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Defense Minister of France for the First Time in Bulgaria. "I cannot answer this question", that's how Alain Richard, Defense Minister of France, retorted to the journalist's question what are the chances of Bulgaria to get an invitation to NATO next year. "In any event France will support the candidature of Bulgaria", the honorable guest added. Alain Richard came to Bulgaria for a one-day official visit. In the whole history of diplomatic relations between the two countries this is the first visit of the French Defense Minister to Sofia. Photo by Nelly Nikolova
NEW MEMBERS OF MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT APPOINTED.
Macedonian Assembly elected the new members of the Macedonian Government and appointed new deputy ministers.
With 75 votes "for," one "abstain" and 30 "against" Vlado Popovski was elected as Defense Minister, while Slobodan Casule was appointed as new Foreign Minister with 73 votes "for," 2 "abstain" and 27 "against."
Gjorgji Orovcanec will be the new Health Minister with 78 votes "for," five "abstain" and 20 "against," while Dosta Dimovska will be a minister without portfolio with 75 votes "for," 6 "abstain" and 26 "against."
The newly appointed members of the Government made a formal vow.
The Assembly dismissed Zoran Teofilovski and appointed Trajko Veljanovski as new deputy minister of Justice.
Aljosa Begovski is appointed as deputy minister of economy, Stojan Damcevski as deputy minister of culture, Zivko Jovanov as deputy minister of transport and communications and Asip Asipi as deputy minister of education and science.
PM GEORGIEVSKI EXPLAINS PROPOSAL ON APPOINTING NEW GOVERNMENTS MEMBERS.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski explained the Proposal for appointing new members of the Government as well as the Proposal for appointing deputy ministers at the 94th Assembly session.
He stressed that he considered this new Government as continuation of the previous one, as this was only reconstruction.
"The primary goal of this Government is to create conditions for peace and stability in Macedonia and to fulfill the obligations arising from the Framework Agreement," Georgievski said, adding that if everything was according to the schedules the Agreement could be fully implemented, there would be peace, stability and reintegration of the Macedonias territory and the refugees would return to their homes.
PM Georgievski stressed that the Government would also continue the reforms in the country.
In that respect he appealed to all political parties, those participating in the Government as well as those that do not, to contribute for accomplishing the goal peace, stability and reintegration of the country.
The Prime Minister emphasized that he has proposed persons that are less likely to cause internal disunity in the Government. "These persons would make the government firmer as we have big goal in front of us," Georgievski stressed, urging the deputies to support the Proposal in order to resolve the dark crisis as soon as possible.
Coordinator of SDSM parliamentary group Nikola Popovski stated the position of the group that it would remain in opposition of the new Government, stressing that they would not vote for the new ministers.
PM GEORGIEVSKI ANNOUNCES NEW GOVERNMENT COMPOSITION.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski announced Thursday the names of new ministers, after three members of the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM) and one from Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) left the governmental grand coalition.
Vlado Popovski from the Liberal Party has been proposed for a new Defense Minister, while Slobodan Cashule and Gjorgi Orovcanec from Nova Demokratija for Foreign and Health Ministers. Dosta Dimovka from the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party has been proposed for a new Vice-Premier and will most probably become a head of the Crisis Management Body.
"I am sure that Dimovska will be very successful at her new post," Georgievski said.
Macedonian Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski announced this after the meeting with President Boris Trajkovski on Thursday evening.
Political parties of Albanians will keep their Ministers' positions in the Government.
"We wish for VMRO-VMRO party to remain in the governmental coalition, Georgievski said, adding that the issue has already been discussed.
Names of candidates for deputy ministers would be announced additionally, Georgievski said.
"The new government will make efforts to stabilize the country and implement the Framework Agreement, particularly the parts that refer to passing of certain laws, territory reintegration, return of refugees and restoring of the country's security," Georgievski said.
The new administration is due to be presented to the Parliament on Friday.
Replying to journalists' questions, Georgievski stressed that Macedonia would request an extension of the NATO mission in the country, but no talks on possible connecting of the Alliance's missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia would be accepted.
Asked about early elections, Georgievski said that there were more important problems in the country, which require political solutions.
A session of the National Security Council is underway at the moment, focused on implementing of the Plan for re-entry of the police forces in the crisis regions.
Is There a Good Terrorist?
The New York Review of Books
By Timothy Garton Ash.
Have you heard that Osama bin Laden is coming to Macedonia?
Because we've declared an amnesty for terrorists.
This Macedonian joke, told to me recently in Skopje, invites us to reflect on one of the most important questions in the post–September 11 world: Who is a terrorist? It is a question to which the international community sorely needs an answer.
Slav Macedonian nationalists insist that they face their own Osama bin Laden in an Albanian Macedonian guerrilla leader called Ali Ahmeti.[1 ]Yet, they say, the United States and NATO have been making deals with this terrorist, and pressing the Macedonian government to grant him amnesty. Of course, nationalist regimes around the world have always played this semantic card—Russia denounces Chechen "terrorists"; Israel, Palestinian "terrorists"; China, Tibetan "terrorists"; and so on—with widely varying degrees of justification. In this case, however, it is not just the local nationalists who have taken a dim view of Mr. Ali Ahmeti.
On June 27, 2001, President George W. Bush signed an Executive Order freezing all US-based property of, and blocking donations to, a list of persons engaged in or supporting "extremist violence in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and in other parts of the Western Balkans. "I find," said the presidential order, "that such actions constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat." Near the top of the list of persons thus dramatically stigmatized is "AHMETI, Ali, Member of National Liberation Army (NLA)," born in Kicevo, Macedonia, on January 4, 1959. The presidential order does not actually use the word "terrorist," yet it treats him as such. In May this year, the NATO secretary-general, Lord (George) Robertson, described the National Liberation Army that Ahmeti leads as "a bunch of murderous thugs whose objective is to destroy a democratic Macedonia."
In mid-August, however, under heavy pressure from the United States, NATO, and European negotiators, representatives of the Slav and Albanian Macedonians signed a peace deal. In return for constitutional and administrative changes designed to secure equal rights for Albanian Macedonians in the Macedonian state, the NLA would stop fighting and hand in many of its weapons to NATO. As part of the deal, the Macedonian president, Boris Trajkovski, committed himself to giving amnesty to the insurgents, a commitment effectively guaranteed to Ahmeti by NATO. As President Trajkovski memorably explained to me: "I signed an agreement with the Secretary- General [of NATO] and the Secretary-General's representative signed an agreement with the terrorists."
I found some confusion among Western representatives in Skopje about the proper characterization of Mr. Ahmeti. One senior British military officer, who had spent years fighting the IRA in Northern Ireland, told me with emphasis and passion that Ahmeti and his colleagues in the NLA are terrorists. "If you take the NATO definition of terrorism, they absolutely fit," he said. Other senior civilian and military NATO representatives described the NLA action as an "insurgency" and expressed admiration for the restraint exercised by Ahmeti and his men in their astonishingly successful seven-month campaign. On paper, international organizations had characteristically taken refuge in a euphemism wrapped in an acronym. "EAAG," said the documents—short for Ethnic Albanian Armed Group.
I felt it might be useful to ask Mr. Ahmeti himself. So, with an Albanian driver and interpreter, I drove up high into the beautiful wooded mountains of western Macedonia, past Macedonian police checkpoints, past well-built hillside villages with gleaming minarets, past a makeshift road sign saying "STOP: NLA," to the village of Sipkovica. Dodging mules carrying great loads of straw up the steep and narrow cobbled street, we made our way to a large house guarded by young men in jeans and dark glasses. While we waited, they proudly pointed to a black Audi "captured" from the deputy speaker of the Macedonian parliament. Inside, Ahmeti, a weary-looking man with swept-back silver-gray hair and fingers heavily stained with nicotine, seated himself cross-legged on a weary-looking armchair and offered me what he called a "very good" whiskey—a fifteen-year-old Bowmore from the Scottish island of Islay. He drank some too. (In the Balkans, Islay trumps Islam.)
After a few minutes of preliminary conversation, I told Ahmeti that there was much discussion since September 11 about terrorism and that "some people would say you are a terrorist." How would he answer them?
