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September 19, 2001
Bombing Afghanistan will not solve the problem
Exclusive interview with Pavel Kendel, an ethnic conflicts expert at the
Europe Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences
By Viktor Sokolov

Q. You are an expert on Yugoslavia, where attempts have already been made to
solve a problem by bombing, and now they are going to bomb Afghanistan. Do
Americans stand a chance to attain a result wanted by them and the rest of
the world in this way?

A. Afghanistan and Yugoslavia are absolutely different countries
geographically and economically. From the point of view of those who plan
bombing operations, the goal is to destroy infrastructure facilities and
cause damage to military capability. But what was effective, or relatively
effective, in Yugoslavia, makes absolutely no sense in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has no infrastructure. There is nothing but mountains in that
backward and divided country. And its military capability is fairly limited -
the military strength of the groups opposed to each other in Afghanistan
consists of manpower and small arms.

There are very few airplanes in that country, and armored vehicles are not
numerous either. So, it is not clear what is to be destroyed by bombing. The
caves where terrorists are hiding?

Q. But, they say, the caves are so deep and ramified, that bombs are unlikely
to reach them there.

A. That is true. It is very doubtful that bombing will be effective. It will
be good perhaps for quieting public opinion. Just a PR action. As regards
real actions against the terrorists, they will develop parallel to that and
by other methods to be used by a special-task force.

Q. I see. So, it means that it would be better to move ground troops there
and conduct an army operation.

A. No, the point is that an operation conducted by special-task units and an
army operation are quite different things. I think Americans definitely are
not going to conduct just an army operation.

Q. And will they do this by using a special-task force?

A. Most certainly. Because there is no other way of seizing or destroying
Osama bin Laden and his supporters.

Q. And if special-task units enter Afghanistan and begin to act there, will
this encourage the Northern Alliance to advance to the south?

A. Absolutely. I think these actions will be coordinated by the Northern
Alliance, and most probably aid will be extended.

Q. And refugees that are moving to the CIS countries? How does Russia feel
about it?

A. Understandably, Russia is not happy about it, but Tajikistan, Kyrghyzstan,
Uzbekistan and Turkmenia like it still less. Precisely this explains a pretty
cautious position of the Russian leadership as regards a prospect of joining
this operation. The Americans will finish their bombing and go, but we shall

Q. Quite right. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is going to discuss this
evidently with George Bush in New York. And there is information that Ivanov
has already said, evidently referring to President Putin, that the CIS and
all countries for that matter are free in their choice, and each country will
chose the way if finds most appropriate.

A. Well, it is just a statement of the present reality. But in fact, it is
really so - each country decides what it should do.

Q. You don't think it is a diplomatic statement? As a matter of fact, the
secretary of Russia's Security Council has gone to the south and is
conducting talks there.

A. I think he has gone mainly to find out how those countries will respond to
such proposals.

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