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
Lima, I agree with every point you have made in this article. It is all about the pain full truths that the US government and people should accept. Every Afghan should undrestand it. The world should know that the identity, which is given to Afghans today is not their really identity. They are not the one as they are known and perceived.
So true lima, and every one well known about this reality that is some thing els we are not accepting this,
It is good to read your thoughts and you choose very relevant and important topics. I like the part “The weak attitude of the U.S government strengthens the confidence of Taliban.” I do believe that too, but the strategy that Taliban and Al-Qaeda are putting in practice in recent years makes it very difficult for NATO to give an strong response. Moreover, Pakistan is a very complicated issue and their role in destabilizing Afghanistan is significant, but we should be careful in dealing with Pakistan, it is a over 100 million extremist-Muslim country with atomic power and the leaders of Pakistan always favors extremism.
In addition, you pointed out the “Plan B for Afghanistan” and I read about it in international media, it is not going to happen. Despite the fact that NATO’s intervention in Balkans resulted in partition, but that is not going to be case in this country.
Furthermore, I do agree with you on the issue of decentralization, there are warlords and governors mainly responsible for their territory; we cannot make it more decentralized. It will definitely create big problems.
The focus of your writing is more on governance and alternatives. Where are those alternatives and how can we implement effective governance? Honestly speaking, I don’t know that and they are many intellectuals that are just looking for that answer.
Dear, you have put lots of information, I can feel that you could expand this piece a little bit more, and there is still room for improvement in this particular writing.
You are doing a great job 🙂
Thank you for the article and for participating in an important project to elevate the voice of Afghan women. As someone who cares deeply about the future of your country I believe that the way forward can only be made by Afghans. Afghans have to want peace and take actions toward a peace all Afghans can live with (including women) much more than the International forces whose presence only deters its realization. The solution will not come from outside Afghanistan. So what is the Afghan plan and what Afghans will stand up and lead it?
Thankyou. The day the Citizen stands up in millions and declares, “I am no longer afraid”, shock-waves through power may, finally, cause Change.
No matter how people feel about the condition of Afghanistan, hardly any effort has gone into fixing the problems. Taken by face value, it might seem like a lot has been done in favor of the country and that the country has improved drastically, but it is only a façade. Once you delve deeper in, you can see just how weak the entire infrastructure truly is. And this is where the problem lies. Only certain, small parts of the country are doing relatively fine but overall the country is virtually falling apart because there is no strong foundation. This “show” is put on for the sake of the rest of the world, to please those that control it. So therefore, when solutions are brought forth and if the “government” doesn’t approve of them, they can use that façade of the country on its way to betterment to reject the suggestions. One solution that has been mentioned time and again is partition of the country. It has been the one of the most discussed topics and also one of the most rejected ones. Recent events as well as past historical tribulations have illustrated that the only solution for Afghanistan is separation.
Dividing Afghanistan has always been a much-heated and much-debated topic. Whether it be to divide it by North and South, or separate independent states for several provinces, the underlining solution is to separate the lands and, most importantly, the people. However, no step has been taken to go forward with such a solution. One of the main supported resolutions is separation by North and South—to divide the Non-Pashtuns and the Pashtuns. Such ethnic aversion is expected considering the shaky history and relationship between the ethnicities of Afghanistan—mainly of Pashtuns with everyone else. For 250 years, the Pashtuns had power over most of the regions of Afghanistan whether it was in the form of a monarchy, communism, or terrorism via religious fanaticism. Most recently, they have tried gaining power through fraudulent elections and official appointments in the legislatures. With 250 years in power, there is hardly any achievement to show for it. The greatest achievement of the Pashtuns is that the nation is literally at the bottom. Afghanistan’s status is the 177th country among 180 countries of the world, signaling just how poor and devastated the country is. It receives its budget from international donations and half of that money is spent on security of the south because 90% of the country’s violence comes from the south. The Pashtun’s ignorance and arrogance have arisen time and again during the Loya Jirga and the creation of such a bogus constitution. When the non-Pashtuns asked for a parliamentary system, the Pashtuns rejected it. Pashtuns are not and never will think of creating a government that is necessary or even fair for our diverse nation by acknowledging past historical events and are instead trying to restore Pashtun hegemony.
