December 7, 2001 | News Releases on Department of Homeland Security

Muslim Nations Should Occupy Afghanistan, Not U.S., Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2001-If Afghanistan needs "peacekeepers" after the Taliban is defeated, they should come from Muslim countries such as Turkey and Jordan, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.

"We need to avoid having U.S. troops tied down in another open-ended peacekeeping operation," says James Phillips, Heritage's research fellow in Middle East studies. "They should be redeployed as soon as possible to other theaters in the war against international terrorism."

In addition, he says, having American troops occupy Afghanistan would give the impression that the United States and its allies are at war with Islam, and not with terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. This could allow remaining Taliban leaders or others to tap into Afghan xenophobia and Islamic zealotry, which, Phillips predicts, would lead to more violence.

"American troops that are stationed in Afghanistan after the Taliban is defeated would be lightning rods for terrorists attacks from Taliban sympathizers," he says. Phillips, who has been studying Afghanistan for more than 20 years, lists other suggestions for rebuilding Afghanistan after the war. They include:

  • Ensuring that Afghans are active stakeholders, not passive clients of U.N. bureaucrats, in reconstruction. The United Nations can play a supportive role in Afghanistan's post-war reconstruction, but it shouldn't be allowed to supplant Afghan sovereignty and self-determination.
  • Encouraging a decentralized post-war government to give all Afghan groups strong incentives to cooperate. Allowing provincial governments autonomy and financial aid would reduce the chance of an all-out power struggle to control state institutions in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital.
  • Restoring Afghanistan's historic role as a neutral buffer state and keeping its neighbors from meddling in its internal affairs. If possible, the United States should negotiate a treaty with Afghanistan, all six of its neighbors and Russia that would guarantee Afghan territory won't be used as a base to threaten any other state. But despite the efforts of the United States, its allies and the United Nations, Phillips says, it's ultimately up to the Afghans to make their country peaceful and prevent it from "being re-infected with the virus of Islamic extremism."

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