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Colour Revolution may be staged in Afghanistan - 18.9.2008
Andrei Serenko

Colour Revolution may be staged in AfghanistanAndrei Serenko – Expert at the centre for studying contemporary Afghanistan.

Preconditions for radical changes are ripening up in Afghanistan. This means under certain conditions large-scale mass riots could grow up to a so-called Colour Revolution. This idea is supported by events that took place in the second half of August 2008 and provoked an unexpected political crisis. It is quite possible that we are witnessing the emergence of a new political group capable of transforming itself into a party or a national liberation movement and even triggering a new revolutionary situation.

Anti-bombing protest

This concerns rapidly growing active social protest involving many people against air raids by the US and NATO forces on Afghan settlements. According to several western reports, over 700 Afghan civilians have been killed by US air strikes this year alone. The number of victims in August alone exceeded 100 people. The most scandalous event occurred in the city of Shindand in the western province of Heart on the 22nd of August where about 60 children and 15 women were killed as a result of US air attacks. This was the last drop that exhausted patience of both Afghan elite and ordinary people. Bombing on Shindand has become a turning point for Afghanistan. It stirred up mass protest by ordinary people, including blocking strategic highways leading to Kabul by angry people and sharp condemnation by senior Afghan politicians. In response to the American bombing heads of the leading parties and parliament and the government headed by Hamid Karzai joined together to condemn the US bombardments on civilian facilities. In this case the motive for such behaviour of President Karzai has no significance. He might have been guided by the anger for the death of Afghan children or by the presidential campaign for winning votes. The most important thing is that Hamid Karzai, the speakers of the both Chambers of the National Assembly and leaders of the key parties suddenly expressed unanimously their negatives attitude towards the industry of killing civilians by the American air force. There are few topics in Afghanistan that unite various segments of politicians in Kabul. The protest against American bombings is proved to be one of the integrating topics that could consolidate the Afghan society and administrative and political class even for a short time. Most likely, consolidating process has already started.

Prospects for the transformation of the Afghan political system:
Until recently, two key discourses have predominated in Afghan politics:
  1. discourse of “crisis modernization” linked with Hamid Karzai, legal political procedures and cooperation with the western coalition that sets the tone of Afghan modernization,
  2. discourse of “Islamic revenge”, which is guided by the Taliban and other radical Islamic organizations.
The stability of the political system headed by President Karzai has been determined by the balance between the two poles of discourse (political trends).

This has been an unexpected development, the emergence of mass social protest against air raids by the US and NATO on Afghan civilians in August 2008 that claims for the third political trend in the Afghan political system. Aerial attacks on villages had angered Afghans and triggered protests earlier, of course. However, the August anti-bombing protest differs seriously from the previous such acts.

Firstly, the number of casualties after US air raids has significantly increased. This means American military are becoming more careless in their behaviour in Afghanistan. No matter what is the reason for such carelessness, perhaps, servicemen are tired of war or it is quite difficult to bear the consistent tension caused by pending Taliban attacks. The fact is that the carelessness of Americans is visible. Secondly, American officials have not only stopped apologizing after air raids to the Afghan authorities and the relatives of the dead people but also refused to accept the death of women and children by American bombs and missiles.

By doing so the American command demonstrates wittingly or unwittingly absolute disdain to Afghans and their lives. Such a tactic will hardly help NATO command to convince Afghan public opinion that all efforts by the western coalition are directed at improving the life of Afghans and helping Afghanistan.

In view of this observers draw attention to the behaviour of German servicemen, who not only admit that they are guilty but also pay even compensation to the relatives of the dead people. Polish forces also behave in a similar way. They even tried servicemen for killing Afghan civilians.

Thirdly, the rallies of protests against American air strikes on civilian facilities had restricted to one or the other province and had not been staged out side a province or a city. But the protest movement has spread to several provinces simultaneously since August. A statement released by the Afghan government on the 25th of August says that lately civilians from 8 provinces – Kunar, Paktia, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Zabul, Kapisa, Lagman and Herat (the city of Shindand) - have been the victims of air strikes carried out by the American air force.

In short, the protest movement against “bombing on civilians” has spread to several provinces and there is every reason to suggest that attempts have been made to coordinate the protests by civil activists against “mistaken” air strikes.

It is unclear which group coordinates the protest rallies. Surely, there will be enough people to do so.