There are those non-Pashtuns who don’t wish to go over or remember past events/bad memories—they want to take the easy way out and just start fresh. However, there are those that do NOT want to forget and believe that a fresh start can only occur when there has been some sort of change. And by keeping the Pashtuns in power—the same ethnicity that has literally and truthfully brought ruin to the country—there will be no improvement or change for the country, certainly not for the non-Pashtuns and perhaps even some poor Pashtuns. Pashtuns are originally from the South so perhaps and they can rightly go back there and govern rightly over their own people. And leave the North to themselves. Now, some people have stated that once the Pashtuns are gone, the non-Pashtuns might just start fighting with each other and that’s why they prefer to have separate independent states—the Tajiks with Tajikistan, Uzbeks in Uzbekistan, the Hazaras as their own nation. This may very well work out, too, but they must first try to understand just where their problems began and if they work them out. After all, they share a lot in history, culture, literature, etc.
Most of the problems that are present among non-Pashtuns are due to Pashtuns. In the past, pre-Afghanistan, the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Turkmans, etc. lived side by side in Khorasan. There was no threat of communism or terrorism. Terror started with the first footsteps of Abdali. By separating the North and the South that is the first step towards change. Right now, there is no stability in the country and its people. Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns do not have anything in common—historically, culturally, etc. Only recently do the ethnicities have some things in common like the literature and language and that is only because Pashtuns became persianized as they came to the north. Most Pashtuns adopted Dari as their language, Persian poets as their choice of literature, etc. Which is why it seems so hypocritical when those same Pashtuns want to push Pashto and Pashto “literature” and “culture” unto the rest of the country—they didn’t and/or can’t speak the language themselves and they want to force others to accept it. Now, if they badly want Pashto and Pashto culture to be a big part of Afghanistan, then they should all travel back to the South and contently enforce Pashto unto their own people. The people of the North have their own history and culture and they appreciate it and have appreciated it for hundreds of years.
Pashtuns did not bring any progress in the past—which is fairly obvious considering the condition of the country today—so logically, they won’t bring any progress in the future. And if the country is partitioned finally, there is no way it could get any worse. But even so, just how worse could it possibly get? Separation of the country shouldn’t be seen as a failure of the country but rather as an improvement and a solid and proper change. When we factor in all the information—dangerous and ineffective Pashtun rule, misrepresentative country name, forced Pashto assimilation—the only solution can be to separate. Living with Pashtuns did not work in the past and so it won’t work for the future. After all, one can not and should not try living a normal life with cancer—you have to get rid of the cancer or it will destroy you from the inside out. Whether it’s slowly and secretly or fast and outwardly there are only two ways out and they are by cutting it off or letting it kill you
Naseem, you should be applauded for your writing skills in a second language. Your libel is, however disgusting. Pashtun, Hazara, Tajik, Uzbek and other brothers in arms are better than divided under the yoke of demagogues and exploiters. Don’t go far away, look at what happened to India after partition. Separation is not the solution. Dont believe it, go out and see it for yourself between your ordinary brethren, if you truly belong to them; who trade, marry, speak and practice at-one-ment with each other on a daily basis. Dont look to the dark side to things because you cant cure the wounds of past by just needling them. Afghan elite, from all ethnic backgrounds, owe a lot to the ordinary Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek and others. But it is our cowardice and division that enables them to do what they have freely done to everyone.
Dear Ahmad Naseem,
Thanks for reading my article, but unfortunately I have crossed that limitation of being related to any ethnic group. I just believe I am human being and living in a human’s world. For me it is more important that Afghans as whole are paying for it, and the elites and corrupt leaders are always backed up by the excuses such as you have made. If you pay attention to what is happening in the world, you will see what is going wrong in your country. Our leaders are doing what the leaders of former Yugoslavia did and what is happening in Bosnia now..Our leaders are not learning from others mistake not to repeat it, they are learning on purpose to repeat it.
And I hope people like you and me who have the chance to see and have the opportunities to learn do not contribute to worng happening of dehumanization of our people by the names of tribes.
When empire are humiliated they use coward like startegy thinking they can bring others to their knees. Afghans are not Arabd or Indians to be divided into little banana republic countries of colonialists. Afghans could care less about the UN or any other body whose powers are with those humiliated. This fantasy remains a fantasy of the white men for 250 years and aside from being impossible, Afghans will reverse any lines drawn on maps…Afghans are in charge of their own destiny…A lesson not learned by enemies of Afghanistan is those who seek to destroy Afghanistan have only destroyed themselves
all great points, but the fact remains that the real reason my country invaded your country is simple: oil. Your points, if submitted to some place with respect for human life, would end the war, and the destruction. Peace is a beautiful sight to see, and all people are equal. a truly important article.