How to build a democratic regime in Afghanistan. Interview with Pablo Muñoz.

The current Lieutenant Colonel of the Army of Spain, Pablo Muñoz Bermudo, shared his experience about the Spanish mission to Afghanistan, enrolled in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force of NATO), where he was Chief of the Army Helicopter Unit.

Source: MINISDEF

Source: MINISDEF

Firstly Pablo explained his job, that consisted on supporting helicopters both Afghan Security Forces (ANSF) as other allied units belonging to the ISAF. ISAF’s mission was to provide the  necessary security for the new democratic government of Afghanistan to carry out its tasks, support the reconstruction of a country devastated by war and instruct the Armed Forces and Police Afghan in modern procedures and effective counterinsurgency. Mr. Muñoz noted how difficult the mission was: “The day was hard work because we had to plan and carry out numerous flight missions. The routine does not exist, nor on Saturdays and Sundays. Rotations were six months in which we worked every day as if they were Mondays.”

Getting deeper, Lieutenant Colonel Muñoz gave a small description, the base of operations was at the airport of the city of Herat, located in the northwest of Afghanistan. It was a very dry and dusty region, almost desert, with extreme temperatures in both summer and winter. When he was there, in summer, it was usual to reach 45 or even 50°C. Then Pablo added “The people of Herat are peaceful, as the city is eminently commercial centuries not forget that it is located in the ancient Silk Road. However, there are big differences with Western culture. Many women wear the burqa and never go out alone from their homes unless accompanied by a man. All Afghans working at the base were men. My impression is that the vast majority of people are tired of so much war and destruction and they want to live in peace and try to progress. So they were aware that our presence there was beneficial, because it kept at bay insurgents and their indiscriminate attacks.”

Spanish intervention in Afghanistan has been polemic and critized. Pablo’s perspective regarding this issue is answered with a short and clear background telling that the origin of the deployment in Afghanistan was directly related to the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 civilians died. Back then the Taliban regime ruled in Afghanistan, which came to power in 1996, following the withdrawal of former Soviet Union. This regime protected Bin Laden, mastermind of the attack, and refused to surrender for it to be judged in the US. The refusal of the Taliban regime, coupled with the barbarism that prevailed in the country, led the United Nations to authorize military intervention ISAF to overthrow the government and restore democracy. United Nations asked NATO ISAF mission to lead, because it was the only organization capable of leading a multinational force in a real war environment. All NATO countries, including Spain, joined the coalition. But many others who did not belong to NATO also participated. In total, the 28 NATO countries and 23 other foreign countries deployed in the field.

“Since the deployment began in 2001 until the disappearance of ISAF in late 2014, the preparation of the Afghan security forces improved dramatically.” With these words Pablo did not hesitate to evaluate positively the intervention. He also said that in the early years, all military operations were carried out by coalition forces. Gradually, the participation of Afghan was becoming more and more important, to the point that, in recent years, rushed autonomously with little support from the multinational coalition. The reality is that Afghans have worked hard to become a solvent and able to ensure security on their own strength. That was an achievement of the multinational coalition. As for the Spanish participation, it is clear that nations must live up to what is expected of them. It is a matter of international solidarity. Spain belongs to the most exclusive clubs in the world, and that gives us enormous commercial and political advantages, but also requires us to rise to the occasion when we are asked to cooperate with our partners and allies.

Comparing the Afghan situation with the taliban with the currently one in Syria and Iran with the Islamic State, Mr. Muñoz gives us his skeptical point of view “We will have to see how the situation evolves, but always hoping that the defense mechanisms we have in western nations will be sufficient to maintain our freedom and way of life.” And he also valued how similar both operations are saying that the current operation arises from the letter sent by the Iraqi government to the United Nations in mid 2014. The United Nations issued a resolution authorizing the use of force in support of the Iraqi government to eradicate the so-called Islamic State. Today there are over sixty countries integrating the coalition. The big difference from Afghanistan, deployed forces is limited, for the moment, to improve the readiness of Iraqi armed forces, and not used in autonomous military operations to end the IS.

