West squandered Afghan opportunities: Abdullah
Any chance for the West to claim that the long war in Afghanistan has been a success is fast slipping away, says former and potential future presidential candidate Abdullah.
Eleven years after the 9/11 attacks on the United States led to an invasion of Afghanistan in pursuit of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and two years before NATO troops pull out, the so-called "good war" has lost its gloss.
Afghan soldiers are increasingly turning their weapons against their NATO allies, Taliban insurgents are stepping up their attacks and the Western-backed government is corrupt and weak.
"When the Americans entered Afghanistan they were welcomed," Abdullah, a former foreign minister well known in the West, told AFP in an interview this week in the garden of his tightly protected upmarket Kabul home.
But opportunities to capitalise on the goodwill generated after the hardline Taliban Islamists were ousted from power. Western troops and cash poured into the country were squandered, he said.
"To call it a success or a victory is getting more problematic as we move on. Things which should have been done at the beginning have become a hundred times more difficult today."
The criticism comes from a man once courted by Western diplomats as the most viable hope for a political opposition in Afghanistan as part of efforts to inculcate democracy.
The former eye surgeon and aide to renowned anti-Soviet commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in 2001, was foreign minister in the Afghan government that emerged after the Taliban's downfall.
He then ran against President Hamid Karzai in the 2009 presidential elections and won 30 per cent of the votes, even though Karzai's supporters were widely condemned for massive fraud.
Despite having shot onto the world stage as the first real political opponent of his former boss, Abdullah called off a second-round showdown, fearing that the fraud would be repeated, leaving Karzai with a suspect legitimacy.