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09-15-08, 08:42 AM
Afghanistan of Greater Concern Than Iraq

It is becoming increasingly clear that the rising violence perpetrated by the Taliban in Afghanistan is beginning to seriously worry Western military brass, diplomats and professionals in the fields of security and conflict resolution.

When Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari -- the keynote speaker in Sunday's session of a three-day conference in Geneva -- shared the podium with a lower ranking European Union diplomat, the majority of questions were directed at Fransesc Vendrell, the EU's special representative in Afghanistan.

But the message from the two speakers reflected the reality on the ground with the Iraqi foreign minister saying that there has been an 80 percent reduction of violence in his country and that the overall situation, though still precarious, offered a glimmer of hope.

"We have turned a potentially huge corner," said Zebari. "We have managed to pull ourselves from the brink."

On the other hand, the news emanating from Afghanistan seemed to be heading where Iraq was just a few months ago: More violence, lawlessness, corruption, warlords and terrorist activity.

U.S. President George W. Bush, it would seem, had reached similar conclusions earlier in the week when he ordered a group of 4,500 Marines heading for Iraq to change course for Afghanistan.

In a rare ranting session by a senior-level European diplomat on the shortfall of the international community's engagement in Afghanistan, Vendrell let loose, pointing out the mistakes.

Speaking to members attending the Global Strategic Review symposium organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Vendrell said that one of the West's biggest mistakes was in taking Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf at his word and believing that he would completely shift sides because Donald Rumsfeld, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, asked him to.

This demonstrates the naivety of the U.S. administration when it comes to dealing in foreign policy. As Vendrell lamented, on the question of sustainable policy: "We didn't have one then, we don't have one now."