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Should Bangladesh Send Troops To Afghanistan?

Categories: South Asia, Bangladesh, Governance, International Relations, Politics, War & Conflict

Members of the Bangladesh batallion of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Image via United Nations Photo in Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND

The Bangladesh Army has earned a reputation in contributing troops for different United Nation Peacekeeping Operations [2] across the world since 1988. With 10,855 personnel deployed, Bangladesh is ranked first in the contribution of troops [3] in various UN peacekeeping forces worldwide.

However recently the country received an extra-ordinary request for troops. Faheem Haider at Bangladesh Foreign Policy blog reports [4]:

Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan forwarded on a request to Foreign Minister Dipu Moni that the government of Bangladesh send troops to help secure Afghanistan against Taliban advances.

The request was received in Bangladesh with mixed reactions, however, a threat of the Talibans made this issue more complicated. AFP quoted the statement of the Talibans in an website [5]:

“(We) believe that the leader of Bangladesh has enough Islamic knowledge and political wit not to involve his people in the fight against Islam and against the Afghan people by sending a few hundred soldiers to Afghanistan,”

The public sentiment is generally against this move as seen in different newspaper op-eds. Former BBC correspondence in Bangladesh Ataus Samad thinks [6] [bn] that this may create public outrage and invite unwanted enemies like Talibans to harm Bangladesh. Former army chief General M. Harun-or-Rashid notes [bn] that [7] there is no UN peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, but NATO troops are operating there. Bangladesh is not a member of Nato, so it makes no sense to join NATO forces.

Bangladeshi netizen are also discussing this issue. Kazi Mamun opines [bn] that [8] Bangladesh should consider what the Afghanistan government wants. He questions whether Bangladesh should refuse the offer and be blamed as siding with the radicals or send limited troops to support war and terror and Afghanistan's cause.

Dheebor at Somewhereinblog mentions [bn] [9] that many European countries have started to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. He wonders why US is not asking India or Pakistan for more troops.

Gaurango Karmakar, commenting [10] on a post by Mahasachib at Nagorikblog, says [bn]:

বাংলাদেশের সৈন্যদের যেহেতু কোনো কাজ নেই,তাই তারা সেখানে যেতে পারে। কিছু টাকা পয়সা আসলো। সৈন্য সামন্ত আফগান থেকে উঠিয়ে নেয়া হবে একটি মস্তবড় ভুল সিদ্ধান্ত।অন্ধ ধর্মীয় গুরুরা আবার মাথা চাড়া দিবে।সেই সুযোগ কাউকে আর দেয়া যায় না।

As Bangladeshi troops do not have significant engagements, they can go there. They can at least earn some money. Withdrawing (NATO) troops will be a big mistake. The bigoted religious leaders will rise again. We cannot let this happen.

Lenin Haider comments on this post:

বাংলাদেশের ক্ষেত্রে মানুষের চিন্তা চেতনাকে ভাবতে হবে। আমার ধারনা আওয়ামীলীগ কোনোভাবেই সৈন্য পাঠাবে না আগামী ভোটের কথা চিন্তা করে। কারন তখন জামাত আর তালেবান সমর্থকরা ৫ম সংশোধনী ও আফগানে সৈন্য পাঠানোকে এক করে প্রপাগান্ডা ছড়াবে যে আওয়ামীলীগ যে ইসলামের বিরুদ্ধে তার প্রমাণ হিসেবে।

We should assess the sentiments of the Bangladeshis. I think the Awami League government will never send the troops considering the next election. Because this will be a propaganda item for the Jamaat-e-Islami (right-wing Islamist political party) and the Taliban appeasers. They will say that the Awami league government is working against Islam by tagging with the troops to Afghanistan issue and the 5th amendment of constitution (reverting back to secular constitution).

So it seems that it will be very difficult for the Bangladeshi government to keep the request of USA in sending the troops to Afghanistan. But ideologically Bangladesh supports the war against terror which is evident from its crackdown on radicals [11].