There are many issues concerning the future of the Afghan refugee crisis
In Europe, both governments face substantial political problems at the national level and the European Union level. Central European countries have sought to implement visa requirements for Afghanis entering their countries or have attempted to implement tougher EU legislation on national security. In Afghanistan, President Karzai has threatened to refuse to sign the EU accords if the visa requirements are increased. Both the EU and the US have discussed reducing the number of Afghans who travel to Europe, but the ultimate decision lies with the Afghan government.
In mid-August, the Guardian newspaper published an article by Oliver Wendell: “The Afghan refugee crisis – and Europe’s future as a safe haven”. Mr Wendell writes that while the UK and other western European countries have taken in large numbers of Afghan refugees, few are granted the right to stay in the continent. ” Tens of thousands of Afghan men and women are thought to be heading for Europe. But the danger for Europe’s security is greater than the number of arrivals: thousands of would-be refugees remain trapped in the war-torn country. “
Wendell further warns that the possibility of a complete victory by the Taliban over the western-backed government in Afghanistan is now a real possibility. This is because China, through its massive foreign-aid program, is playing a major role in supporting the Taleban. “It is not just China that is playing a major role in ensuring the survival of the Taleban. Russia and Iran are also providing financial and military assistance to the Taleban,” Mr Wendell notes. In recent months the Russians have even provided the Afghan army with new weapons and helicopters.
As regards Pakistan, Mr Wendell again warns that it has a huge role in helping the Afghans beat the Taliban. He notes, “The recent developments in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan, indicate that Pakistan may not be able to maintain the support it gave to the Taleban when they were still fighting against the Pakistan Army. The rapid advance of the Taliban and the deterioration of Pakistan’s internal stability raises questions about the future of the Baluchistan province and of Pakistan itself. ” Mr Wendell warns that if the civil war between the Pashtoists and the opposition parties in Pakistan proceeds as it is bound to, ethnic cleansing will be one of the outcomes. This is the main worry with Pakistani officials, mainly since many are already worried about Chinese encroachment on their resources.
Wendell also warns that if the United States satisfactorily withdraws from Afghanistan, it will leave a power vacuum in that country. He quotes an article by Thomas M. Doyle, formerly ambassador to Pakistan: “I had hoped that the withdrawal would bring peace. I was equally hoping that the Americans would remain in Afghanistan for the political benefit that their presence offers. ” According to the associated press, Mr Doyle has requested that President Bush meet with him to discuss the security and economic aspects of the withdrawal.
The Financial Times has published an interesting piece by John Bellamy, formerly a British member of parliament. He writes, “The British government is determined to use its leverage to help its former colonies win independence and protect their economies. ” He then quotes Peter Mandelson, the former British foreign secretary, saying, “The time has come for Britain to take a leading role in assisting minorities in Afghanistan. ” Mr. Bellamy adds, “American reluctance to back up its commitments and French reluctance to increase their troop numbers” in Afghanistan “pose great difficulties for the British and American allies. “
On Thursday, The Financial Times published an article by Thomas Munkler, a new book on European peacekeeping. He says that “the worsening of the security situation in Afghanistan and deteriorating prospects for peace talks” are making Europe less influential in Afghanistan. He adds that there was a time when the United States could rely on the Europeans to help it get on track in Afghanistan. “Now, that absence of American support is creating a crisis of its own, with Europeans reluctant to assume greater responsibility at a time of rising anti-American sentiment and uncertainty about Europe’s ability to keep up. ” Mr. Munkler concluded by saying that there was still time for the European Union to deliver strong words of support for the Afghan people.