Could a Third Way save Afghanistan?

As Afghanistan marks its 101st Anniversary as an independent state, both the international community and the Afghan people themselves are concerned about the country’s future pathway.

Since the fall of the monarchy the political system in Afghanistan has suffered a few major crises. The establishment of the Jihadi regimes and anti-patriotic coup along with global colonialism have resulted into the country’s destruction and led to the rise of Taliban. Moreover, President Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai has led the country to a corrupt state unable to deal with the terrorist groups and Taliban.

Invaded by various foreign-backed powers and different political ideas (left and right) Afghanistan has lost its national identity and failed to build its own economic and political system. Torn with corruption, bloodshed and terrorism over the decades, the country today, as some analysts believe, could be saved by a Third Way. The Third Way is a philosophy used to describe the voice of masses, the silent majority of people all the world, including Afghanistan.

The Afghan society needs a reform. The Third Way and adoption of it by a society can lead Afghanistan to a modern state, different from which the country has experienced over the pat 40 years. The Third Way is based on the idea of establishing a secure and sustainable state where the rights of the citizens are respected regardless the influence of any political parties or social groups and ethnic, racial and religious beliefs. Ensuring security and social justice in Afghanistan can be reached through following the several principles.

A balance of Power. Afghanistan has enough of security and defense to maintain and consolidate the national power. Supported by a strong and professional political leadership with pro-national interests Afghanistan will be able to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.  

A balance of domestic politics. The political and economic strategy of Afghanistan should be focused on creating sustainable living environment for its citizen and development of the economic and labor system that will allow Afghan citizens to use the country’s national resources and increase their living standards. In this scenario the Afghan people will stop looking for any possible ways to leave the country.

Balancing of economic growth and regional development will allow Afghan people to supply with jobs and comfortable life not only in major cities but also in the country’s provinces.

Finally, to achieve a Third Way the political system of the country should be based on national and democratic principles. The national principle means the country should use its own capacities and resources, while the democratic principle means that there is no other political regime acceptable in the country, but democracy.

By listening to the needs of the society and recovering its national values Afghanistan in the long-term perspective could become a safe and sovereign state with a sustainable economic growth.

Kiev’s silence on Hagia Sophia transformation may symbolize another Ukraine Orthodox crisis

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

On July 26, the St. Michael Square in Kiev hosted a mass prayer. The service that gathered over 1000 Christians in the St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery, was marked with a severe criticism of Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kiev and All Ukraine. The Metropolitan was blamed for having no reaction over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to transform the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Indeed, while the Russian Orthodox Church has openly criticized the decision of the Turkish President, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine along with the Greek Autocephalous Church (based in Istanbul) have been surprisingly silent over the important Erdogan’s move. For instance, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, said Erdogan’s decision was a «slap in the face» to all Christian world. «We believe that in the current conditions this act is an unacceptable violation of religious freedom», Hilarion added.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, based in Istanbul and the spiritual leader of around 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world, only said that converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would «fracture» East and West.

No reaction from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine on the historical event may lead to certain changes and Metropolitan Epiphanius may soon be removed. Alternatively, the new head of the Kiev and All Ukraine may become Metropolitan Symeon (Shostacky) who has a huge support of former Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. Known for being in high favor with Poroshenko, Symeon hosted multiple ceremonies with the former Ukrainian President. Earlier in 2018 Symeon was a Poroshenko’s nominee for the Metropolitan of the Ukrainan Church.

The transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque has sparked a huge debate across religious and cultural organizations worldwide. Despite high criticism of the Turkish President’s decision by UNESCO, EU leaders and the Christian Church, the Court in Turkey approved the Erdogan’s decree. On July 24, Hagia Sophia hosted first Islamic prayers in 86 years. The ceremony was opened by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and gathered over 350 000 Muslims.

U.S. military officials are interested in further presence in Afghanistan due to luring contracts

Despite the recent Trump’s call to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Pentagon and CIA are interested in further presence in the Islamic Republic.

One of the pillars to hold U.S. military in the region is the financial benefits from luring government contracts aimed at financial support of Afghanistan. For almost over 2 decades Washington has been providing financial aid not only for security issues in Afghanistan, but also for an economic and social development of the country. Since 2001, the U.S. spent over 130 billion dollars on Afghanistan, however not all the money was spent as intended. A huge part of it was “laundered” and used as payoffs. John F. Sopko, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Restoration has been consistently providing the evidence for it in his reports to the U.S. Congress. Corruption schemes, according to Sopko, have intensified the U.S economic crisis. The U.S. government is using a multilevel contract system that involves a huge number of contractors on sites. The key role in this process is played by USAID as it is responsible for allocation of funds, while Afghanistan does not get a half of it.

The recent reform to alter the Ministry of finances introduced by Afghanistan’s President A. Ghani testifies on the Afghanistan’s leader attempt to corner the foreign financial aid. However, the U.S government has criticized this reform and said the decision a «corrupt scheme». Soon after the statemen Ghani cancelled the reform, a move that proves the Afghanistan political dependence on Washington.

