New York Times
The 144 nations of the World Trade Organization defied expectations and their own protectionist instincts yesterday by approving an agenda that over the next three years could produce an invaluable array of market-opening reforms. The road map endorsed at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, points the way to freer trade in goods and services while promising to protect the interests of poor countries. Though late objections by France and India threatened to scuttle the talks, and perhaps the WTO as well, the meeting ended with an exhausted but deserved sense of success.
Delegates came to Doha last week acutely aware of the compromises needed to launch a new round of trade liberalization. Similar talks in Seattle two years ago collapsed in acrimony, throwing the future of free trade into doubt. In the end, everyone in Doha gave something, and everyone -- especially developing countries -- got something. Up to $700 billion in tariffs and trade-distorting subsidies may eventually disappear, possibly generating $2.8 trillion in global economic activity by 2015.
In an important concession, the United States and Switzerland agreed to permit greater access to generic versions of patent-protected drugs for poor countries facing epidemics. Despite opposition from the House, the American delegation also agreed that the coming trade negotiations would cover protectionist measures that shield struggling American industries like steel manufacturing from foreign imports. The European Union agreed to consider ending subsidies that artificially enhance its farmers' competitiveness in world markets. Developing countries, for their part, promised to open markets for services like banking and insurance. They pledged to participate in future talks on promoting competition domestically and linking environmental concerns to trading rules.
The meeting was also notable because China and Taiwan joined the WTO after 15 years of negotiations. There were no mass protests like those in Seattle, and more recently in Genoa, because Qatar tightly limited the number of visitors.
The talks were a victory for Robert Zoellick, the chief of American trade policy, whose diplomacy contributed to a last-minute compromise between the European Union and developing countries. Mr. Zoellick again showed the value of his strong relationship with Pascal Lamy, the European Union's trade commissioner.
The two men, both committed free-traders, will have three years to goad their colleagues into transforming the Doha agenda into actual reforms. Speed matters, since regional trading blocs in the Americas, Africa and Asia could expand rapidly over the next several years. By completing a pact soon, the WTO can confirm its role as the world's main forum for trade liberalization.
The World Trade Organization summit that concluded yesterday was a double triumph of symbolism. By avoiding a repeat of the Seattle debacle of two years ago, the meeting proved that an ambitious attempt to advance international integration can succeed even in this era of globoprotest. And by launching a new round of trade talks that will focus on the needs of developing countries, the summit showed that the international system need not be the slave of corporate interests. With luck, this double victory could transform globalization's prospects. Protest leaders may be persuaded to work within the system. And the new emphasis on the link between trade and development may imbue globalization with the moral purpose that it needs to overcome its many enemies.
The summit only laid out an agenda for trade talks, though, and the fact that even this was difficult suggests the scale of the challenge ahead. This is all the more true since the toughest issues were resolved less by substantive compromise than by linguistic finesse. During the last night of haggling, the French objected to a mention in the summit declaration of "phasing out" subsidies for farm exports. They were eventually placated when a wordsmith inserted a preceding phrase saying "without prejudging the outcome of the negotiations."
To move from fudge to real bargaining, the WTO's member states are going to need pressure from nongovernmental activists. In their successful fight for debt relief, NGOs proved they could form international coalitions that move official policy, particularly on the moral question of world poverty. Advancing the new trade round is just as morally compelling. Its completion would clarify poor countries' rights to circumvent drug patents when battling public health crises. It would give them aid to help set up customs procedures and other trade-supporting institutions. And it would open markets for farm goods and low-tech manufacturers, which together constitute poor countries' best chance of exporting their way out of misery.
Along with NGO pressure, the trade talks will need American leadership. Since the Second World War, U.S. commitment to open trade has driven successive rounds of tariff cuts, boosting the international prosperity that underpins our national security. In the past half-decade, when sole-superpower status led some to take national security for granted, the consensus in favor of trade evaporated, and ambitious multilateral negotiation became impossible. But since Sept. 11 Americans have seen that national security is not ensured, and that abject poverty in developing countries does threaten their interests. That realization must now be translated into a new pro-trade politics.
The site of this translation must be Congress, which has yet to grant the Bush administration trade promotion authority. The House Republicans have written a bill that attempts to win Democratic support with concessions on labor and the environment, but Democrats are hard to get on this issue. The leadership on both sides needs to meet and hammer out a compromise, and President Bush needs to invest some of his ample political capital in getting them to do so. After this week's summit, it will be tempting to say, phew, trade is now off the agenda. But trade negotiations are just beginning. The administration needs trade promotion authority so that it can drive them forward, and so that this chance to link globalization with development is not allowed to slip away.