As my question was translated, his bodyguards shifted slightly in their seats. Ahmeti replied calmly and quietly. I expected him to say words to the effect "No, I'm a freedom fighter," but his response was more thoughtful. "That person cannot be a terrorist," he said, "who wears an army badge, who has an objective for which he is fighting, who respects the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Tribunal, who acts in public with name and surname, and answers for everything he does.... Someone who is aiming for good reforms and democracy in the country —and that people should be equal before the law."
Now of course one can't simply say "Oh well, that's all right then!" One has to look at what the NLA actually did, and may still do. Nor should we retreat into the weary relativism of the phrase I have heard so many times in Europe over the last few weeks: "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." To be sure, on this matter there are blatant double standards throughout the world. The Kurds are freedom fighters in Iraq and terrorists in Turkey, or vice versa, depending on where you sit. To be sure, the kind of sudden shifts that we have often seen in Western policy and language invite cynicism. The banned terrorist Ahmeti becomes a valued partner in a peace process. The CIA-funded, heroic, anti-Soviet fighter Osama bin Laden becomes the world's most wanted terrorist. The former terrorist (or was it freedom fighter?) Menachem Begin wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yet it is also true that people change. They spiral downward into brutality like Conrad's Kurtz, or they reemerge from darkness as they conclude that their political purposes are best served by moving on from armed struggle, as did the former German terrorist Horst Mahler, the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, and Nelson Mandela. It is also true that there are many different terrorisms, and not all forms of using violence to achieve political ends are properly described as terrorism. If we are not to lose the global "war against terrorism," proclaimed by President Bush after September 11, we need a sophisticated understanding of the differences.
Here are four things to look at in deciding whether someone is a terrorist, and, if they are, what kind of terrorist: Biography, Goals, Methods, and Context. Only a combination of the four will yield an answer. I will use the example of Ahmeti and the NLA, but the template can be used anywhere.
BIOGRAPHY: Who are they, where are they coming from, and what do they really want? Why did fifteen of the nineteen assassins of September 11 come from Saudi Arabia? Does Osama bin Laden really want to destroy the West, to purify Islam, to topple the Saudi royal house, or merely to change the Saudi succession? The classic questions of intelligence work are also the first intelligent questions about any suspected terrorist. Biography may not be at the heart of all History—but it certainly is for this patch.
To anyone who has spent time in Kosovo and Macedonia, what we know of Ali Ahmeti's life story feels quite familiar. He comes from the village of Zajas, near the town of Kicevo, in the mountainous western part of Macedonia that is largely inhabited by Albanians, but he studied at the University of Pristina, in Kosovo. (It was then all Tito's Yugoslavia.) He was a student radical. Like many others at that time, he combined Albanian nationalism and Marxism-Leninism. He was imprisoned for a few months. He was, aged twenty-two, an active participant in the 1981 uprising of Albanian students in Pristina. Then he fled to Switzerland. Not having access to classified intelligence reports, I do not know exactly what his "studies" and "work" in Switzerland consisted of, but he remained politically active. In exile he reportedly joined the Movement for an Albanian Socialist Republic in Yugoslavia, and formed a Macedonian subcommittee of the Marxist-Leninists of Kosovo. His style during our long conversation spoke to me of many hours spent debating revolutionary politics in smoke-filled rooms. He read many books, he told me, "for example, about psychology and guerrilla warfare."
While the rural population among whom he operates is largely Muslim, at no point in our conversation did he even mention Islam, let alone give any hint of fellow feeling for Islamic terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. It is a reasonable assumption that a whiskey-drinking, ex–Marxist-Leninist, Albanian nationalist does not see himself as part of any Muslim international.
His movements during the 1990s are unclear. He told me that he was back in Macedonia in 1993, when he found his Albanian compatriots still hoping for peaceful recognition of their rights inside the newly independent Macedonia. An unconfirmed report speaks of him being in Tirana, the capital of Albania, in 1997, attempting to organize guerrilla groups. A great influence on him was his uncle, Fazli Veliu, a former schoolteacher from the same village of Zajas (and another name on President Bush's exclusion list of June 27). Ahmeti joined a small political party called the LPK, which uncle Fazli had been instrumental in founding. The LPK was the main precursor of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). They also organized the Homeland Calling fund, which raised money among Albanians living abroad for the armed struggle in Kosovo. How much of that money derived from the drug trade, prostitution, or protection rackets we shall never now, but some of it certainly came from ordinary Albanians making patriotic contributions.
Obviously, the military campaign of the KLA in Kosovo in 1998–1999 was a formative experience for him. Ahmeti told me he was in Kosovo at that time, but did not actually fight. Other reports say he fought. Not accidentally, the Albanian initials of the National Liberation Army in Macedonia are the same as those of the Kosovo Liberation Army: UCK. Some of the leading figures of the NLA came from the KLA. So did some of the weapons. But above all, there was the immediate example. I asked Ahmeti if he thought Albanian Macedonians would have been ready to fight for their rights in 1998. No, he said, "because of the situation in Kosovo." But after the West had come in to Kosovo and—as most Albanian Macedonians saw it—the KLA had "won" as a result, there were enough people ready to heed the call to arms in Macedonia at the beginning of this year. Most of the ordinary fighters of the NLA were Albanian Macedonians, many of whom had bought their own guns.
Summarizing what he told me, I would say that the now forty-two-year-old Ahmeti drew two main conclusions from the Kosovo war. First, you could win more by a few months of armed struggle than Albanian politicians had achieved in nearly a decade of peaceful politics. As in Kosovo, so in Macedonia. Second, that you could do this only if you got the West involved. That was the great tactical goal—and the great unknown. He told me that when the insurgency took off in February, "I knew that without the help of the West we couldn't win. But we didn't know how much they would help...." So he had to do everything possible to bring the West in. That meant being deliberately restrained in both their goals and their methods. This was Albanian Macedonia's chance. This was Ali Ahmeti's chance.
GOALS: Whatever the tangle of biographically conditioned motives—and human motives are often unclear even to ourselves—one also has to look at the proclaimed goals of a terrorist goal or movement. Sometimes, as in the case of al-Qaeda or the German Red Army Faction, the overall goals are so vague, apocalyptic, and all-embracing that they could never be realized in any real world. But sometimes they are clear and—as much as we deplore tactics that shed the blood of innocents —in some sense rational objectives, which may sooner or later be achieved in the real world. The KLA wants independence for Kosovo; the IRA, a united Ireland; ETA, independence for the Basque Country, and so on.
The NLA was remarkable for the clarity and relative modesty of its proclaimed goals. From the outset, its leaders insisted that they only wanted what Albanian Macedonian politicians had been arguing for since Macedonia became independent in 1991: equal status and equal rights for the Albanian Macedonians. Albanians should be recognized as a constitutive nation of the Republic of Macedonia. The Albanian language should be accepted as an official language, in parliament and the public administration. Albanians should have the right to higher education in their own language. Albanians should be proportionately represented in the bureaucracy, the courts, and, especially, the police, who should stop harassing them. There should be more devolution of powers to local government— with obvious implications for those areas with an Albanian majority. But Macedonia should remain a unitary, multiethnic state.
Compared with the demands of the KLA, Bosnian Serbs and Croats, the IRA, or the ETA, these look as if they were drafted by Amnesty International. Most Western representatives regard them as reasonable, and believe that the Macedonian state should have conceded most of them years ago. Now you may say: but these demands are tactical, designed to ap-peal to the West. Certainly they are. Altogether, I found Ahmeti guarded, elusive, even evasive on these political questions—which is to say, he spoke as a politician. Like the old Marxist-Leninist comrade that he is, he stuck firmly to the party line: equal rights in a unitary, multiethnic state, nothing more! But, it seemed to me, he did so with some personal conviction—and good arguments.
Why, I asked, could one not envisage a federal solution for Macedonia? He smiled: "In a country with just two million people and 25,000 square kilometers?" It would be ridiculous. Federalism would mean new territorial borders and competition between the constituent parts. How could you draw the lines in a country where Albanian and Slav Macedonians live so mixed up together? "Either we're in the twenty-first century and thinking of integration into Europe, or we do it as they did one hundred years ago...." Putting his hand on his heart, he said, "My country is Macedonia."
