The current situation in Afghanistan is at the worst level possible. Suicide attacks in public areas, civilians killed in a bank massacre. Civilians are being killed by the International Security Assistance Forces and there are so many more devastating situations that we haven’t experienced in the past.
Now it seems like everyone is deciding what is good for Afghanistan or bad for the Afghan people. The result is that people are disappointed, hopeless, and, most important, afraid of what is going to happen.
Perhaps there are still people who talk on behalf of the Afghan people, who believe that Afghans are not always looking for war and that the Pashtuns are not the Taliban. Where are they?
As a common Afghan woman I want to analyze briefly what went wrong, the almost failed U.S invasion operation, and the worsening situation.
U.S. policymakers and commentators have been giving assumptions about the future of Afghanistan. It is a false assumption that people from eastern and southern Afghanistan are all followers of the Taliban. In fact, in southern Afghanistan the government is very weak. People have to obey the Taliban or else they will lose everything.
“Afghanistan is simply ungovernable.” This is according to Stephen Biddle, Roger Hertog Senior Fellow for Defense Policy in his article “Defining Success in Afghanistan,” where he says most of the American public believes nothing positive can be done in Afghanistan.
In my view, this is the most ridiculous claim by any commentator in a developed country.
Why is it an uncontrollable country? How did that happen?
Journalist and author Cynthia Enloe writes that many Americans only heard of Afghanistan after the attack of 9/11. They were not aware of the U.S. involvement at the time of the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and she explains how the mujahideen of the Northern Alliance — a group now mostly recognized as warlords — were created by the United States to break the communist regime supported by the Soviet Union. Later, the Taliban were supported by the U.S to fight against the conflicts of the same warlords in different regions in Afghanistan. This is outlined in her article “Updating the Gendered Empire.”
When the Bush administration demanded that the Taliban either turn over Osama bin Laden or face its own destruction, where were the analysts and the policymakers and the commentators then? Why didn’t they evaluate their own assumptions then about how nothing could be done in that country? Why didn’t they analyze that plan?
The plan for Afghanistan? It seems to me to be very blurry, but the plan is said to be the removal of al-Qaeda from the region.
It is believed that any war can be justified, because war always has two sides of reality. An act of war is a cause of national pride for one group and, for other side, a terrorist act. A suicide attacker is a national hero to one group and to the other he is a terrorist.
In Afghanistan, the U.S government had a good reason to justify the war as a fight against terrorism. The people of Afghanistan welcomed the decision and gave them their full support. But what happens now after nine years of war against terrorism? Osama is still missing, and the Taliban still have advanced weapons.
The answer to these questions is that the U.S is not fighting terrorism; they are supporting warlords in Afghanistan to build the government.
The Afghan government is led by the warlords who divided the country into ethnic pieces after the communist regime, ultimately resulting in the emergence of the Taliban extremists.
Now, Afghan people are confused about whom to believe. The Taliban attacks are weakening the morale of the public. They see that the NATO troops are not doing anything, and they hear news that the Americans will leave the country because they believe that nothing is going to change. The weak attitude of the U.S government strengthens the confidence of Taliban.
The commentators in the U.S can make an alternative “Plan B” for Afghanistan, but they cannot answer the very simple questions of who are the Taliban?
Why is the Taliban still in Afghanistan? Why is Pakistan still supported by the U.S., even though they are supporting the Taliban? Where does the Taliban get their support and supplies, which are not depleted after nine years of constant war?
Why is the international aid spent on a failed military operation rather than on reconstructing the country and creating a strong government?
We do not see any answers to these questions but we receive the “De Facto Partition” suggestion from political analyst Robert D. Blackwill. In his article, “Plan B in Afghanistan,” he suggests De Facto Partition is a realistic option and he also talks about how there are around 100 al-Qaida members in Afghanistan, which is not a big threat anymore. If 100 terrorists are not a threat anymore, then why spend $7 billion monthly in military expenses in Afghanistan?
If the partition of big countries such as India and Pakistan did not work and the conflicts remain after 60 years, then how will the partition of a small country of 28 million people bring prosperity? Let’s suppose that as he proposes, Eastern and Southern Afghanistan is handed over to the Taliban, how will their economy run? Which countries in the world will support their existence as an independent state?
Another suggested alternative is decentralization of the government in the country. The status quo seems like a centralized government, but in fact all the provinces are governed by the Afghan regional commanders and warlords.
These commanders proved useful to the U.S government in its own competition with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Perhaps they became useful again when they started a war against the Taliban and al-Qaida. Despite their interethnic tensions, all those commanders who are now the governors of different provinces share a history of opposition to the modernizing, secularizing reforms of the Kabul government.
The central government, led by Hamid Karzai, has very little influence over the small governments in each province. So there will not be any positive change if the decentralized democratic government is formally announced; the positive change is possible only when players of the game are changed.
The United States government knows that Afghan leaders who run the country now are the worst options available, but as they were once useful, the U.S cannot let them down.
There is so much destroyed in Afghanistan. A quick solution can never be achieved. If the people of the United States hope that they will see Afghanistan become a perfect democratic state when it is led by the leaders of ethnocentric groups, then I wonder what will happen to Afghanistan in the coming years.
There is more to be said, but the outlined plan won’t work. The leaders are not working for the country as a whole, but for their specific ethnic groups. They only strengthen the gap between the Pashtuns and Tajiks and Hazara and others who have witnessed years of conflict against each other. Afghanistan must have leaders that will unite them, not further divide them.
Photo: AP / Charles Dharapak