The West has made even more mistakes in Afghanistan than us

Andrey Avetisyan, a veteran Kabul diplomat, said talk of a handover to the Afghans was currently unrealistic because the coalition had failed to build the nation’s forces or economy.

The rampant corruption riddling the administration was the West’s fault for ploughing huge sums into badly-coordinated, opaque aid projects he said.

Moscow’s envoy spoke as his country again seeks to assert influence by reviving up to 150 Soviet-era infrastructure and business ventures.

Russia intends to reprieve factories, irrigation schemes and road projects.

An estimated 1 million Afghans were killed and millions fled abroad during the Soviet Union’s decade-long occupation.

The Red Army lost some 15,000 troops fighting the Western-backed Mujahideen resistance.

Mr Avetisyan, who began his career in Kabul in the 1980s and speaks Dari and Pashtu, said the West had not learned from Soviet mistakes.

“They are repeating all of them and they are making new ones,” he told The Sunday Telegraph.

Barack Obama has promised a gradual military withdrawal from July 2011, but Mr Avetisyan said Nato had “wasted” nine years not building an Afghan army to replace them.

He said: “Only now have people started to realise ‘Oh, we must have someone to secure the country when we leave’.

“But it is not possible to do in several months, or years. If serious training of the Afghan army is started now, it will take in my opinion at least five years.” “If the international community had started this several years ago, then now it would be realistic to talk about transition timetables and withdrawal.” He said when the Soviets left in 1989, their ally Mohammad Najibullah remained in power for three years because he inherited a strong army and economy.

“For the last eight years, there have been no big projects, not infrastructure projects,” he went on.

“A school here, a hospital there. When it is built people start asking ‘Well where are the teachers and the doctors?’ because no one thought about it before.” The Afghan government was crippled by a shortage of able, trained civil servants. The new army was being trained “almost on the battlefield”.

He said Western diplomats “listen politely” when Russia offered advice.

Russia is worried that an unstable Afghanistan could become a launch pad for Islamist militant attacks and wants to stem the heroin which kills 30,000 Russians annually.

Despite the death toll in the occupation, Mr Avetisyan said Kabul and Moscow remained “traditional partners”.

“Russia has played a low profile role in the past eight or nine years and now it is becoming more active in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Other people may go, but we will be here like neighbours.” Dmitry Medvedev, Russian prime minister, met Hamid Karzai in Sochi last month as Afghanistan’s neighbours jockey for influence before an eventual Nato withdrawal.

Russians are hoping to rebuild the strategic Salang road tunnel across the Hindu Khush with £55 million of American money.

A fertilizer plant in Mazar-i-Sharif, an irrigation network for olive trees in Nangahar and a factory for prefabricated apartment blocks in Kabul are on a priority list of Soviet projects to be restarted.
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7996788/The-West-has-made-even-more-mistakes-in-Afghanistan-than-us-says-Russian-envoy-to-Kabul.html