Not all his colleagues agree. I spoke to another NLA commander, Rafiz Aliti, known as "Teacher" because he was, until the spring uprising, the village physical education teacher. He told me that he favored the federalization and "cantonization" of Macedonia. A unitary state could not work. If the Macedonian side did not implement the mid-August "framework agreement," which on paper fulfills the Albanians' moderate demands, then they would go to war again. And this time it would be a war for territory. What territory? "The territory where Albanians live."
Yet there is a substantial body of evidence that most of the Albanian political elite in Kosovo and Macedonia have agreed that the medium-term strategic goal should be different in each place: independence for Kosovo, equal rights in Macedonia. And, incidentally, not Greater Albania for either. Not for the foreseeable future anyway.
There is a very good reason for Albanian Macedonians to take this gradualist path. According to the Macedonian authorities, some 23 percent of the Macedonian population is Albanian, but unofficial estimates put the number as high as 35 percent. The "framework agreement" provides for a new, internationally supervised census, and it will be interesting to see what figure it comes up with. Whatever the result, everyone knows that the Albanian Macedonians have many more children than the Slav Macedonians. At current birth rates, the Albanians will probably become a demographic majority in about 2025. And then the majority might elect the sixty-six-year-old Ali Ahmeti president of Macedonia...
METHODS: This is the single most important criterion. An old man who stands on a soapbox at Speakers' Corner in London of a rainy Saturday afternoon demanding that the Lord raze to the ground all branches of Marks & Spencer is not a terrorist. He is a nut at Speakers' Corner. The Scottish National Party has goals much more far-reaching than the NLA—it wants full independence for Scotland—but it works entirely by peaceful, constitutional means.
Does the individual or group use violence to realize their personal or political goals? Is that violence targeted specifically at the armed and uniformed representatives of the state, or does the terrorist group also target innocent civilians? Does it attempt to limit civilian casualties while spreading panic and disruption—as Irish paramilitaries have sometimes done, by telephoning bomb warnings—or does it aim for the mass killing of innocent civilians, as al-Qaeda plainly did on September 11?
Ahmeti and the NLA deliberately chose violence. The lesson they learned from Kosovo was: if you play your cards right, a little well-calculated violence achieves what years of nonviolent politics had not. Which, once again, it did. But, Ahmeti and others claim, they never targeted civilians. They observed the Geneva Conventions, were mindful of the Hague Tribunal, and so on. Most international observers agree that the NLA did much less harm to Slav Macedonian civilians than the KLA did to Serbian civilians in Kosovo. This was especially true in the areas most directly under Ahmeti's command. But Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented several cases of kidnapping, torture, and abuse by members of the NLA.
I spoke with a group of young Slav Macedonian men who had fled from their villages in western Macedonia. However, they had done so—even by their own account—after themselves having taken up arms against the NLA. They told the dreadfully familiar story of how neighbors who had lived and worked peacefully together for years suddenly turned guns on each other (as in Kosovo, as in Bosnia, as in Croatia...). According to the Macedonian government, some 70,000 people fled or were expelled from their homes as a result of the fighting. International observers suggest the number is much lower. They also say that the worst damage to civilians was done by the Macedonian army and security forces. The guns of an incompetent army indiscriminately pounded rebel villages—the textbook way not to fight an insurgency. Paramilitaries called the Lions, working, as in Milosevic's Serbia, under the interior ministry, attacked Albanians in the shadows. And there is no doubt that ordinary Albanians have for years been subjected to harassment by a police force that is overwhelmingly Slav Macedonian.
Coming down from my mountain meeting with Ahmeti, our car was stopped by a man in the uniform of a police major and a paramilitary soldier with a large wooden cross around his neck. The major verbally abused my interpreter. When I tried to intervene, saying (rather pompously) that I had that morning spoken to President Traj- kovski and I was sure the President would wish us to be given fair passage, he said to my interpreter, "Tell your man I don't give a fuck about the President." When I smiled, he said, "Tell him to stop smiling." This Macedonian policeman was a fine propagandist for the Albanian cause.
Afterward, my Albanian driver was physically trembling with rage. "You see how they treat us," he cried, in his broken German. "If I had not seen the policeman waving us down at the roadside, they would have shot us. That is not korrekt." Not korrekt, indeed.
This was a messy little low-level civil war, in which neither side was very korrekt and neither very brutal, by the low standards of the Balkans. The NLA started it, but the Slav Macedonian side behaved rather worse during it. This brings us to our last criterion: context.
CONTEXT: Basic Principle 1.1 of the Framework Agreement for Macedonia says, "The use of violence in pursuit of political aims is rejected completely and unconditionally." An ad-mirable principle. But not to be taken too literally. After all, in bombing Afghanistan, America and Britain are pursuing political aims through the use of violence. You may say: but that is justified by all the time-honored criteria of "just war," and legitimated by international coalitions, organizations, and law. Anyway, to use political violence from inside and against a legitimate state is a quite different thing. But who decides if a particular state is legitimate?
Even within an internationally recognized state, there can be such oppression that armed resistance may be considered legitimate. This is the claim expressed with incomparable force in the words that Schiller puts into the mouth of Stauffacher in his Wilhelm Tell. When the oppressed man can find justice in no other way, says Stauffacher, then he calmly reaches up into the sky and pulls down his eternal rights that hang there, inalienable and, like the stars, imperishable. When no other means remains, then he must needs take up the sword. Such, perhaps, were the Polish uprisings for freedom in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Such was the American War of Independence.
It therefore matters hugely what kind of state you're in. It is one thing for groups like the IRA and ETA to use political violence in states like Britain or Spain, where the means of working for peaceful change are equally available to all in a mature democracy. It is another thing for Palestinian groups to use political violence against an oppressive military occupation in the Gaza strip or the West Bank. Another again for the ANC against the South African apartheid regime. Yet another for the violently repressed Kosovo Albanians to take up arms against the Milosevic regime in Serbia. We may want to uphold the universal principle "No violence!" but we all know that these are, in political fact and in moral content, very different things, and some violent political actions are—shall we say—less unjustified than others.
"So far as I know," President Boris Trajkovski smilingly informed me, "world leaders are all praising Macedonia." Well, I have news for President Trajkovski (who is a nice, decent, personally uncorrupt, and well- intentioned man, but not perhaps pos- sessed of the world's strongest intellect or character). They're not. In private, many of them are cursing it. I remarked to a very senior Western negotiator who has had much to do with Macedonia that I had never encountered a more pigheaded, shortsighted political elite than the Slav Macedonian one. "Amen to all that," the negotiator said, "except that I would question your use of the word 'elite.'" Just as they fought the war against the NLA in a way that rebounded against themselves, so they are still—at this writing—pigheadedly holding out against amendments to the constitution that most international observers regard as wholly reasonable.
A particular sticking-point is a wording in the preamble that refers (in my official English translation) to "the historical fact that Macedonia is established as a national state of the Macedonian people...." Understandably, the Albanians don't like this reference to a national state, especially since the word for "people" in this context is narod, implying ethnic community, rather than the broader and more civic nacija. The Slav Macedonian side agreed to a rewording in the summer peace deal, but now the parliament is threatening to renege on it.
Extraordinary Western pressure— almost weekly visits by the EU foreign policy representative Javier Solana and NATO secretary-general George Robertson (who might have a few other things on their minds), the withholding of international aid to the crippled Macedonian economy until the amendments are passed—seems incapable of budging them. The sledgehammer is defied by the nut. And at lower levels, the bureaucracy, the army, and the police seem as stubborn, corrupt, and incompetent as their politicians.
There are explanations for all this. Looking back over the last decade one must have sympathy with Slav Macedonians too. There are peoples that aspire to statehood and peoples that have statehood thrust upon them. The Macedonians had statehood thrust upon them, as former Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991. Well into the twentieth century, all of the country's four neighbors had claims on its territory: Serbia between the wars treated it as part of Southern Serbia, Bulgaria regarded it as part of Bulgaria (and the Macedonian language as just a dialect of Bulgarian), Albanian nationalists wanted great chunks of it for Greater Albania, and Greeks said Macedonia is really Greek.