President Bush last week publicly stated that Osama bin Laden's terror network has been seeking to obtain nuclear weapons, which he said would threaten every nation in the world. The president likened bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist organization to Nazi and communist totalitarian movements of the 20th century. "We see the same intolerance of dissent, the same mad global ambitions, the same brutal determination to control every life," Mr. Bush said. "They're seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Given the means, our enemies would be a threat to every nation, and, eventually, to civilization itself." While administration officials have previously spoken about the bin Laden network's efforts to obtain chemical and biological arms, Mr. Bush's remarks are his first about the terrorist leader's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Bin Laden ratcheted up the ante further in an interview published Saturday in two Pakistani newspapers, declaring that he possesses nuclear weapons "as a deterrent," and that he reserves the right to use them against the United States.
Some pundits dismiss such talk from bin Laden as little more than loud, meaningless braggadocio of a murderous thug. But numerous experts within the U.S. government take these threats seriously. These include specialists for a highly secretive federal agency known as the Nuclear Emergency Search Team, which is responsible for preventing nuclear weapons from being smuggled into the United States. In its Nov. 26 edition, Insight magazine reports that, following the deadly September attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, NEST was put on a high state of alert and was operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week searching New York City and Washington for "nuclear-related" weapons. This included the use of sensors and specially equipped vehicles patrolling the streets of the two cities. The agency set up monitoring equipment in Washington and a number of suburbs, which remains on "permanent standby."
The current concern is that, instead of building an ordinary nuclear bomb, terrorists have obtained "nuclear-related" materials, which could be dispersed by exploding a conventional bomb. It isn't hard to imagine the potential source of such lethal material: Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Czech intelligence has reported that one of the terrorists responsible for the September 11 hijackings had repeated contacts in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence agent. If the report about bin Laden and nuclear weapons proves to be true, it would be chilling news indeed. If Saddam is involved, it will be all but impossible for the United States to avoid "broadening" the retaliatory strikes to include Iraq.
In the race against time in Afghanistan, where the onset of winter has spawned nightmares of millions starving to death, hope has replaced despair among international aid workers.
Efforts to ensure that the war-sated, drought-weary population survives another brutal winter are suddenly more realistic, thanks to the Northern Alliance's rout of the Taliban in the northern part of the country and, most recently, from the capital of Kabul.
For the first time since U.S. bombs began falling there on Oct. 7, the relief organizations that have sustained the Afghan people through years of civil war and drought -- with no help from the Taliban -- are no longer relegated to the sidelines.
As foreign aid workers re-enter Afghanistan to team up with the nationals who have continued the mission of mercy under incredible hardships, it is critical that the international community, preferably led by the United Nations, supports them in every way possible.
The world -- Arabs and Americans, governments and citizens -- can do that by donating money for food, blankets, clothes and medical supplies.
But above all, the relief workers who risk their lives by picking up where they left off six weeks ago must be assured that they will be safe and their lifesaving work unimpeded as much as possible.
Time is of the essence. To avert famine, the U.N.'s World Food Program plans to double the amount of food that has been sent into the country by truck, horse and donkey over the past month and a half. In a land where a provisional government has not yet been formed, that is no small challenge.
Obviously the resumption of the flow of aid cannot be orchestrated or even supported to any great extent by the U.S. military. Our forces are more than occupied in supporting the Northern Alliance and its new allies as they chase the Taliban farther south into the mountains.
Nor would an alliance between our military and various aid organizations even be wise. Over time Afghans have learned to trust the non-partisan relief groups, but they still regard the American government with suspicion. Rations dropped from the skies in packages the same color as bombs didn't help in that regard.
One respected multinational organization that should be considered for the task of safeguarding the aid pipeline, which will resume in the newly liberated north from Uzbekistan, is NATO. Shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on New York City and Washington, D.C., NATO invoked the mutual defense clause in its treaty but it has deferred active involvement in Afghanistan at the request of the United States.
Few organizations are as well-equipped for this monumental task as NATO, although this would be a somewhat different use of its formidable capabilities. Remember that Afghanistan is as lawless as ever.
