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Avoiding the Next Afghan War
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Nov. 15, 2001 -- Was it only last week that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was counseling us to settle down for the long haul and not expect miracles? He did not foresee, as perhaps no one could, the explosion of joy of a long-repressed people once they tasted freedom.

The scenes in Kabul reminded me a little of the liberation of Paris in 1944 by the Allied-supported French resistance forces -- or, in another way, the liberation of Yugoslavia from Nazi occupation, marred by the civil war between Croats under Marshal Tito and Serbs under Draza Mihajlovic, whom Tito eventually had executed.

In Kabul, as in Belgrade, indigenous forces were in the saddle, and the best-laid or not-so-well-laid plans of the allies for an orderly entry into the capital were swept aside. The Northern Alliance, having promised to stay out of the city, found itself inexorably drawn into the vacuum as Taliban forces withdrew. Now the Alliance promises not to stay as an occupation force.

"A peacekeeping contingent made up entirely of troops from Islamic countries would be a historic novelty. But neither the United States nor its European allies seem anxious to shoulder a task that may last for years."

Daniel Schorr

The scenes of celebration in Kabul were marred by reports of many killings, and the United States and its allies are aware that some peacekeeping force will have to be inserted quickly if there is not to be a descent into anarchy. At the United Nations, there is talk of assembling a force from countries like Turkey, Bangladesh, Morocco and Jordan.

A peacekeeping contingent made up entirely of troops from Islamic countries would be a historic novelty. But neither the United States nor its European allies seem anxious to shoulder a task that may last for years.

With events moving faster than had been anticipated, hardly a start has been made on assessing, let alone meeting, the vast needs of reconstruction. That needs to be addressed before the next war in Afghanistan.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.