None of these claims were fully, unambiguously laid to rest in 1991. Their already battered economy was then shattered and corrupted by Western sanctions on Milosevic's Serbia, and a Greek blockade of international recognition for Macedonia because, said the Greeks, there is already a Macedonia in Greece. (Hence the state's awkward international name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, though it calls itself plain Republic of Macedonia.) Then it had to cope with the vast Albanian refugee influx from Kosovo. Western promises of economic aid and investment have remained largely that—promises. Oh yes, and the Slav Macedonians will soon be a minority in their own country. A little existential Angst is understandable. This helps to explain, but it does not excuse. Most of the changes now be-ing made (or not being made) under pressure from the NLA and the West should have been made years ago.
All that being said, the fact remains that the position of the Albanians in Macedonia at the beginning of this year was nothing like the one unforgettably evoked in Schiller's Wilhelm Tell. There were still possibilities for peaceful change. Established Albanian political parties were in the government as well as parliament (as they still are), and they were pressing for most of the same reforms. They were not getting there very fast (partly because both Slav Macedonian and Albanian Macedonian parties harbor impressive levels of corruption), but in time, with Western and especially European pressure, they would have got there. However relatively restrained the NLA was in its goals and methods, it willfully chose the path of violence when other paths were still open. As a result, it has accelerated the necessary reforms on paper, but it may also have impeded their practical realization. For the war has resulted in further alienation of the Albanian and Slav Macedonian communities, and political radicalization on both sides.
So: was I drinking whiskey with a terrorist? Well, certainly with a former revolutionary politician and a guerrilla leader who deliberately reached for the gun when other means were available. Perhaps the moderation of his proclaimed goals, and the fact that he tried not to target civilians, pulls him just the right side of the line. Just. Perhaps. Certainly, he has moved on to become an impressively consistent advocate of change through political negotiation inside an undivided, multi- ethnic state. So maybe it is all right to drink whiskey with a reformed terrorist? If it were not, the consumption of whiskey by world leaders would have been reduced by quite a few bottles over the last fifty years.
Will the United Nations give us some further guidance on this matter? For a long time, the UN has avoided any definition of terrorism. Recently, it has tiptoed toward one. A November 2000 report by the UN's Sixth Committee came close to a general definition when it declared:
Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political reasons are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be used to justify them.
But that is unsustainably broad. Isn't the Taliban a "group of persons" among whom we hope to provoke a state of terror? Who decides what is a criminal act?
Since September 11, support has been growing for a UN convention on terrorism. One wonders how useful any definition it comes up with can be, both because member states will have such widely differing views of what should count and because of the intrinsic difficulties for even the most neutral, independent analyst. Realistically, the best one can hope for may be that as wide as possible a spectrum of states, including states from different "civilizations," in Samuel Huntington's sense, may reach agreement on the description of as many particular cases as possible. At the very least, Europe and America should agree—which is by no means guaranteed, if one thinks of differing approaches to Iraq, for example, or to Israel and the Palestinian question. Even then, a common policy might not follow, but at least there would be a common analysis to start from.
To this end, my four headings— Biography, Goals, Methods, Context —may serve as a modest template, but the content in each case will be very different and there will be no universal guidelines for judging the combination. As the great Bishop Butler once unshallowly remarked, every thing is what it is and not another thing.
—November 1, 2001
The point was made to me, vociferously, by a group of nationalist demonstrators outside the Macedonian parliament. A Macedonian Web site makes a tabular comparison of the two men (Occupation: Leader of a terrorist organization; Leader of a terrorist organization; Islamic? Yes; Yes; and so on). See www.realitymacedonia.org.mk.
 But what is the NATO definition of terrorism? This officer could not remember exactly. Subsequent inquiries reveal that NATO does not have one, not least because its member states cannot agree on one—which again indicates the difficulties. Probably this officer was thinking of a working distinction made in British military doctrine between "terrorism" and "insurgency."
 On this, see Tim Judah, Kosovo: War and Revenge (Yale University Press, 2000), and my review essay on the Kosovo war in The New York Review, September 21, 2000. I quote there US special envoy Robert Gelbard characterizing the KLA in February 1998 as "without any questions, a terrorist group."
 The Homeland Calling fund may be compared with the US-based Noraid fund, which raised money in the US for the IRA—except that the Noraid fund was long tolerated by the US authorities. The Albanian-American vote was, of course, rather smaller than the Irish-American one.
 The Kosovo Liberation Army was Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves (UCK); the National Liberation Army is Ushtria Clirimtare Kombetare (UCK). Thus, when my driver was asking for the location of Ahmeti's headquarters he asked, "Where is the headquarters of the UCK?"
 I cannot resist quoting these marvelous lines in full:
Nein, eine Grenze hat Tyrannenmacht:
Wenn der Gedrückte nirgends Recht kann finden,
Wenn unerträglich wird die Last—greift er
Hinauf getrosten Mutes in den Himmel
Und holt herunter seine ew'gen Rechte,
Die droben hangen unveräusserlich
Und unzerbrechlich, wie die Sterne selbst—
Der alte Urstand der Natur kehrt wieder,
Wo Mensch dem Menschen gegenübersteht
Zum letzten Mittel, wenn kein andres mehr
Verfangen will, ist ihm das Schwert gegeben.
 I owe this quotation, and my summary of what the UN has done, to my Oxford colleague Professor Adam Roberts.
Simeon Paid Ihtibar* to MRF.
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's visit to Kardzhali was a grand gesture to the MRF. And personally to Ahmed Dogan. The premier owed it to his coalition partner, after putting him in an awkward situation by backing up Peter Stoyanov. Simeon showed to the ethnic Turks he is his Prime-Minister. He pledged to help them to take posts in the special services and the embassies. But far more important to the poor population of the region was his promise that he was to find Italian investors for the Gorna Arda project. Which means jobs and bread. Each step of his was a sign: him entering in slippers into the mosque, his public commendation for Mehmed Dikme, his promise the building of the Museum of History to be turned back into a madrasah. And people did remember his words. No one of the hitherto premiers did such a thing.
*Ihtibar (Turk.) - jesture of respect and good will
Bulgaria to Assume the UN Sanctions against Libya.
Bulgaria will take over the U.N. Sanctions Committee against Libya within the framework of its mandate as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Elena Poptodorova said. In September next year Bulgaria will also preside over the Council for 1 month in accordance with the rotation principle.
Richard Was Silent About Our Chance for NATO.
French Defence Minister Alain Richard uttered no word, whether we had any real chance to take an invitation for NATO membership next year. He arrived yesterday on a one-day official visit at the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart. Nikolay Svinarov called the visit historical one as it is the first time a French defence minister visits Bulgaria. 'We will back up Bulgaria's accession to the Pact and we wish such political decision to be taken at the highest level in the Alliance,' the guest stated. To him, we are the only one to communicate freely with our neighbors. He esteemed highly Bulgaria's stabilizing role in Europe and in the region. Alain Richard met also Premier Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Foreign Minister Solomon Passy and Stanimir Ilchev - chairman of the defence and security committee with the Parliament.
Pope to Visit Bulgaria on May 24.
The Pope is to visit Bulgaria on May 23 to 25, said Foreign Minister Solomon Passy after he met Monsignor Renato Bocardo, chief of the protocol of the Vatican's State Secretary Cardinal Sudano. The head of the Latin Church will come to Bulgaria as a pilgrim; May 24 is Bulgaria's Culture Day and he wants to avail himself of the opportunity to pay homage to this great tradition, Monsignor Bocardo said. In a way he responds to reciprocate the gesture of the Bulgarian politics, who used to pay a visit to him on May 24, the guest said further. His Holiness is to meet Bulgarian catholics, and Patriarch Maxim will receive him at the residence of the Holy Synod. The guest is also going to meet the Jewish, Orthodox and Muslim communities. To well-informed, his visit will be a recognition that Bulgaria was not involved in the attempt on his life in 1981.
The General Met Secretly with Interior Minister.
"I resign because they do not trust me, General Atanassov said."
Four are the candidates for the post of director of the National Security Service (NSS), this became clear yesterday after general Atanassov's resignation. His only deputy Colonel Ivan Drashkov runs for the post, too. He'll be an interim head of the service, while a decision for new director is taken. Most probably this top level decision will be taken by the PM, Dogan, Petar Stoyanov and Georgy Parvanov. General Atanassov met secretly with Interior Minister Georgy Petkanov. They talked for more than an hour yesterday morning. According to the law the heads of the services give their resignations to the Minister in person, this was the only commentary from the IM. Half an hour later General Atanassov announced his motives through the press-office. I resign, because they didn't trust me and the service, he said.
