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Afghanistan Tour: Peace will come only through negotiations with Taliban

9 July 2008

Afghanistan Tour: Peace will come only through negotiations with Taliban

SP Member of Parliament Farshad Bashir ended his Afghanistan Tour last Tuesday in Groningen. During the last few weeks, in six different towns in the Netherlands, he took part in discussions on the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan with aid organisations, SP Members of Parliament and the general public. “Supporters and opponents of the mission took the floor on each occasion, but they all had one thing in common," says Bashir. "They knew that the mission in Uruzgan is not a reconstruction mission but a military mission, and that peace in Afghanistan will come only through diplomacy, including talks with the Taliban.”

Farshad BashirThe Afghanistan Tour passed through the towns of Wageningen, Doesburg, Wijk bij Duurstede, Utrecht, Haarlem and Groningen. Different Members of Parliament from the SP spoke alongside representatives of aid organisations active in Afghanistan, such as Cordaid, Save the Children and Unicef. “According to most of these organisations aid is best delivered on the regional level without any military interference," Bashir says. "The Afghan people have no faith in the military. After many years of war they have learned one thing: 'Foreign troops' come and go but the local rebels remain. Partly because of this history, it's difficult to win the confidence of the Afghan people. This was also confirmed by the soldiers who had been in Afghanistan who came to our meetings.”

The MP believes that the evening meetings were extremely useful in showing just what the Dutch public knows about the mission in Afghanistan. “A big section of the public is not aware of how the situation in Afghanistan now really is," he says. "There are now two thousand soldiers in a barren and inhospitable region as big as the whole of the Netherlands. There are two missions running parallel to each other, the military mission of the Americans (OEF) and the so-called reconstruction mission ISAF. If that's explained, they understand still less about the Dutch government's efforts."

At the evening meetings there was plenty of time left for the public to pose questions. One of the commonest was, of course, where do we go from here? “There have to be talks with the Taliban," says Bashir, "not with the hardcore, but certainly with the 90% of the Taliban who are native to Afghanistan and who have joined the Taliban primarily because of poverty and despair. In addition, the Netherlands must not under any circumstances let Afghanistan down but should offer help, in the form of real development aid. The reconstruction process will last years and we shouldn't expect either that we will see a decent democratic state or the rule of law established in Afghanistan. It's a gradual process in which we can help the Afghans but in which the Afghans must really do it themselves. You can't force a people to emancipate themselves or to develop. They have to want to do that themselves!"

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