Arlacchi: “The Taliban Threat in Afghanistan Is Overblown”

Pino Arlacchi, who has a decades-long experience in Afghani stan first as director of the UN Narcotics office and eventually as Rapporteur on Afghanistan for the European Parliament, called for letting Afghanistan decide its destiny on its own or, at most, together with its neighbors. Central Asia is not an unstable region, and Afghanistan’s neighbors have been growing at respectable rates in recent years, he said. They have an interest in the stability of the country and can help, but one must let the Talibans and the central government decide by themselves. “And you will see that conflicts will decrease. It is not true that the US and NATO withdrawal will provoke a new chaos. It is difficult to imagine more chaos than now.

Afghanistan has been in chaos for 40 years.” Most reports of threats to civil liberties and human rights are “extremely exaggerated”, in his view.

“The real issues, which fortunately we are discussing here today, are water systems, infrastructure, the way to develop; these are the main areas of concern” for Afghanistan and its neighbors. “We are being poisoned by this geopolitical nightmare that everything is an issue of security, of geopolitical equilibrium and so on. Fortunately, and this is the best chance for the future of Afghanistan, the world is changing, it has become multipolar for a long time and they need only to recognize it.”

As to the opium production, the Talibans do not grow opium, they tax it like they tax many other things, and do not want to go against the farmers. But Arlacchi is convinced, on the basis of his experience, that a crop substitution policy is feasible and even the Afghani government could do it alone, as the production value of opium in Afghanistan is just 250 million dollars. It becomes 18 billion when it arrives on the European market in the form of heroin. Arlacchi took the example of saffron, a typical Afghan product, which is more profitable than opium and could be developed as part of a national program.

Answering a question on the benefits of potential Chinese investments in Afghanistan and the problem of corruption, Arlacchi said that China is a big neighbor and has every right to want to invest in Afghanistan with the BRI and other initiatives. He sees no counter-indications for that.

On the issue of corruption, this is a big issue but there are ways to control it, by carrying out “viable projects”. Building a school costs 200,000 dollars; a hospital costs 2 million. These are not huge amounts. But when so-called development agencies are put in charge, costs blow up ten or one hundred times.

Answering a question on the repression of women under the Taliban, Arlacchi explained that suppression of women rights existed before the Talibans and instead, he experienced concrete cases in which the Talibans intervened with local authorities to defend women’s rights, for instance to work in a factory. In contrast, the US and NATO occupation did nothing to improve women’s rights, as shown by the fact that in 2010, in the entire nation of Afghanistan, there was only one pediatric hospital, built not by the occupiers but by an Italian NGO, Emergency. With all the money they had, they could have built a hundred such hospitals. And today, 25,000 babies die at birth in Afghanistan.

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