Finally when Pablo was asked about his personal opinion and his time spent in Afghanistan he concluded “If my stay there has served to improve the future of the Afghan people, of course I well spent long years of my life I spent in that distant country. In the Army we are prepared to go where we ordered our government, in defending the interests of Spain and its citizens.”

Santiago Tabuenca. Middle East and Maghreb

Was The Afghan War Worth It?

End of 2001. With wounded pride after the 11/9 attacks, the US started the “Enduring Freedom” strategy in Afghanistan to try to depose the talibans and judge the leader of the terrorist group Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden. 13 years later, Obama does not find the way to fulfil his promise for the complete withdrawal of US troops.

grds

Afghan National Army soldiers conduct a patrol in Kandahar province in January 2015, shortly after the NATO-led coalition officially transferred all responsibility to Afghan forces. (Stripes)

As Obama announced recently, his attempt to retire progressively from Afghanistan represents a failure. After one decade of the beginning of the invasion, both Europeans and Northamericans would leave behind in the next years a country dominated by armed conflicts, corruption, fragmentation of the territory and huge plantations of opium. We could say, then, that Afghanistan – rather than an armed intervention – needs a rescue plan. 

One of the reasons for this withdraw is the death of Osama Bin Laden, risponsable for the 11/9 attacks. According to Obama’s administration, it is nonsense to extend their presence in the country. Taking into account that the leader of Al Qaeda died few years ago, what was the reason for the US to remain present in Afghanistan?

According to a report provided by Foreign Policy, “achieving a meaningful victory in Afghanistan — defined as defeating the Taliban and creating an effective, Western-style government in Kabul — would have required sending far more troops”. The question is: is there a necessity to mantain a war of “low intensity” without results (or at least, considerable results)?

Another objective of the “Enduring Freedom” was to eliminate the threat that the talibans represent for the Afghan Government. Was it worth it? Have they eventually eliminate them? The answer is evident; it remains to be a problem unresolved.

I invite you to reflex on the following issue: for what purpose have more than 2.500 soldiers died, millions of dollars invested in “pacify, democratize and develop” one of the most backward and feudal countries in the world?

The West has failed to provide an alternative and lacked from military strategy. Jeremy Kotkin, from the US Army, could have not explained it better: “We didn’t understand ourselves. But it all starts with us; our image of ourselves, our role in the world, the yes-men and sycophants to power in our military who refuse to acknowledge critical thought, and how our liberal, 21st-century Western minds see the messy world of geopolitics. With these problem factors in tow there was no way we could “win” Afghanistan”.

Jordan Seeks Revenge After Jordanian Pilot Was Burned Alive by ISIS

The Jordanian army targets ISIS and seeks revenge after a local pilot was showed being burned alive in a video recorded and diffused by the Islamic State on Tuesday, February 3rd. Jordan´s Air Force has launched airstrikes in response.

1200x-1

“King Abdullah II vowed to wage a relentless war against Islamic State to avenge Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasassbeh’s death.” (Bloomberg)

Jordan’s response to the murder of the 26-year-old Jordanian pilot, Muath Al-Kaseasbeh, was immediate – hours after the outrageous and controversial video was released by ISIS, two al-Qaida prisoners were executed by the Jordanian authorities. Due to thirst for vengeance, triggered by the law of retaliation (`Eye for eye, tooth for tooth´), the Jordanian Air Force launched 56 airstrikes (See video of the attacks here) aiming ISIS training camps and headquarters in Syria and Iraq. According to Air force chief Mansour al-Jabour, these attacks are “just the beginning”.

King Abdullah had to put off his trip to the United States to lead such mission himself. In a speech given by him, he quoted a character’s script from a film: ‘I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down’, he also affirmed:` His only problem would be running out of fuel and bullets´.  Army spokesman Colonel Mamdouh al Ameri said: “the revenge will be as big as the calamity that has hit Jordan,

Jordan’s public opinion has showed its support towards the government´s actions and decisions from the start. King Abdullah was greeted by a large number of crowds at the airport in the capital, Amman. Influencial clerics have also organized and led many protest marchs in Amman and the city of Karak, homeland of  Kasaesbeh’s tribe.