LUKoil to Clear out All Buildings over Oil Pipeline.
Excavators tear down illicit buildings in Bourgas.
Thieves of fuel profited by the demolished villas in "Meden Rudnik" residential district. "LUKoil Neftochim" started an action to clear out all the illicit buildings down the routes where the pipelines underlie. As early as in the morning, several excavators started demolishing 30 villas and farm sheds in the "Meden Rudnik" residential district in Bourgas. The decision the illicit building to be destroyed was taken at a meeting of the LUKoil and Bourgas municipality governing bodies, sources from the refinery said. The oil company insisted on taking drastic measures because of the multiplying thefts of fuel in the area.
2002 Is Decisive in BG-EU Negotiations.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Meglena Kouneva
We have all grounds to insist on opening the last two chapters, says Chief EU Negotiator, Meglena Kouneva.
- Mrs. Kouneva, the annual report of the European Commission on Bulgaria is a document that inspires hope in us. What can it change for real and what is the result of our efforts towards EU accession?
- To us it was a success that in September we managed to present our last three positions which have not been submitted so far, as well as furnish additional information on every chapter where it was requested. This is not an exercise in technicalities, but an attempt to demonstrate that on the state level there is a clear vision as to how to develop regional policy, energy sector, how to cope with budget and financial problems.
- You said that we are prepared to open all chapters by the end of this year. However, you are doubtful that in the EU they will be ready, aren't you?
- The very phrasing "we are opening chapters" sometimes shifts the accents and changes meaning. We have presented our stand on these 29 "parts" of the future agreement, but, as in any agreement, this process takes two parties. In our particular case the parties are 15. Every member state takes part in it. Thus the common stand takes shape and on this basis we can start negotiations on individual chapters. Each change of deadlines asks for extra efforts and puts the EU under additional pressure. The negotiations are conducted with 12 countries. In our concrete case Bulgaria originally declared its intention to "activate" 26 chapters till end-year. Under Belgian chairmanship, i.e. till the end of the year, we'll be seeking to open three more, which means, though, that the Commission will have to assess whether Bulgaria is ready to negotiate them and then, naturally, another requirement must be born in mind, namely - the administrative capacity of the Commission. Fortunately, the main counter-argument set forth so far against the opening of these two "economic" chapters - lack of functioning market economy - was finally refuted in the Annual Report.
- Is there a chance that Bulgaria concludes negotiations by the end of 2003?
- I hope so. Everything depends on us only. 2002 will be the decisive year for these negotiations.
Danube opens for shipping.
The Danube, one of Europe's key waterways, has been declared open for navigation for the first time since 1999, when Nato bombed bridges in the Yugoslav section of the river. The Danube Commission, which oversees shipping on the river, said the remaining war debris would be completely cleared from the river by the middle of next year. "It appears very likely that traffic on the Danube will recover in 2002 the volumes seen before the conflict," said the Commission in a statement from its Budapest office. It is expected that about 10,000 ships will use the Danube annually. The cost to ships, ports and barges from the disruption of the river is thought to have been about one million euros a day. Danube Research's Edgar Martin told the BBC's World Business Report that it "is very difficult to assess the full economic impact but it is huge, it is absolutely huge." Most shipping companies on the Danube are state-owned and were able to withstand the river's partial closure, but many smaller companies have gone out of business. In Romania alone, about 4,500 jobs have been lost, leaving just one thousand people employed in the shipping industry there.
The commission also announced a tender for the next phase of the clearance work, which will involve removing up to 14 unexploded bombs from 1999, and more than 100 from World War II. The European Union has agreed to cover most of the cost, estimated at some $25m. The Commission said earlier this week, that the central channel in the Serbian city of Novi Sad, had been cleared of debris and marked for safe navigation. The five-kilometre channel, which is 80-metres wide and 2.5-metres deep can be used by ships even at low water. "It is of the same quality as any other channel along the 2,412 km of the navigable Danube," said the Commission's head Hellmuth Strasser. "This fairway is absolutely safe. We have checked it thoroughly and it can be used without difficulty". However, most of the debris from the 1999 conflict remains in the river.
A pontoon bridge is the only crossing at Novi Sad.
The BBC's Central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe says that the fall of Slobodan Milosevic from power a year ago removed an important political obstacle to EU financing of the clearance project. Until now, ship captains had to navigate at their own risk. They also complained about the high fees levied by the Yugoslav authorities to open a pontoon bridge in Novi Sad every weekend. But an agreement had been reached to gradually cut the fees and increase the opening times. From 1 January the pontoon bridge will open twice a week, and from mid-March, three times a week, making it much easier for captains to plan their trips. The pontoon bridge is to be removed in about two years' time, after the repair of the main bridge in Novi Sad. Despite the disruption, traffic through Novi Sad has steadily increased, reaching almost 500 ships in November.
Afghan Myths - An Interview with Anssi Kullberg.
by Sam Vaknin Ph.D.
Anssi Kristian Kullberg is presently employed as a researcher for the Legal and Country Intelligence Service, Western and Central Asia Desk, at the Finnish Directorate of Immigration. This interview represents his personal views only and not those of his employer. On Black Tuesday, 11th September, he was in Kyrgyzstan, on his way to the notorious Ferghana Valley, in a reconstruction of the late Finnish Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim's intelligence expedition to Turkistan and China in 1906-1908.
Q: Was the Taliban the creation of Pakistan? Can you tell us about its formation and how was Russia involved in it?
A: The Taliban was not a creation of Pakistan, although Pakistan was among several states that contributed to the genesis and development of this peculiar movement. It is true that the Taliban (which was established only as late as in 1994 as a religious movement) had a significant influx from Pakistani madrassas. But the Taliban is not only an extreme religious movement, but also an ethnic Pashtun one. The Pashtuns are a bit less than half of Afghanistan's population, but in Pakistan there are 16 million resident Pashtuns plus 3 million as refugees. There are more Pashtuns in Pakistan than in Afghanistan nowadays. The "Pakistanis" involved in Pakistan are in fact Afghans.
The role of the Pakistani Islamist opposition in the formation and support of the Taliban is widely recorded. But more important are those who made it a military power. This is where Russia enters the game, too. In order to understand the Taliban, we must recall the background situation in Afghanistan ever since the events in 1970s.
The Taliban is not monolithic. Even less so is the Northern Alliance. Neither were the Afghan communists united. This was made evident by the internal power struggles following the ousting of King Zahir Shah in 1973. Daoud was overthrown and killed by communists in 1978. But the communists were divided into the Khalq faction, favored by China, and the Parcham faction, favored by the Soviet Union. In 1978 it was the Khalq faction that took over, but their more moderate leader Nur Mohammed Taraki was overthrown and killed by the hardliner Khalq communist Hafizullah Amin. In 1979, the Soviet Spetsnaz murdered Amin and replaced him with the Parcham follower Babrak Karmal, who was close to the KGB. Then the Soviet army invaded.
The communist secret service Khad (KhAD), whose leaders were Karmal and Sayid Mohammed Najibullah, was actually an Afghan branch of the KGB. It had been preceded by the communist secret services of Taraki and Amin (AGSA, KAM), but from 1979 onwards this organization of terror was instructed and trained by the KGB. The culture of terror and the horrible persecution of the civil population continued without a pause from the communist takeover up until the overthrowing of Najibullah's regime in 1992 when Massoud liberated Kabul. Western minds seem to implicitly suppose that when the Cold War was over, the communists and the structures they had created just suddenly disappeared. This is a recurrent fatal misperception especially of the Americans.
According to Professor Azmat Hayat Khan of the University of Peshawar, when Ahmad Shah Massoud's mujaheddin liberated Kabul in 1992, and Najibullah gave up power, the communist generals of the army and of Khad agreed to prolong the Afghan civil war in order to discredit President Burhanuddin Rabbani's mujahid government and prevent Afghanistan from stabilizing. The Uzbek communist General Abdurrashid Dostum continued the rebellion against Rabbani and Massoud in Mazar-i-Sharif, massively backed by the Soviet Union and later by Russia and Uzbekistan. Another rebellious general was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Most of the ethnic Pashtun Khalq army generals as well as those of the Khad defected to Hekmatyar's troops. A decisive role was the one played by General Shahnawaz Tanai, the communist commander of the artillery, who defected to Hekmatyar's side as early as in 1990. Later in 1995, when Hekmatyar's rebellion was losing strength, Tanai defected to the Taliban. So did many other communist army and Khad officers.