On its retreat, for example, the Taliban has been looting food warehouses and seizing supply vehicles. Backed into a corner, they promise to be just as ruthless. And the Northern Alliance may be up to its old ways as well. It has been reported that 100 fresh Taliban recruits were summarily executed by alliance troops as they swept into Mazar-i-Sharif, their first sizeable conquest in northern Afghanistan.
On Nov. 20, when the United Nations meets to thrash out how to best assist Afghans in the near and long term, member nations ought to consider inviting NATO's participation. That, more than a halt in the U.S. bombing, is the realistic way to restore some semblance of normalcy to the lives of Afghans.
Salt Lake Deseret News
They were lining up to shave their beards in Kabul on Tuesday. Men were throwing turbans into the gutter, women were walking freely for the first time in years. If the successful ousting of the Taliban from Afghanistan's capital city proved anything, it is that people, regardless of culture or traditions, seek freedom, liberty, dignity and basic human rights.
It also serves to underscore the noble nature of the conflict now under way. Despite the regrettable loss of life, this fight ultimately is about the destruction of forces that would undermine freedom and liberty. Its victory is essential not only to the people of Afghanistan but to Americans and millions of others worldwide who are potential targets of terrorism.
And yet, this victory comes with a strong note of caution. Experts warn that wars in that part of the world sometimes ebb and flow; that victory can turn to defeat and lost territory can be reclaimed. But even if the trend holds and the Taliban is obliterated, a victory over terrorism and al Qaida still is far off. Osama bin Laden remains on the loose. True, he relied on the Taliban for state support, but other states remain willing to shelter him.
In any event, for the time being Taliban forces still control much of Afghanistan, and they may be preparing to retreat into the hills for the long winter.
On top of this, the United States must concern itself with the next government of Afghanistan. Already, disturbing reports are coming from Kabul of human-rights abuses and executions at the hands of the Northern Alliance. Factions already have splintered off from the alliance itself. The last thing the United States needs right now is for Kabul and other liberated territory to revert to the ethnic chaos that existed in the years immediately following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989.
The United Nations ought to play a big role in helping Afghans establish their own representative and stable government. But that government must, in the end, be made up of native people. A multi-national peacekeeping force wouldn't work in this situation. And the allied forces must look out for the need to feed and clothe people, as well. Millions are in danger of starvation.
Utahns should be glad the conflict is going well. Despite early criticisms, the Bush administration has performed a difficult task admirably. Much remains to be done, and people here need to steel themselves for the long road ahead.
Most importantly, however, the capture of Kabul has reinforced to the world that humans of every stripe prefer freedom and liberty to bondage. That ought to buoy everybody for the long days to come.
Portland, Maine, Press Herald
It's not a real secret that the U.S. border with Canada isn't exactly as secure as it could be. Many border crossings aren't staffed up to their full levels, and Maine's congressional delegation deserves credit for trying to increase the guards and inspectors needed to make this state's crossing points less porous.
All that appears a bit futile, however, when Americans discover that Border Patrol and U.S. Customs agents have been practicing what they call by the cute but still ominous name of "catch and release."
What that means is that thousands of people apprehended trying to enter the United States illegally from our northern neighbor are arrested but not detained, and then are allowed to continue into the country, often with only an admonition to appear at a future hearing on their status.
Many naturally never show up, disappearing like fish in the ocean into the 280 million people already living here.
It's not at all clear why they are not simply turned around, like many thousand others who are annually refused entry, and sent back across the border. Instead, about 15 percent of those making illegal attempts to cross the border are asked to post a small bond -- or sometimes, none at all -- and sent on their way with a wave and a cheery, "See you!"
The practice came to light when Border Patrol agents, risking internal discipline, testified to a Senate committee about it. They said that those released had no motive to show up for hearings, that the Immigration and Naturalization Service doesn't keep track of those who skip out, and that there are no automatic criminal background checks on arrestees.
One agent, who said he had been threatened with a one-year suspension for testifying to Congress, told senators, "Very seldom does the alien even provide a U.S. address or phone number. Before they vanish into our communities, they are asked to send the INS their U.S. address when they take up residence. Of course, they rarely do."
We've learned since Sept. 11 that that's not anywhere near good enough. Congress has to provide our border security forces with enough personnel and resources to do the job -- and hold the agencies that oversee them fully accountable if they don't.
Otherwise, it could all happen again.
A disaster of dramatic proportions is building in Afghanistan, one only partially related to the war on terrorism. Twenty years of disruption and three years of drought are translating into major misery.
