Ousmane Ndiaye, a graduate of the University of Dakar, worked for the Senegalese press, the International mail and been a correspondent for several media, including The world, in the Sahel region. He is now editor-in-chief of the Africa section of TV5 Monde. The duty joined him in Paris. Interview by Stéphane Baillargeon.
How do you analyze the American – indeed, Western – defeat in Afghanistan?
We must place ourselves in a broad historical perspective. In the past 50 years, there has not been a Western military intervention that has succeeded in rebuilding a state or helped it to start again on a democratic basis. We must not forget that before the American intervention in Afghanistan, there was a somewhat similar intervention in Somalia at the beginning of the 1990s. in many ways to the current withdrawal from Afghanistan. Yet less than a decade later, after September 11, 2001, Americans embarked on a similar new adventure.
Why the transformation of this company and the ” nation building Have they failed?
You cannot build a nation from the outside, outside of itself and its values, outside of its historical trajectory. We cannot graft fundamental principles. The whole crux of the failure of the Western universalist project is there. All the more so as the conquered societies rear up. I am going to take up the thesis of sociologist Gilles Dorronsoro who speaks of the bankruptcy of Western expertise in Afghanistan: the West lives on a mythology, the West projects its own fears in Afghanistan or the Sahel and is not sufficiently listening to the anxieties of the populations of these regions of the world. It is a heavy paradigm. We must therefore get out of this paradigm so as not to reproduce the errors elsewhere.
What image do the West leave behind Afghanistan?
Westerners lose sight of the fact that we live in a world that they have dominated for centuries. Military interventions are now taking place in colonized and dominated countries. Go back three generations in every Afghan, Somali or Senegalese family and you will find someone who has experienced colonization and Western domination. The contradictions of Western positions escape no one. The Americans were in Afghanistan to fight Taliban obscurantism, but Saudi Arabia is no less backward. This country trapped a journalist and cut him to pieces; yet it receives the support of the Americans and Europeans. Why refuse Afghan barbarism and accept Saudi barbarism?
Are the contradictions the same in the Sahel?
Sure. In the Sahel, the French say they are not negotiating with terrorists, but they are negotiating with hostage takers. These contradictions enormously weaken the scope of the discourse on the great universal values. We reach such a level of contradiction that Western discourse becomes inaudible, even to progressive elites. These contradictions and the absence of a clear ethical and political line serve fundamentalist discourses. France’s main ally in the Sahel is Chad. Chad is a dictatorship. Its army is known for its massacres, its rapes. In the name of realpolitik, France has decided that the best ally in the region is a dictatorial regime. How then to convey a discourse on democracy and respect for human rights? How to accept that in Chad, the son Idriss Déby succeeds the father as president and that in Mali, we are calling for elections? The old doxa no longer holds and increases the mistrust of progressives and the will of radicals.
What will be the effect of the Taliban victory in the Sahel?
For the Sahelian jihadists, this is already a psychological victory. Malian jihadist leader Iyad Ag Ghali said in August that he was calling for the Taliban’s strategy. He says he will win in the end, that he will play for time and win like in Afghanistan. France is in the process of withdrawing; Europeans are reluctant to get involved; the Americans will not engage. Over the long term, with the erosion of corrupt states, the jihadists may well triumph there too. Moreover, before the French intervention in 2013, they occupied a territory twice the size of France. Victory is still very possible for the rebels. Jihadists wage war and national armies react. Entire regions of Burkina Faso are under their control.
What remains as a means of intervention?
The military response is not the right one. The West must find other ways to extend the democratic principles and values it carries around the world. The crucible of radicalism is also the bankruptcy of completely corrupt states. We must build on the positive forces of civil society. It takes a human response. The majority of young people who engage in jihadist groups are lost youth, overwhelmed with injustice and misery with the total arrogance of the elites.
The contradictions of Western positions escape no one.