Jordan’s King Abdullah, a trained pilot, leads revenge airstrikes on Islamic State himself. (Daily Mail)

This issue has brought up tense controversy at an international level. NGOs, such as Amnesty International, claim that “revenge executions” are not the answer to such issues and also believe that IS’s “gruesome tactics” should not be allowed to fuel a cycle of reprisal executions. According to Jordan Times, this is not revenge “but honour” and it should be considered their “tribute to Muath”.

Contrarily to what is thought and promoted by many NGOs, Jordan has received support from other states, such as the United Arab Emirates, which has contributed to intesify and increase the number of airstrikes.  Obama’s administration, on its part, moves to send arms to Jordan and a new $1 billion aid package in order to express their “deepest condolences” to Abdullah over the death of Kasaesbeh.

Egypt Releases Al Jazeera Reporter Peter Greste

Al Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, who has been imprisoned for 400 days in Cairo due to alleged support for the Muslem Brotherhood and spreading of false information, has been released by the Egyptian authorities.

Family Of Peter Greste Addresses Media (Foreign Policy)

Last Sunday, February 1st, Abdelfatá al Sisi, president of Egypt, approved the release of Al Jazeera’s journalist, Peter Greste, whose freedom had been requested previously by the Australian authorities.

Peter Greste, as well as his two camrades, Baher Mohamed and Muhamed Fahmy, was arrested in 2013 due to false accusations related to the diffusion of uncertain information and collaboration with the Muslem Brotherhood, an organization which is nationally considered to be a terrorist threat.

The decision made by the president of Egypt, in response to the Australian authorities’ request of freeing Peter Greste, was based on a recent decree enacted by the political leader, al Sisi, in the month of December of 2014. Such act establishes imprisoned foreign nationals have the possibility to be deported to their country of origin despite the judicial process that might be taking place during a certain period of time. It is yet to be seen if Peter Greste will be judged in his country of origin or Egypt, where the crime he is accused of committing occured.

Regarding this controversial case, media network Al Jazeera was not targeted by chance, as there has been tensions among the government and the Qatari Broacaster since its foundation in 1966. Many international organizations, known for promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have denounced this event claiming it is a clear violation of the main postulates of Human Rights. Although there is  an extended worldwide awareness of this story, many others, like Peter Greste, who have been imprisoned for attending protest marchs or being keen to the Muslem Brotherhood, have gone unnoticed. In fact – and according to the Committee To Protect Journalists – Egypt is the sixth leading jailer of journalists in the world and the third most dangerous country in the world.

On one hand, the 49-year-old journalist, Peter Greste, who has an Australian citizenship, will be deported to Sydney in a near future. On the other hand, Cairo’s local sources have revealed that Mohamed Fahmy has a dual citizenship, Egyptian and Canadian, which would allow him to gain freedom and the possibility to be deported to Canada if he decided to give up his Egyptian citizenship. Unlike Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed does not share the same fate as his colleagues, he has an Egyptian citizenship and does not have the chance to be deported back to a foreign country.

"Peter Greste was greeted with cheers from supporters a short time after arriving back in Australia". (ABC News)

“Peter Greste was greeted with cheers from supporters a short time after arriving back in Australia”.
(ABC News)

This piece of news has triggered a great controversy in social networks all over the world. The circumstances in which Al Jazeera’s journalists, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Beher Mohamed, have been put into has built up a public opinion that clashes with the decisions made by the Egyptian government when it comes to judging the imprisoned.

The, now free, Australian journalist, Peter Greste, along with Al Jazeera staff, has stated that he will not allow such miscarriage of justice to take place and will fight injustice to free his two partners, Mohamed Fahmy and Beher Mohamed, from alledged charges. Greste family members, Juris (father), Lois (mother) and Andrew (brother), are keen to the cause, as Andrew Greste affirmed: “Peter won’t rest until they’re released from prison and we hope that will follow in the very near future.” 

Maddalen Alberdi Parsons

Silvia Prada Herrero