It was Tanai's defection that provided the Taliban with Soviet artillery, Soviet air force, Soviet intelligence and Soviet technical and military knowledge. The American Anthony Arnold argued already then that Tanai's moves were a KGB-inspired provocation. The former KGB General Oleg Kalugin said that it was Moscow who trained most of the terrorists the US is now chasing.
As regards the Taliban, it was nothing special when they took over Kandahar in 1994. Kandahar was a Pashtun city and the strict interpretation of Islam the Taliban propounds is not so much based on the Qur'an but on the narrow-minded social norms of an agrarian Pashtun village. Mullah Omar is often described as having the background of a relatively simple-minded rustic mullah, although he was also politically active in Mohammed Nabi Mohammadi's Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami (Revolutionary Islamic Movement), which later opposed the Taliban.
But apart from Mullah Mohammed Omar and some other leaders who seem to have truly religious backgrounds (and no other education), the Taliban's military and intelligence are dominated by Soviet-trained communists.
Besides Tanai, there is for example the late first Taliban military commander and one of its founders, "Mullah Borjan", whose real name was Turan Abdurrahman, a prominent communist military officer. Many Taliban
"mullahs" have no religious training at all. They are former communist military and security agents who have grown up beards and adopted new names and identities replete with the title "mullah". The Taliban artillery commander was the former Soviet Army's Afghan military intelligence officer Shah Sawar. The Taliban intelligence service chief Mohammed Akbar used to head a department of the Khad. And the Taliban air force commander Mohammed Gilani was a communist general, too. Perhaps because of this immensely influential influx into the Taliban, their interpretation of Islam is quite alien for most of the world's Muslims, but closely resembles the interpretation of Islam that the communists and Russia have traditionally espoused in their anti-Islamic propaganda.
The decisive strengthening of the Taliban took place in 1995-1996, when it was seen as a "stabilizing" force in Afghanistan. This was a great fallacy based on the Taliban's success in Kandahar, which was indeed their "home field". Anywhere else the Taliban did not bring about stability, but quite the opposite. Among those with a rising interest in the Taliban forces, were all the main players: Russia and its satellite regimes in Central Asia, the US, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. At the initiative of the Turkmen dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, the Russian energy giant Gazprom, headed by the then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the US firm Unocal, contracted to lay a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, circumventing Iran and crossing the Afghan territory that the Taliban had supposedly "stabilized". For Pakistan, it has been a traditional national interest to secure energy supplies from Central Asia, since it is sandwiched between two vehemently hostile great powers, India and Iran. For Russia, this was seen as a way to control Central Asian energy resources and to extend its influence towards the Indian Ocean. Two Saudi Arabian oil companies were also involved.
During the same years, the Taliban received sizable armed support. It did not come mainly from Pakistan. Financial succor came from Saudi Arabia. But the most decisive increase in the Taliban's strength came from Russia: the defections of the Khalq and Khad generals directly into the Taliban's leadership, vast amounts of Russian weaponry in several mysteriously "captured" stashes, including a very suspicious "hijacking" and escape of a Russian jet loaded with weapons that ended up in the hands of the Taliban's ex-communist leaders. With these new weapons, the Taliban marched on Herat in 1995, and finally managed to capture Kabul in 1996. Najibullah was hanged, but Najibullah's hanging by his former Taliban-turned protgs seems to have camouflaged the actual developments in the Afghan power struggle.
Russia had an interest to cut the strong ties between Massoud's mujaheddin and the Tajik opposition that Russia had crushed since it attacked Tajikistan in 1992 and backed the communists into power there. The old provocateur Hekmatyar was by then defeated and had finally given up his fight - after losing his men and arms by Tanai's defection to the Taliban - and accepted a seat in the government in compensation. Since Hekmatyar was finished, a new Pashtun force was needed in those years. Taliban was a rising force that various external players tried to exploit by infiltration, support and manipulation.
When the Cold War was declared over by the West, it did not stop elsewhere. After 1989 the West really lost interest in Afghanistan and until some months before his death Massoud was trying to appeal to it in vain. The West was uninterested, but others were. Pakistan, of course, was interested in the goings on in its unstable neighbor. Saudi Arabia was financing and supporting dangerous Sunni fundamentalist groups, and later the Taliban. The Saudis also provided them with their own Saudi fanatics that had become troublesome at home. Iran was supporting its own agents within Afghan Shia groups. And the Soviet Union and later Russia continued to provide massive armed support to the last communist dictator of Afghanistan, Najibullah, and later to the notorious General Dostum.
The Russian principle was "divide and rule", with the basic idea of keeping the West out and assuring that the region would not strengthen so that the Soviet empire could return once it has regained its military might. Because of this stratagem, Russia has supported the Tajiks of the Northern Alliance through Tajikistan - only sufficiently to form a buffer zone against the Taliban, but without being able to gain substantial victories or to intervene in Tajikistan. Moreover, Russia has been arming and supporting the Uzbeks under the command of Dostum and General Malik who later defected to the Taliban's side. This support has been directed through Uzbekistan and still continues - ironically, with the West's full blessing. Less known has been the Russian support directed through Turkmenistan to the Taliban, and to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan that is said to threaten Karimov's rule there.
Q: What was and is the role of the CIA in all this? Was Pakistan's ISI the CIA's long arm? Was bin Laden a CIA agent?
A: A chronic feature of American intelligence policy seems to be historical amnesia and inability to see the complex nature of conflicts and local relationships. This was also manifested during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. British intelligence and part of the Pakistani intelligence community clashed with the US already during the Cold War period, because they wanted to support Ahmad Shah Massoud, the "Lion of Panjshir". It was Massoud and his mujaheddin who finally, after getting Stingers from the British, managed to make the war too expensive for the Soviets, forcing them to retreat in 1989.
Meanwhile, the CIA was incompetent enough to be dependent on the Pakistani intelligence services that, especially in Zia ul-Haq's period, favored Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a pompous figure who claimed to have extensive contacts throughout the Islamic world. He indeed had some contacts, including with Osama bin Laden, but he was considered to be a KGB provocateur by Massoud and many others, and was never of any help in the Afghan independence struggle.
Instead of fighting the Soviet occupants, Hekmatyar preferred to fight other Afghans, and to conspire with suspicious Arab circles imported by his contact bin Laden to Peshawar. The Stingers that the CIA had provided to Hekmatyar, were not used to liberate Afghanistan. Instead, Hekmatyar sold them to Iran, and they were later used against the Americans in a well-known incident.
When the Soviet troops moved out, Hekmatyar pursued a bloody rebellion against the legal Afghan government, devastating the country along with another rebel general, Dostum. (Though they were not aligned.) In 1993, Hekmatyar supported the KGB general and spymaster Haidar Aliyev's coup in Azerbaijan and, in 1994, Hekmatyar was involved in supporting pro-Russian Lezghin terrorists in the Caucasus. Hekmatyar is still active. He lives in Teheran, and has recently finally revealed his true colors by siding with the Taliban.
As far as I know, Osama bin Laden was never a CIA agent. However, there are relatively plausible claims that he was close to Saudi intelligence, especially to the recently fired intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faizal, until they broke up. Osama first appeared in the Afghan War theater either in 1979, or, at the latest in 1984. But at the beginning he was first and foremost a businessman. He served the interests of those who wished to construct roads accessible for tanks to cross through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean. This might also explain his characteristic opportunism - quite atypical for a self-proclaimed warrior of faith.
International jihadists surely want to portray him as a religious fighter or Muslim hero, but this is not the true picture, but, mostly, a myth created by the Western media. This is where Arab, Pakistani and Indonesian teenagers learn that Osama is a fighter in a universal struggle of Islam against its oppressors.
But bin Laden never fought the Soviets to liberate Afghanistan. For most of this period, he was not even in Afghanistan. He was managing an office in Peshawar, and the only credible claim about him being in a battle has been made by the former CIA official Milton Bearden concerning a minor skirmish that took place in spring 1987.
