban government whose strings are not pulled from abroad. As for King Zahir Shah, he is discredited as a "foreigner" in Afghanistan and too old to even be a figurehead. Prof. Rabbani would make a good president, provided he was seen first as an Afghan, and only secondly a Tajik. Pakistan, which until lately backed the Taliban, has only one interest: a stable, unchaotic Afghanistan. Islamabad will likely agree to a regime in neighbouring Afghanistan that keeps order and is not the creature of its Russian, Iranian, or Indian enemies. Washington's "experts," would-be crusaders, and reborn Cold Warriors should look twice before they leap.