If the Afghanistan boat sinks, the West will also sink
“The Afghanistans, the generals there and the West — we are all in the same boat.
If the boat sinks, all will sink. I don’t think the Americans will try to upset the boat. If the boat sinks, they will also sink.” These words belong to Afghanistan’s consul general in İstanbul, Azim Naseer Zia, a man who has seen the Afghan boat sink several times in the past.
He has been through the Soviet occupation, the Taliban revolution and the return of King Zahir Shah to the country and, after the establishment of the national assembly, the Loya Jirga, in July 2002, he was appointed as the first Afghanistan consul general in İstanbul.
Zia does not agree with claims that the Americans are not happy with the prospect of current Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai running in the general elections scheduled for August. He finds the suggestion that Karzai was critical of the American military presence in Afghanistan exaggerated. According to him, President Karzai’s critique was limited to certain occasions where individual American soldiers behaved inappropriately. “In the process there were some unnecessary deaths. That was what he was criticizing,” Zia says.
Taliban is an insurgency movement
Another issue the Afghanistan consul general complains about is the media’s depiction of his country as a “lost cause.” Zia does not like questions such as, “Are the Americans losing the war?” To these kinds of questions he replies: “To begin with there is not a conventional war that can be lost. The Taliban is basically an insurgency movement in a particular part of the country. It is not everywhere in Afghanistan. In most parts of the country there is normal governance, normal life. In the north, west and in some parts of the east life is quite under control.” He says there is not even a single province in Afghanistan that is controlled and governed by the Taliban: “The Taliban do not control any part of Afghanistan. They are not establishing their rule. In the past they had established control in a very limited area, but today they do not even try to do so. They only disturb. This cannot be called control.”
Zia acknowledges that the Taliban may also disturb the August elections in certain regions, but he says the disturbances will never reach the point of calling the legitimacy of the elections into question. “The Taliban are there. The Taliban are creating problems. But they do not control any area to the extent of not allowing it to have elections,” he says. Though the consul general emphasizes that the postponement of the elections to August from their original date in May has nothing to do with the security situation, he is hopeful that the security situation will be further improved by election day.
Afghan-Turk schools are the best schools in Afghanistan
Though the security issue is not the priority in the election preparations, it is a top priority for finding a stable solution to Afghanistan’s problems. Zia underscores the need for security: “Just sending more soldiers is not a solution. But more soldiers are needed to bring more stability, not to win militarily. We need a political solution to the problem. More soldiers will bring stability. Stability will allow people to get into development.”
Between the lines the Afghanistan consul general has a message to the Americans who are asking for more soldiers from Turkey whenever they speak about Afghanistan: “Turkey and Afghanistan have cooperated for many years. If you go to the Dardanelles you will find the remains of Afghanistans who came and fought for Turkey. After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, since it was more established and developed, Turkey helped Afghanistan in military and civilian education. The Kabul Medical School was established and run by the Turks in 1930. There were a lot of Turkish professors and professionals who went to Afghanistan and contributed to the society there. Even now, the best schools in Afghanistan are the Afghan-Turk schools. They also have schools for girls only. You see, when the Turkish soldiers are going out in the streets in Afghanistan with their emblems, the people are more friendly with them than with any other forces. We identify with the Turks. The Turks are not considered foreigners in Afghanistan. Why should the only area of cooperation be sending more soldiers?”