By SCOTT TAYLOR
AS EVERYONE scrambles to predict a possible future outlook for war-ravaged Afghanistan, the negative variables continue to mount.
The Taliban have boldly stepped up their attacks in the power vacuum created by the failed August elections and the countrywide apathy in anticipation of the upcoming Nov. 7 presidential run-off vote.
October was by far the deadliest month of the war with 50 Allied soldiers killed, including yet another Canadian. The daring assault against the United States guest house in the fortified centre of Kabul last Tuesday — coincidental with an equally brash attack against the posh foreigners-only Serena Hotel — indicates that even in areas previously considered secure, the Taliban can now instigate violence and terror.
The steady stream of negative news has caused one international observer to warn us that "Afghanistan could become Somalia." Simon Chesterman uttered this dire warning while he was in Ottawa to deliver a speech to the International Development Research Centre.
Cited by the media as an Oxford-educated lawyer who is a specialist in state building, it was Chesterman’s quotes about the Balkans that disturbed me the most.
"The successes we’ve had in state building, such as they are, are places like Kosovo," he said.
While Chesterman is certainly not alone in his attempt to paint the Kosovo fiasco as a "success," I think that if we are going to use it as a yardstick to measure progress in Afghanistan, a little dose of objective reality needs to be injected into the equation.
Kosovo was recognized as the sovereign territory and religious heartland of Serbia prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The ethnic Albanian majority of Kosovo, behind the armed instigation of the Kosovo Liberation Army, began a serious quest for independence in 1998 through a campaign of terror attacks on Serb police and civilians.
For years, the Central Intelligence Agency listed the army as a terrorist organization, but then had a change of heart in January 1999 when they were declared "freedom fighters."
In March 1999, the U.S. pressured the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into intervening in Kosovo on behalf of the ethnic Albanians.
The NATO bombing campaign, which lasted 78 days, triggered a massive exodus of Albanian refugees fleeing the war zone. This horde of humanity fled into neighbouring countries like Macedonia and created a humanitarian crisis the world could not ignore.
As NATO air strikes against targets in both Kosovo and Serbia failed to wear down the will of Serbs to resist, the NATO propaganda machine began spinning tales of widespread slaughter and genocide being perpetrated against the ethnic Albanians. While this may have kept morale up on the NATO home front, the body count and mass graves failed to materialize when the Serbs forced a negotiated peace settlement with the alliance.
As part of the terms of agreement for NATO soldiers to enter Kosovo unopposed, the West agreed to continued recognition of the sovereignty of the territory as that of Serbia. It was also stated in the UN Resolution 1244 ceasefire agreement that NATO would disarm and disband the Kosovo Liberation Army and protect the ethnic Serb minority and their Orthodox Christian religious sites.
As events unfolded, the army was never disbanded — it was simply renamed the Kosovo Protection Corps — and the Albanians launched an immediate wave of slaughter and destruction against Serbs and their property.
NATO troops initially dismissed these attacks against the Serbs as reprisals, but in March 2004 — five years into the international occupation — the Albanians staged a massive three-day pogrom of violence against the remaining Serbian enclaves.
The status of Kosovo remained in disputed limbo until February 2008, when Albanian leadership followed the U.S. State Department’s advice and unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. The U.S. knew that Russia and China would block such a secession at the UN Security Council, and they thought that by having the Kosovo Albanians deliver a fait accompli, they could bypass the procedural roadblock.
Given that Kosovo is occupied by some 17,000 foreign troops and is entirely dependent on foreign aid for survival, one could easily argue that there is nothing truly independent about it. When you add in the fact that it is an unstable administration headed by indicted war criminals and drug lords, one has to once again question what constitutes a success in the mind of Chesterman.
Kosovo’s current prime minister is Hashim (The Snake) Thaci, who was the political leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army when Agim Ceku was its military commander. Keen-eyed Canadian readers may recall that Agim Ceku commanded the Croatian troops who committed the barbaric massacre of Serbs at the Medak Pocket in September 1993. It was the Canadian soldiers of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry who bore witness to those events and who still question how individuals like Ceku can avoid being brought to justice. But I digress.
Despite incredible pressure from the U.S., only 62 United Nations countries to date have recognized Kosovo’s declared independence. On the flip side, some 92 nations have opposed that declaration. With Russian and Chinese vetoes at the Security Council, Kosovo cannot join the UN. As there are five European Union and four NATO members opposed to its independence, Kosovo cannot hope to join those organizations either.
On Oct. 8, 2008, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to support Serbia’s request to have the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence reviewed by the International Court of Justice. Those hearings are set to begin in December of this year. Should the Serbian government successfully make its case, Canada may have to revoke recognition of Kosovo in order to respect the international rule of law.
Awash in violence, a rampant drug trade, war criminal leadership, occupied by foreign troops, dependant on foreign aid and a future status in limbo sounds a lot more like Afghanistan than Chesterman would care to admit.