Lost in the past

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 April, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 April, 2002, 12:00am

Warnings of Afghanistan's slide back into anarchy have always been pushed aside by optimists. As the interim administration staggers towards the end of its six-month term, it is obvious the pessimists were right and that the country's international saviours have been blinded into inactivity by the euphoria of their good deeds.

The similarities to what happened in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion in the 1980s are striking. The Soviets also believed they could quickly put their stamp on Afghanistan, but soon found it impossible to rein in the dissident elements in far-flung provinces beyond the capital, Kabul.

After the defeated Soviets pulled out in 1989 and a glimmer of hope shone for a united government, the provincial warlords scuppered United Nations-initiated moves.

This same scenario now stares the United States, Britain and other members of the alliance against global terrorism in the face. Their good intentions and well-meaning actions have cost billions of dollars, but done little to restore the promised law, order and security.

Most alarming in recent days has been the uncovering of an alleged plot to overthrow interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai. Hundreds of people have been arrested for planning bomb attacks in Kabul and ethnic Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is said to be behind them. Right-wing Islamic groups have been accused of financing robberies and murders.

American and British officials have in recent weeks recognised that their work has only just begun. Billions of dollars in financial pledges was a start, but Afghanistan also needs stability and security, and it is up to the world community to ensure these are in place.