UNICEF said that 300,000 children face starvation. Another estimate suggested that 7.5 million people are at risk from famine and cold this winter. Every aid group agrees that a major humanitarian calamity looms.
This isn't the fault of the United States or its allies but, rather, is an artifact of Afghanistan's recent history. In 1979, Afghanistan was among the poorest countries in the world. Then the Soviets invaded. Since then, it has become an even poorer country; more than 3.5 million of its people have poured beyond its borders to become refugees; land mines and unexploded ordnance have made even walking across the cratered landscape dangerous. The three-year drought added to the country's burden. And now the war against terrorism.
The Taliban's policies haven't helped, weakening agriculture and the economy. Members of the Taliban harassed, threatened and then evicted international aid workers. Some food-relief sites have been damaged in the bombing. And now winter is about to arrive.
Some relief agencies, many of them European, wanted the United States to stop the war for the winter so that they might more easily distribute food around the country. But that would also give the Taliban and Osama bin Laden time to regroup. Having them in retreat should help relief agencies operate more effectively.
Kenneth Bacon, president of Refugees International, a U.S.-based advocacy group, said there are well-established ways of getting relief to people even during wars.
A major asset to that effort is Termez, Uzbekistan, where aid workers are being allowed to stockpile relief supplies. It will be a major hub for aid to northern and central Afghanistan.
In addition, U.S. strategists deliberately spared some airfields in northern Afghanistan to provide places to bring in relief supplies.
Humanitarian concerns aside, it is in America's best interests to supply food and other relief to the Afghan people, with whom this nation has no quarrel. Afghanistan will survive the ousting of the Taliban, but providing humanitarian aid now will give it a far better chance of becoming a contributing, civilized member of the international community, a nation that no longer harbors terrorists.
President Bush has declared that the United States will, over the course of a decade, reduce the American nuclear arsenal from 6,000 weapons to a range of 1,700 to 2,200. President Vladimir Putin of Russia has declared that Russia will try to match that cut. So what do Americans think? Possibly something like, "Praise the lord and pass the pliers; let's get to work on those missiles and bombs."
Hold your horses, and look closely at the mouth of the one proffered as a gift. There is much less and much more to the Bush-Putin exchange than meets the eye. It could ultimately leave the world a more dangerous place.
Sounds ironic, yes, because getting rid of thousands of nuclear weapons surely is a good thing, isn't it? In itself it is, but you must look at how Bush wraps the cut.
For 50 years, the United States has pursued a treaty-based bilateral and multilateral arms-control agenda aimed at reducing existing nuclear weapons to their lowest possible numbers while discouraging other nations from seeking to obtain them. While total elimination has been seen as a difficult and abstract objective, it was still held out as the ultimate goal, because that thinking was essential to making nonproliferation work. Each new treaty was seen as another step along the road to eventual elimination of all weapons of mass destruction -- including chemical and biological weapons. Even if you did not get fully to that goal, you made the world a much safer place in the process.
Now Bush has stood that entire process on his head. He is not proposing a treaty with Russia that pushes the disarmament process forward; he is simply saying that the United States believes it needs no more than 2,200 nuclear weapons and perhaps as few as 1,700 to ensure its security. It is unilateralism writ large, and it invites all other nations to do likewise: Look to your own security, make your own decisions, as we make ours.
Nothing follows from Bush's decision to cut; it is an end in itself. There is no treaty framework to encourage or compel other nations to act. Not even Russia would be compelled to cut a single weapon from its arsenal. Any future U.S. president could reverse course; indeed, the Bush administration itself reserves the right to do that. In discussions last week in Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell and John Bolton, undersecretary for arms control and international security, made clear that the United States will retain the right to "reconstitute" larger nuclear forces in the future if a threat develops.
A corollary argument is that future U.S. nuclear tests may well be necessary to ensure the continued viability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Therefore, don't expect the United States to make a new push to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; this administration does not believe in it. But without the CTBT, nonproliferation is dead in the water, along with the broader notion of arms control. The United States could not send a clearer signal to the world: America will look after itself; other nations should do the same. If that involves developing and deploying nuclear weapons, that's their choice. The United States will, in the meantime, work hard to develop a national missile defense so it need not worry no matter how many nations go nuclear.
Maybe this new strategic orientation is a good idea. We don't think so, but perhaps we are wrong. The way to find out would be to have a national discussion on it, especially a congressional discussion eliciting the views of experts from many disciplines. But since Bush proposes no treaty with Russia, Congress will have no opportunity to examine the thinking behind these cuts and the implications for the arms-control future. Nor will the American people have that opportunity.