Bin Laden's first significant contact in Peshawar was the Palestinian Professor Abdullah Azzam, whom bin Laden has later described as his mentor. Azzam was an Arab idealist, who wanted to concentrate on the liberation of Afghanistan, and who wanted to support Massoud, whom he correctly regarded as being the right person to uphold. Bin Laden disagreed. He wanted to support the disloyal Islamist fanatic Hekmatyar. As a result, Azzam and his son were blown up in a car bomb in 1989, and consequently, bin Laden took over his organization and transformed it into Al-Qaida (the Base). Already before these events, he started to transform the agency by flooding it with his Arab contacts from the Middle East. These Arabs were not interested in liberating Afghanistan as much as in hiding from the law enforcement agencies of their own countries, most of all Egypt's.
When Russia attacked Tajikistan, bin Laden and his folks were by no means interested in liberating Tajikistan from a new communist yoke. Instead, bin Laden left Afghanistan and dispersed his terrorist network, directing it to act against the West. It is bizarre that a man claiming to be an Islamic fundamentalist supported the invasion by the Arab socialist (and thereby atheist) Iraq against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, both with conservative Islamic regimes.
Al-Qaida's supported all causes and activities against the West: the US, Turkey, Israel, and any pro-Western Muslim regime like Pakistan. Robbers on the island of Jolo in the Philippines qualified for Al-Qaida's support although they hardly knew anything about the Qur'an. They were immediately they were portrayed as "Islamic fighters". Even the strictly atheist anti-Turkish terrorist organization PKK has been welcomed. At the same time they definitely have not supported Muslims advocating Turkish-modeled moderate independence, like the Chechens, the original Tajik opposition or the Azeri government under President Abulfaz Elchibey.
As concerning Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, I think it would be gross underestimation of a potential regional great power and its British colonial traditions of military and intelligence to describe it just as an arm of the CIA or of the Islamists. These are widespread myths. The ISI is neither the hero nor the villain of this story. I think the ISI is interested simply in the national interest of Pakistan, which consists of four main elements: security against the hostile strong neighbors India and Iran, security against the instability and uncontrolled forces ravaging Afghanistan and infiltrating Pakistan through the large Pashtun population, the conflict over Kashmir, and Pakistan's own international status.
Afghanistan is an historical buffer zone in the ancient Great Game of Central Eurasia. It is the gateway through which Pakistan's enemies can attack or destabilize it, and it is equally the buffer that stops these enemies. Pakistan's is interested in regional stability while its enemies seek to use any instability against it. There is a great divide within Pakistan between Pakistani nationalists and internationalist Islamists. Pakistan is relatively democratic compared with its neighbors - even including India, considering its treatment of minorities and the Kashmir issue. It, thus, has the problems of a democracy. Pakistan has quite free and critical press, local administration and intellectual opposition, the Islamists included. It is not, and has never been, an Islamist dictatorship like Saudi Arabia.
Q: Can you chart the relationship between the ISI and the Taliban?
A: The policy of the ISI was strongly correlated with developments in Pakistan's leadership. The main divide concerning the ISI's Afghanistan policies did not concern religious issues as it did the ethnic question related to the political and military aspirations of the Pashtun people in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Actually one of the greatest dangers to Pakistan's national existence would be the emergence of the idea of Greater Pashtunistan, splitting Pakistan in two.
This was an idea favored and agitated by the pro-Soviet Pashtuns - many of whom are now influential in the Taliban. The Pakistani researcher Musa Khan Jalalzai noticed this and described these people as "enemies of Pakistani interests".
India and Iran would like to split Pakistan and destroy it, and Russian geopolitics is still based on a "final thrust to the South". Iran and India equally fear that Baluchistan, Kashmir and Punjab would finally be united under Pakistani rule. Incorporating Pashtunistan, Pakistan has the potential to become a South Asian superpower with plausible expansionist chances. Yet this has never really been an aspiration of Pakistan. Like Turkey under Ataturk, Pakistan under such leaders as Ayub Khan and now Pervez Musharraf has been introverted in its nationalism and based on constitutional and national ideas similar to those of present day Turkey and France.
During the military dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq the policy turned more Islamist, and during this period the ISI strongly supported Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar proved disloyal and finally defected to Iran. During Benazir Bhutto's government, support has shifted to the Taliban. This was decided by the Interior Minister Nasirullah Babar. It is history's irony that the first female prime minister of Pakistan helped to strengthen the misogynist Taliban regime. The ISI started to get disillusioned and disappointed with the Taliban during the thoroughly corrupt "democracy" continued under Nawaz Sharif. There have been rumors that the ISI wished to influence the Taliban and to empower "a third force" among the more moderate Taliban leaders to take over it. It is in connection with this that Shahnawaz Tanai actually defected to Pakistan, and the ISI was dealing with the former communists who were so powerful within the Taliban.
Luckily for Western interests, General Pervez Musharraf took over. This takeover was the best event in Pakistani history as far as the West is concerned, although it was sadly ignored in the West during the Clinton administration. Musharraf was portrayed as a military dictator and a supporter of the causes of the Taliban and of an alliance with China (all sins of his predecessors). Musharraf is profoundly pro-Western, secular in mind and pragmatic in foreign policy. He in fact tried to form constructive relationships with all the neighboring countries (Iran, India and Afghanistan). His peace initiatives in Kashmir were stalled by Indian arrogance, and the West turned a cold shoulder to its old ally, which has been a source of great bitterness in Pakistan, especially since the West has been very inconsistent in choosing when to support Pakistan and when not to. But during the Musharraf reign, human rights and the position of women in Pakistan have improved considerably.
Constructive relations with whomever rules Afghanistan have been Realpolitik for Pakistan. Although Musharraf, immediately after seizing power, started to undermine the support for the Taliban, he could not remove the recognition given to the Taliban government, as there was no other Afghan government - the Rabbani government having been ousted and categorically hostile to Pakistan, partly for legitimate reasons. Pakistan has been trying ever since to construct new anti-Taliban alliances, as well as trying to find intra-Taliban frictions to exploit. But the West should be very careful and measured in its pressure on Pakistan. The Taliban is really not under Pakistan's thumb, and never was.
I think the ISI first saw the Taliban as a potential instrument. Then it saw it as a threat that had to be infiltrated and controlled. Then they saw it as a burden. Surely the ISI wished to control and contain the Taliban, but their success has been rather doubtful (as has been others'). Many analysts have paid attention to the fact that Afghan as well as non-Afghan adventurers like bin Laden, have always been very talented at exploiting the surrounding states as well as both superpowers.
Another distorted myth is propagated by India. It is that the Kashmiri secessionism is terrorism and a Pakistani creation. This is very far from reality. More than 80% of Kashmiris would probably prefer independence, but at the same time they reject the Islamist model. There are several small but media-visible Islamist groups operating in Kashmir, or at least proclaiming the Kashmiri cause. But these people are not really interested in Kashmiri independence. They are interested in jihad. Such Islamists appear wherever there is a war (during Bosnia's struggle for independence and in the Albanian civil war, in Chechnya, Kashmir and so on). Their "help" is usually just an added burden to the ones they purport to help, since they are seldom fighting for any liberation. These "professional" jihadists also seem to be more common in internet cafes and among Arab diasporas in the West than in places where Muslim nations face real oppression.
We must remember that Musharraf cannot possibly surrender to India in the Kashmir dispute. This would not only be political suicide, but it would not end the Kashmir conflict - quite the contrary. It would mean importing the Kashmiri conflict into Pakistan, and against Pakistan. What happened in Afghanistan, with millions of refugees flooding to Pakistan, should not happen with Kashmir. This would be an outright catastrophe for both Pakistan and India, let alone the Kashmiri people. Therefore it is the most crucial interest of the West to prevent India from escalating the Kashmir conflict and turning Kashmir into another weapon against Pakistan's stability.
Q: The "Arab" fighters in Afghanistan - are they a state with a state, or the long arm for covert operations (e.g., the assassination of Massoud) for the Taliban? Who is the dog and who is the tail?
A: The dog and tail can get very entangled here. Everybody is exploiting everybody, and finally all organizations and states are tools which consist of individuals and used by them. The Arabs in Afghanistan are indeed Arabs. There are also lots of "Pakistani" volunteers on the Taliban side, but these are mainly Pashtuns, that is, Afghans.