Fourthly, it seems that the Afghan authorities are keenly aware of the threat posed by the emergence of mass social protest against the western coalition, which is incapable of guaranteeing security and safety to civilians, and has information that foreign groups make attempts to coordinate the anti-bombing movement against foreign forces and allies of the Kabul government. This suggestion could be the reason why President Karzai and his government took a tough stance concerning mass death of civilians in Shindand. President Karzai instructed the Defence and Foreign Ministries to work out a new format with American partners for launching air strikes on the Afghan territory. Undoubtedly, he made the move, which in the sense is an attempt to impose restrictions on Americans who have enjoyed free hand in acting in Afghanistan, for two reasons: for election reasons and the understanding of the fact that when a movement cannot be averted or destroyed one has to head it. Most likely, Hmaid Karzai has no objections to head the vocal anti-bombing protest movement personally. This means he masters information that some one is attempting to head the new protest movement against American air strikes without his involvement.

Attempts are being made to create the third pole, which is linked with neither Karzai nor Taliban, in the two-pole or two-trend Afghan political system. This is proved by the popular and active new Afghan protest movement, which is leaned on not only disappointed public opinion but also several groups in Kabul elite ( parliamentarians), attempts by foreign groups to coordinate it (this means some politicians are keen on escalating the protest movement) and heightened attention to the movement by supporters of Hamid Karzai.

New anti-American party

Clearly, the emergence of the third pole or third political trend on the basis of mass anti-bombing social protest supported by a part of Kabul elite is objectively directed against Hamid Karzai and the Taliban movement. However, the new movement poses no serious threat to Taliban for several reasons, but it will be disastrous for Hamid Karzai since he may lose control over the anti-bombing or anti-American social protest movement.

The new protest could become a stable political movement or even a political party that could compete seriously with traditional parties in Afghanistan. The programme of the new party could be based on quite simple ideas, which are acceptable for the majority of the population. These ideas could be ending hostilities against civilians by both foreign forces and Taliban and withdrawal of not only foreign forces but also al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who kill civilians. In these circumstance, the new political protest party in Afghanistan could be anti-American and anti-Taliban simultaneously.

The best campaigners for the party could be those who were killed by American air strikes and suicide bombings by Taliban. The resources of dead in this political paradigm become more effective than the resources of living people. This will be successful only if a competent propaganda campaign is launched, of course.

In fact, the new protest movement in Afghanistan has good chances for involving in the struggle for power using non-parliamentary methods.

Undoubtedly, preconditions for mass revolution or seize power by force in the Afghan capital might appear in one or two months if the anti-bombing movement grows further and it is successfully controlled by a foreign operative centres.

A significant coincidence is that under an agreement with Presidential Palace Arg western forces leave Kabul in two months and henceforth, Afghan police and national army will ensure security in the Afghan capital.

There is every reason to believe that the Afghan military will hardly capable of stopping popular social protest in the Afghan capital in the late autumn 2008. It is unclear whether the political groups that stir up growing protest sentiment of the Afghan civilians, who are tired of American air raids, take into account this time period and new security regime in Kabul.

If this goes on smoothly preconditions for “colour revolution” will appear in Kabul by the end of 2008. The “colour revolution” is aimed at using the popular vocal social protest for ousting the present government and the political system.

The nature of the new political regime could be judged by the operator of the autumn revolutionary protest that will undoubtedly escalate food crisis and unpreparedness of the Afghan government for winter.

Future of Hamid Karzai

Objectively, American air force is becoming an enemy of Hamid Karzai as the Taliban. Although American pilots kill Taliban militants but their attacks on civil facilities that lead to mass death of residents and jeopardize Hamid Karzai’s election prospects. It is difficult to say that the American command in Afghanistan does this deliberately or not but Washington examines clearly a serious alternative to the incumbent President. Perhaps Americans behave like cowboys when they carry out bombing.

What ever it is the US air force is currently involved in the Afghan election campaign but not in Hamid Karzai’s side. This is a fact.

When analyzing the possibility of transforming the two-polar Afghan model of the contemporary political process into three-trend model it is impossible to exclude turning it into four-trend model. The fourth element here is most likely the prospect for a military coup in Kabul as a response of the pole of system modernization to a threat posed by a “Colour Revolution”.

In fact, it is premature to examine such scenario. In any case, this will become clear only if the civil protest of the Afghan people against American bombing will lead to the emergence of a new ambitious political movement oriented to the seizure of power in Kabul or it will remain as a local protest of unfortunate people who lost the sense of life after the dead of loved ones and are not ready to press for the Presidential Palace Arg.

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