A delegation of Afghan legislators and security specialists in Washington this week pressed the United States to include more ex-mujahedeen in the government as a way of improving the fast-deteriorating security situation in the Asian country.
The biggest mistakes the United States made after taking control of Afghanistan in 2001 was to disband the mujahedeen-dominated national army and to label the Afghans who fought against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s as warlords and human rights abusers, according to the delegation.
And with Afghanistan spinning out of control, the U.S. and international troops in the country are paying the price today, they said yesterday in an interview with The Washington Times. Taliban fighters have recently stepped up their attacks on U.S. and NATO forces by implementing Iraq-style suicide and roadside bombings.
"America didn't know its friends from its enemies," said Gen. Alhaj Mohammad Almas Zahid, a former mujahedeen commander and now a member of parliament. "At that time, the army was mostly mujahedeen and they have been very slow to establish a new one. That gave al Qaeda and the Taliban years of free movement. That is why they are so strong now."
The Afghan delegation met with members of Congress and officials from the departments of State and Defense to warn of the growing "gap between the freedom fighters and the U.S. presence" in Afghanistan, which has come about largely as a result of the decision to replace many ex-mujahedeen in government and military positions with officials who had once cooperated with the Soviet-backed regime, according to the delegation.
"The U.S. policy in Afghanistan has not been up to the Afghan people. .... This created a gap between the Afghan freedom fighters and the international forces," said Fazal Azeem Mujadadi, a senior government official on national security.
Winning back the support of the mujahedeen is crucial to the future stability of Afghanistan, Gen. Zahid said, because nearly everybody in the country was either a member of the movement or had a relative who was.
Backed by the United States with aid and weapons, they fought against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s. The mujahedeen eventually drove the Soviets out before turning on each other in tribal wars before the Taliban took control.
Gen. Zahid dropped out of the 11th grade when the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan and "grabbed his gun" to fight them. He and the 1,500 troops he later commanded were among the first to enter Kabul in the war to topple the Taliban after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Gen. Zahid, who has since been elected to parliament, sees the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorating because of too much influence being exerted by the United States and European Union, as well as Afghans who grew up outside Afghanistan who do not have a deep understanding of the country.
"If the United States and the European Union don't support the mujahedeen, the Taliban will regain control slowly," he said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered peace talks and amnesty to Taliban fighters in an effort to bring them into mainstream politics. Governments and human rights groups are split on this tactic, with some refusing to deal at all with the extremist group and others acknowledging the difficulty of defeating it.