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Obama Must Broaden Afghan Strategy

14 November 2008 No Comment

By Mateen Kaul

The United States needs greater economic and diplomatic efforts, rather than just a better military strategy, to improve the situation in Afghanistan, according to Afghans settled in Fremont.

President-elect Barack Obama said during his election campaign that he would send more American soldiers to the country to fight the Taliban and hunt for Al Qaeda leaders in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.

“I don’t think more troops is necessarily going to help,” said Rahim Aurang, 68, who left Afghanistan over 20 years ago.

“We need security, but what’s really important is reconstruction, jobs, businesses. This would stop people joining the Taliban,” said Aurang, who runs a non-profit agency based in Centerville that has helped thousands of Afghan refugees settle in the Bay Area. 

Yar Mujaddedi, 73, a resident of Fremont since 1984, supported the idea of peace negotiations with the Taliban. “Until they hold talks, there can’t be security,” he said.

Mujaddedi is a former official in the Afghan Health Ministry who was imprisoned for 18 months under the pro-communist regime in Afghanistan in the early 1980s. He said the US had made a mistake by invading the country in the first place, but withdrawing American troops now would lead to another civil war.

Travel agent Zabi Ansari, 51, agreed that talks with the Taliban were necessary, but only with elements that were willing to lay down their arms.

“They need to be talking to the right Taliban leaders, not the ones who are extremists, and to do so openly,” said Ansari, who fled Afghanistan in 1987.

Farid Mehrzad, 33, who worked as an interpreter for US forces in Kabul for four years, said it was important that the American and NATO forces avoid killing innocent civilians when bombing militant targets in Afghanistan.

“Many people have lost friends and relatives in air bombardment by US and NATO forces. This encourages people to join the Taliban,” said Mehrzad, who arrived in the US a year ago and is studying at Ohlone College.

Abdullah Sayid, 54, who runs a grocery store in Centerville, said the cause of much of Afghanistan’s woes lay across the border in Pakistan. “The new US government must do something to stop Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan,” he said.

Cease the support given them by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence services, and the “Taliban will melt away,” he said.

Obama needs to put pressure on Pakistan to close the porous border between the two countries, and to stop issuing visas to men from Muslim countries who end up fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan, said Sayid

“How do all these Arab and Chechen fighters end up in Afghanistan? It is not through Iran or India or on Afghan visas. They come from Pakistan on official visas given to them by Pakistani embassies in the Gulf,” he said.

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