In a breathtaking move, a small group within the Bush administration will have turned U.S. nuclear policy very close to 180 degrees from where it has been for many decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. There will be no consultations and no effort to build national consensus. That is an infuriating and scary prospect.
Congress is left with one power to exercise: the power of the purse. Democrats in the Senate especially should use that power to compel a full and public debate over the U-turn President Bush proposes in America's nuclear strategy.
Los Angeles Times
The agreement among the World Trade Organization's 142 member nations on a new round of talks represents an important victory over isolationism. The bargaining at the just-ended meeting of trade ministers in Doha, Qatar, was tough; implementing agreements during the planned three years of talks will be even tougher, but the result surely will be worth it.
Global trade brings consumers cheaper and often better goods, and lowering or abolishing tariffs makes those goods even more affordable. Freer trade will be a boost for poor nations like newfound U.S. ally Pakistan, which depends heavily on exports. There is ample evidence that nations that increase trade create new jobs and reduce poverty. When there is more money to build schools and provide medical care, offering the hope that life will get better, the temptations to violence and terror lessen.
It is true, as India argued forcefully at the ministers meeting, that past trade agreements too often have been ignored. There's no doubt that individual nations look to protect their own interests, especially when these involve politically important constituencies like farmers. But retreating behind tariffs and quotas, shutting out the rest of the world, hurts countries rather than helping. U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick was right to say that the new round of trade talks can help deliver "growth, development and prosperity" worldwide. The United States compromised on drug patents, agreeing to the right of poor countries to determine whether they have an emergency requiring them to copy patented drugs they could not otherwise afford. The problem became obvious when AIDS struck impoverished nations and health officials said they could not afford the expensive pharmaceuticals available in the U.S. and European countries. Developing nations gained ammunition when the Bush administration forced the maker of the anthrax drug Cipro to reduce the price.
The WTO nations also agreed to reduce and eliminate tariffs on nonagricultural goods, particularly products important to developing countries. That matters greatly to Pakistan, where more than half the exports are cloth or clothing. After Sept. 11, textile exports dropped dramatically, and the already poor country could wind up with $2 billion less in revenues this year than it had expected. Lower tariffs would help restore lost sales. However, getting domestic textile producers to agree to smaller tariffs and quotas or none at all will be difficult in many nations, including the United States.
The trade talks in Seattle broke down without agreement two years ago as huge anti-trade street protests rocked the meeting. The stakes were higher this time because of a deteriorating economy worldwide. To their credit, the trade ministers understood the need and reached consensus on thorny issues.
Des Moines Register
They were dancing in the streets of Kabul on Tuesday. The sky was bright as men threw their turbans into the streets and headed to barber shops to have their beards shaved off. When the lines got too long, friends simply clipped the hair on each other's faces. One woman lifted up her veil and simply said, "Look." Her eyes were laughing. People smoked cigarettes and talked about the future. The music was loud.
It's been a long time coming, but Kabul has been liberated. As Taliban soldiers fled in pickup trucks, the Northern Alliance moved in and planted their flags. It's been five years since a woman could walk alone on a street, unaccompanied by a close male relative. Five years since television was allowed. Five years since tyranny descended upon Afghanistan.
So the happy images are welcome, because the rest of the world needed a taste of Afghan freedom nearly as badly as the Afghans themselves.
In more than a month of bombing, riots and smoking ruins rolling across our television screens, the dominant crowd scenes on TV were of pro-Taliban mobs in Pakistan denouncing the United States. The rioters tried to give the impression that the whole Muslim world was against America.
Scenes of the cheering crowds during the liberation of Kabul proved the lie of that view. There was obvious delight among Afghans in being free of Taliban rule, showing that oppressed Muslims, like people everywhere, yearn for freedom.
The celebrations should make Americans feel proud. They renewed faith that perhaps we can contribute to the freedom of a people. They gave us hope that there will be change for the good after the smoke has cleared.
It's not, of course, raining flowers and lemon drops in Kabul. Dead bodies are strewn across streets. Supporters of the Taliban have been killed. Residents have used stones and knives to mutilate the corpses of Taliban soldiers. They're holding foreigners hostage. There's looting and aggression. The anger that exists between some of the people is a reminder of the turmoil that will continue.