The mentioning of Chechens, Uighurs and so on is more designed to satisfy the propaganda purposes of Russia and China. There are less than one million Chechens and they have a very harsh war going on in Chechnya. Chechens who choose to go to Afghanistan instead must be quite unpatriotic.
The Arabs form the hard core of Al-Qaida. They are the Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi etc. professional revolutionaries and terrorists who have gathered around the figurehead of Osama bin Laden. Many of these share the same old background in Marxist-inspired revolutionary movements in the Middle East. Ideology and facade have changed when green replaced red, but their methods as well as foreign contacts have mainly remained the same. This is why they are much more interested in attacking the West and pro-Western Muslim regimes than in supporting any true national liberation movements. Even if they try to infiltrate and influence conflict outcomes in the Balkans, the Caucasus, East Turkistan and Kashmir, they are set against the nationalist and secular - and usually pro-Western - policies of the legitimate leadership of these secessionist movements. So the people whom Al-Qaida may support and try to infiltrate are usually exiled or otherwise opposition forces acting in fact against the idea of independence. This has been the case in Chechnya, Dagestan, Bosnia, Kashmir and so on.
And this has been the case in Afghanistan as well. Osama bin Laden and his Arabs never contributed to the actual Afghan national liberation struggle. Instead they acted against it by infiltrating Afghan circles and turning them against each other. Their jihad is not intended to defend the Muslims against infidel oppressors, but to cause chaos and destruction, in which they apparently hope to overthrow Muslim regimes and replace them with the utopia of Salafi rule. It is not hard to see how this set of mind was inherited from the communist utopian terrorist movements that preceded the present Islamist ones. They had the same structures, the same cadres, the same leaders, the same sponsors and the same methods.
The Arabs in Afghanistan have feathered their nests, though. Osama bin Laden and his closest associates have all married daughters of Afghan elders - from different factions and tribes - and their sons and daughters have, in turn, married the off-spring of eminent Afghan leaders. This is how they secured their foothold in Afghan social networks - something neither the West nor Pakistan succeeded to do. When issues are reduced to family relationships, it is not to be expected that the Afghans would hand over the Arabs to the West or to Pakistan. Al-Qaida is not only fortifying itself physically, but also socially. At the same time their cells and countless collaborating agencies - some of whom are clearly non-Islamist, and some of which are government agencies of certain hostile states - are hoping to escalate this "war against terrorism" and to exploit it for their own purposes.
Q: Do you believe that the USA had long standing designs to conquer Afghanistan and used the September 11 atrocities as a pretext?
A: I would rather say that somebody else had long standing designs for a major conflict in which it was necessary to get the US involved. Those who wiped out Mr. Massoud a couple of days before the terror strikes in the US probably knew that the terrorists will be hunted in Afghanistan.
It is clear that the US, among many others, has long desired to overthrow the Taliban, and I see nothing wrong with it. Afghanistan was the easiest target, because the Taliban was not internationally recognized (except by three countries at the beginning of the war), and because there was nobody strong enough to really side with the Taliban. There was no special need to demonize them, as they seemed to have done a good job demonizing themselves. The West was more concerned with the blowing up a couple of Buddha statues than with the thousands of victims of the Taliban's tyranny and of the civil war that continued to rage in Afghanistan all this time totally ignored by the Western media until the US got involved again. The US can, of course, be blamed for hypocrisy, as always, but the truth is that getting the US involved has greatly helped those in Afghanistan who had hoped for decades to overthrow the Taliban.
It is also quite surprising that even Musharraf's Pakistan seems to have actually benefited from the present course of affairs, since terrorism has given Musharraf the pretext of openly siding with the West, and abandoning all remnants of Pakistan's tolerance of the Taliban.
Still I would be inclined against any conspiratorial depiction of the recent events that would blame the US for all that happened. The US had to react, and Afghanistan was a logical target. In this sense, the US did what the terrorists wanted. But they did so in a much more moderate way, and after much longer preparations than their enemies had probably hoped for. One reason is that in the Bush administration there seems to be significantly more foreign political expertise than in the Clinton administration that hastily bombed a couple of targets, including a factory in Sudan, but always failed to respond to the real challenge.
In the long run, the threat posed by terrorism will not be defeated by military operations and not in Afghanistan. What can be done there is just the removal of the Taliban regime and helping to construct a stable and recognized Afghan government. It is important to give security guarantees to Pakistan and to support the development that is transforming Pakistan into a strong and relatively stable pro-Western Muslim country that can play a similar role in Central and Southern Asia as Turkey does in the West and Middle East. At best, this could even encourage a Musharraf to rise in Iran, which would yield ultimate benefits to Western interests in Asia.
But then, terrorism must be fought by other means.
This means that Western intelligence must rise to the level of the Cold War to face challenges by terrorist organizations as well as by colluding governments. The West must also resist Huntington's vision coming true, since this is exactly what the terrorists want: a clash of civilizations. And we must keep in mind that there are also many others who would like to see a worldwide conflagration between the West and Islam.
Q: What is the geostrategic and geopolitical importance of Afghanistan?
A: Afghanistan is not so significant in itself, if we only consider economic interests. Of more importance are some countries situated near Afghanistan, especially those in Central Asia and Azerbaijan. Afghanistan is also a traditional buffer zone, since its landscape is hard to penetrate for tanks and modern armies. It has prevented the expansion of the Eurasian Heartland Empire towards Eurasia's southern rim lands for centuries. It has protected the areas included in Pakistan and India today, but on the other hand, turning Afghanistan into a politically or militarily active area was used to destabilize Pakistan, or Central Asia, in order to alter the status quo, whatever it was.
Regarding oil, Afghanistan again forms a bridge or a barrier. As long as Iran is regarded as a hostile country by the US, Afghanistan forms an oil transport route from Central Asia to Pakistan. As long as there is war in Afghanistan, it remains a barrier preventing the countries of the Caspian Sea from benefiting from their oil. Wars in the Caucasus have exactly the same outcome. While this is the case, only Russia and perhaps China will have access to and hegemony over the energy resources in the vast Eurasian heart-land.
I think this is the main geopolitical importance of both Afghanistan and the Caucasus. It is the question of Russia monopolizing the geopolitical heartland, first and foremost. Considering the colossal weight of geopolitics and geopolitical thought in present Russian security thinking, these implications cannot be overestimated.
Q: Can Turkey be drawn into the conflict and, if yes, what effect will this have on Iran, Central Asia, and NATO?
A: It seems Turkey has been drawn into it already. Or rather, Turkey has volunteered to be drawn into it. Iran and Russia, of course, share a very hostile attitude towards any expansion of Turkish influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Turkey and Pakistan, on the other hand, may finally find each other after a long period of mutual hostility. They both share a similar geopolitical importance as potential guardians of the West. They are among the most important rim land nations, to borrow a phrase from classical geopolitics. This means that they are also the most important barriers on the way of a heartland empire to aspire to sole Eurasian hegemony.
Turkey has sought to advocate its interests in Central Asia, where most of the Turkistani nations are ethnically Turkic (that is, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Uighurs, while Tajiks are Persian). At the beginning of the 1990's Turkey tried to play the ethnic and linguistic cards and the Central Asians were quite enthusiastic to embrace "the Turkish model" - that is, a Western orientation and secular state. But the Central Asian states are still dominated by communist nomenclatures with strong ties with Moscow.
Turkey's economic problems and generally overly cautious foreign policy have greatly undermined its capacity to advocate its own and Western interests in Central Asia. Moreover, the Central Asian dictators have interpreted the "Turkish model" in most peculiar ways, being often closer to the Chinese model than the Turkish one.
I think Turkey is again trying to prove how pro-Western it is and how loyal it is to NATO. The West has usually been much less loyal to Turkey. When it comes to NATO's influence in Central Eurasia, once Afghanistan is pacified and US presence probably strengthened through Uzbekistan (though it is one of the notoriously disloyal allies of any Western interest, much resembling the role played by Saudi Arabia), it is time to come to Georgia's rescue again. The West had better not be too late in coming to the aid of Georgia and Azerbaijan, which are both under serious Russian pressure right now. If the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline can be completed, then it could be time for a major reform in Iran as well.