The U.S. Defense Industry officials are interested in financial aid provided by the U.S. government to Afghanistan. Procurement purchases for the needs of the U.S and Afghan troops and NATO are often made at higher prices. For instance, Washington continues buying rifles M-4 and M-6 for 57 cents per item. Instead, the U.S. government could have built a military plant in Afghanistan that would produce the rifles for 12 cents per item. The United States have also refused to buy kerosene from Russia for as much as 94 cents per liter and preferred to use the complicated scheme with Greece and wire the purchase at $1,4 per liter. The United States are supporting Afghan military by its own structures that allow them to avoid transparent schemes in international organizations and unnecessary control. The same scheme is used by U.S contractors in its civil projects where the key role is again played by the USAID. For instance, Afghanistan has issued 10K COVID-19 tests at $48 per item while the real price for 1 test is $5 per item.

Obviously, the most luring contracts are those that relate to oil and gas sector, military provision for the Afghan troops and the NATO. They are being lobbied by U.S. Congressmen that appoint their relatives as CEOs of contracting companies. It’s no surprise that huge U.S. military aid to Afghanistan has gone far beyond the planned budget that was proposed by the Marshall plan. Besides, money acquisitions by U.S. contractors rank from 50% to 90%.

The scale of the U.S. financial aid is also impressive. In February, 2020, John Sopko in his report to the U.S. Congress mentioned the amounts of the funds provided to Afghanistan are far beyond the capability of the Afghan economy. According to John F. Sopko, the U.S. investments to Afghanistan should be from 15% to 45% of the country’s GDP, while in 2007 and in 2010 they were estimated of over 100% of Afghanistan’s GDP. Such schemes create enormous opportunities for stripping. Besides, the U.S government attempts to stop funding Afghanistan are opposed by the U.S. military as they are interested in keeping the «income». On March, 23 Mike Pompeo claimed the U.S. would better decrease money infusions to Afghanistan by $1 billion due to the internal political crisis in Afghanistan. However, the decision was not proceeded.

USAID increases its presence in Central Asia amid the COVID-19 pandemic to foster its influence

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is increasing investments and support of the economy and social sphere in Uzbekistan through various economic, trade, healthcare and social projects. Only for the year of 2019 USAID invested over $10 million in Uzbekistan’s private sector for establishment of new orchards, installation of water saving technologies marketing, and branding to meet international standards. According to the Agency, USAID investment strategy in Uzbekistan involves large-scale and ambitious projects for the next 3-4 years that aim to increase the living standard in the country.

As part of its global campaign against the COVID-19 pandemic, the USAID in partnership with the Uzbekistan Ministry of Health has identified priority areas to provide support for the needs of Uzbekistan’s citizens, health professionals, and the government.  

However, nurturing relations with the US may have a negative side effect for Uzbekistan. By tightening economic and political relations with Tashkent, the United States might take advantage of the Uzbekistan’s geopolitical location and its border with Afghanistan and start lobbying its interests in Kabul heating up complicated relations between the two countries.

Moreover, fostering the Washington’s idea to create a transparent economy in the country and the accountability of the Uzbek state to civil society may cause potential leaks of tax and financial information to the US tax authorities. Considering that the American side relies on the principle of the supremacy of the national law over the international law, this might trigger a threat to the economic security of Uzbekistan and create a ground for pressure on the Uzbekistan authorities by the United States.

Like in the case with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, a small country in the Central, could become a perfect potential target for the US so-called democratization policy. Positive social and economic changes integrated by the United States in Uzbekistan are building up a solid ground for lobbying Washington political ambitions in the country. History has already proved the United States could be unreliable business partners. The US-China trade relations scenario is a great example of it: when contradictions arose, the US changed their policy from building partnership into the policy of trade wars.

The political control over religion in Ukraine is rising amid the Easter

Orthodox Church in Montenegro

Known for a controversial political situation the current confrontation of the political and religious institutes in Ukraine are on the agenda today.

Earlier in February, the split in the Ukraine became one of the main topics at the meeting of Primate and representatives of the Local Churches, devoted to the problems of inter-Orthodox unity in Amman, Jordan. The Primate of the Ukrainian Church, Metropolitan Onufry, contrary to the opinion of the “autocephalous” lobby inside the Institute stated that the canonical autocephaly that is the only “right” autocephaly in Ukraine.“Today, some say that a powerful means to avoid the split in tthe Ukraine’s Chhurch is to receive autocephalous status for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I want to be honest with God and my conscience and I’ll say: I’m sure that the autocephalous status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will only foster the split. Some may return to the fold of the canonical Church, but not all. Autocephaly does not guarantee the absolute unity. And the autocephalous Churches existing in the world have their own splits, ”he said. In fact, Metropolitan Onufry once again demonstrated his support for the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church, an integral part of which is the integral part of the canonical Ukrainian Church.

After the brief in Amman, the Kiev metropolitan went to Montenegro, which is also far from accidental. Back in Amman, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Montenegro, Metropolitan of Montenegro-Primorsky Amphilochius spoke about the parallels between the situations in Montenegro and Ukraine.“There was a time when the people and their sovereigns were Orthodox, baptized. After the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and our revolution in Yugoslavia, as in many other countries, the states became secular. During this time, the Communists created new nations, for us it is the “Macedonian nation”, the “Montenegrin” … Many nations were separated from previously united Orthodox peoples. Probably, the Patriarch of Constantinople simply did not think about this when he began to build Ukrainian autocephaly on modern secular rules rather than ancient Orthodox principles, ”he said.

Every Sunday and Thursday in many cities of Montenegro, mass processions and prayers are held against the law on religious associations and in support of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Montenegrin police do not announce the total number of participants or data by region. According to opposition estimates, about 200 thousand people participated in the last peaceful processions and prayers, with a population of about 630 thousand.