And there are legitimate concerns. The Northern Alliance moved in before U.S. officials wanted them to, putting our government in an awkward position. There's also the question of just how far the Taliban have fled and how long they can hold out in their southern stronghold. And America's goal of disbanding terrorist organizations and capturing Osama bin Laden hasn't yet been achieved.
But for a short time, spectators around the world are able to revel in the joyful images from Kabul. These beautiful people laughing with their neighbors on the street give the rest of the world hope. Hope that maybe we can help this part of the world become a better place. Afghans dancing was exactly what we needed to see.
Dallas Morning News
The weakening of the Taliban's control of Afghanistan presents a welcome political problem: Just how does one govern a sundered nation?
Almost all the major parties agree that Afghanistan needs a broad coalition government. The United Nations must be on the ground, too.
But one of the more important contributions must come from Muslim nations. If only for symbolic purposes, they belong as players in the humanitarian or peacekeeping efforts.
Although Afghanistan contains many ethnic groups, the coalition that leads it needs the imprimatur of Muslim nations. Their presence will reinforce the message that President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair rightly repeat: This campaign is against terrorism, not Islam.
So far, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Indonesia have offered to deploy forces. Only Bangladesh has any experience at peacekeeping missions. But the presence of these three predominantly Muslim nations could start the process.
The process should not stop with Turkey, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, however. Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Radha Kumar notes that those three nations are not familiar with Afghanistan, nor are Afghans acquainted with them. The troops will face language barriers, too.
The ideal would be for some kind of South Asian peacekeeping force. Troops supplied by neighbors could keep the peace in the neighborhood. But that military formulation will not exist because of historic tensions between Pakistan and India.
Still, the coalition leaders should consider a daring idea: include humanitarian aid workers from India and Pakistan as part of the peacekeeping mission. As Ms. Kumar puts it, both countries know the territory well.
What's more, the limited involvement of Indians and Pakistanis in humanitarian work could allow both nations to build greater confidence with each other. That's crucial because their dispute over Kashmir continues to breed holy warriors and their penchant for terrorism.
Whatever the mix of peacekeepers, involving Muslim nations and India in post-Taliban Afghanistan is important. The coalition needs to keep showing those who would divide the world by religion that there are ways to work and live together.
It was inevitable that a military collapse of the Taliban would precede the formation of a post-Taliban government for Afghanistan. But now that the rout of Mullah Omar's gang is gathering momentum, it is crucial that Washington, acting in concert with other countries, help the Afghans create a broadly based, stable government.
If any people deserve a period of peace and decent governance, they are the Afghans. For more than a quarter century, they have been ruled by vicious communists, feuding warlords, and narco-trafficking Taliban fanatics.
During that nightmarish time, their political life has been manipulated by cynical foreigners. Soviet mines still litter Afghanistan's fields and mountains. The current rollback of Taliban troops from Kabul and Kandahar is understood by Northern Alliance commanders as undoing the harm originally done by Pakistan's sponsorship of the Taliban. Saudi Arabia provided much of the money and the religious ideology that motivated the mullahs who taught a radical variant of Islam in Pakistani madrassas that spawned the Taliban. And the United States can hardly claim to be without culpability for the Afghan tragedy.
Osama bin Laden and his fellow cult leaders were able to make Afghanistan a staging area for global terrorism in large part because U.S. policy makers washed their hands of Afghan problems once Soviet troops withdrew in defeat in 1989. Indeed, bin Laden was expelled from Sudan and came to Afghanistan in 1996 just in time to finance the Taliban's bribing of warlords who enabled them to seize control of Kabul that year because some American strategists had the bright idea that the megalomaniac Saudi millionaire would be easier to control outside of Sudan.
Hence the United States has not only practical reasons but also a historical obligation to make sure that the fall of the Taliban heralds the end of the long Afghan nightmare.
It will not be easy to bring the disparate Afghan factions and their regional backers into a balanced provisional government. But that political balancing act is no less important than the military mission of chasing the Taliban from power and dismantling bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.
The United Nations, acting through its regional committee known as the ''Six-plus-Two'' Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, China, Iran, and Pakistan plus Russia and the United States has been working to assemble what the committee calls a ''multi-ethnic, politically balanced, freely chosen Afghan administration representative of their aspirations and at peace with its neighbors.'' This project must have dynamic political backing from Washington and should be supplemented with generous reconstruction aid from every country that wishes to dry up the swamp in which terrorism breeds.
(Compiled by United Press International.)