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June 19, 2009

Should Obama give Afghanistan over Completely to the CIA, just like in Pre-9/11 Times?

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Poor are the Afghans. Their country is in a very important strategic position.

It borders Iran, a key country leading to the Arab Middle East. It also borders Pakistan, and so has access to the Indian subcontinent. Together, these nuclear powers have more than 1 billion people. Then there are the three neighbouring Central Asian republics: Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Beyond them lie Turkey and Russia. Lastly, Afghanistan borders China, a superpower in its own right.

The world's rich and powerful nations have never forgotten Afghanistan; not because they want to help people who have the world’s lowest standard of living, but because they want to dominate, control and, if possible, occupy the country. The problem is this: military occupation has proven impossible. The land and its people have repeatedly turned back foreign occupation forces. Both Great Britain and the Soviet Union tried and failed. Controlling Afghanistan by using intelligence services, however, has proven to be more doable.

This is was the case during the Soviet occupation (1979 - 1989) when the CIA was in full operation giving military training and financial help to the resistance fighters, the mujahedeen. At the urging of the CIA, every Muslim country helped the resistance. Every mosque in the Muslim and Western world took up a collection to help their brothers. Rich Muslim countries paid the U.S. for arms that the CIA then delivered to the mujahedeen, with the help of Pakistan’s intelligence service. Back then, the U.S. media had nothing but good things to say about Afghanistan. Books were even written on how the liberation forces were winning against the Soviet war machine.

After the Soviets left, the CIA stayed behind and continued working hand in hand with resistance groups, including al-Qaida. Afghanistan provided an excellent base from which to watch China, Pakistan, Iran and beyond into Russia, India and the Arab Middle East. Also, the CIA base was in a country that had no political opposition and no central government, but did have easy access to warlords and drug traffickers; an intelligence organization’s dream! The only thing missing was sex, but that was no big deal.

After 9/11, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to show Americans and the world that it would take revenge on those who dared harm Americans on their own soil. In the years, months and days leading up to 9/11, the CIA was in full operation in Afghanistan, but the official U.S. story is that the agency did not help the hijackers or know of the plot.

Let us now focus on the recent seven-year occupation of Afghanistan, because 117 young Canadians have lost their lives there. In 2002, the Canadian government sent them at the insistence of the /U.S./ government. No Canadian government will pull our troops out, even though it has announced a 2011 deadline. More young Canadians will die, but we don’t want to upset the U.S. now, do we?

So, the bottom line is this: the new U.S. president can save lives by giving the CIA sole operational power in Afghanistan, thus allowing him to pull out the troops, including Canada’s.

This solution seems brutal, as it does not help the Afghan people right away. But it is less brutal than having Afghanistan occupied by the CIA /and/ the armies of more than 10 countries. The CIA, not the occupation forces, can guarantee that 9/11 will not be repeated.

Diplomatic efforts, if sincerely pursued, can prevent a civil war. Political dialogue with the armed opposition, including the Taliban, should start immediately, and a reconciliation program must put in place. It will be tough, but this is the nature of ending violent conflict. In the U.S.-led efforts to end the longstanding violence in Northern Ireland, the process to end the violence moved forward only after there had been direct negotiations with the armed opposition.

Of course, any military savings must be passed on to development programs that help the Afghan people. Canadian NGOs could support economic and social development; unfortunately, the current militarization of aid has caused increased security risks for humanitarian and development organizations, and some of them have had to leave the field.

Will Obama do it?

* Dr. Elmasry is Prof Emeritus of Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo. He can be reached at

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