Afghanistan needs us
Afghanistan for many years has consistently been in the news, almost everyone with a small interest in global politics is aware of what’s happening in Afghanistan. But what really can the world do to make the situation better for the people of Afghanistan? For starters, it’s important to understand the conflict- Afghanistan is a beautiful country, normally considered a part of Central Asia, the country is predominantly Muslim. The country was colonized by the British East India Company but after the Third Anglo Afghan war in 1919, the country became a monarchic state. The country was invaded in 1978 by the erstwhile Soviet Union, this soon became an international conflict. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan soon turned into a cold war era proxy war and foreign powers fought to have influence over the region, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is said to have contributed to the fall of the USSR in 1991.
In the 1990s, the Taliban, who were a fundamentalist religious force, took over the country. The Taliban imposed a strict social code across the country and oppressed women. They banned all objects considered “western” and prohibited women from doing a number of activities such as voting, socializing with men in public etc. The Taliban established an Islamic Emirate which was overthrown by the US in 2001 as a part of their Global War on Terror. The US and other NATO forces have since then remained in the country. The US launched Operation Enduring Freedom and aimed at removing the influence of the Taliban from all spheres of Afghan politics. The country has since then been in a constant state of conflict and turmoil, the Taliban and their allies have launched a number of terror attacks and the civilian cost of the war has been immense. The US in 2021 decided to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan, this however creates a vacuum of power and it is this vacuum that the Taliban have tried to once again occupy.
For the people of Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban directly translates to more violence and more oppression. Women once again fear that the repressive social codes will once again return. Noted Human Rights activists and campaigners have voiced concerns over this. For the common people of Afghanistan, the Taliban represents violence, fear and oppression. Although peace talks between the Taliban, the US Government and other stakeholders have happened, the talks don’t seem to answer the main question- Will Afghanistan move towards a secular constitutional republic or will the Taliban once again try to force religious fundamentalism. Will Human Rights be protected? The Taliban have not stopped their insurgency, the Afghan Government has refused to accept demands from the Taliban such a release of prisoners, the US Government is keen on withdrawal and the Afghan people once again find themselves in the midst of political turmoil.
Moreover, the economic and social conditions of the country are far from perfect, the economy has dwindled, poverty is widespread, the COVID 19 pandemic has further worsened the crisis. Millions of Afghans have been forced to leave their homes and have become refugees in several countries. The Taliban has slowly regrouped and have started to increase their activity in recent months, the Afghan Government fears the Taliban could use violence to overthrow the Government and take control of the country.
It is imperative that the Global community provides maximum support to the Afghan Government to ensure the Taliban don’t take over power. The Afghan people need urgent economic and social help, long years of war has unfortunately resulted in a backward economy. One of the main reasons for the rise of the Taliban has been the widespread poverty and unemployment in the country, reducing this is an important step in defeating the Taliban. Regional powers and organizations like the SAARC, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Gulf Cooperation Organization should take the lead in this, ensuring that the economic growth rises and poverty levels reduce.
The next important step is to support traditional conflict resolution mechanisms in the Afghan society such as the Loya Jirga- essentially an assembly of elders from various communities and ethnic groups. Minority ethnic groups in the country should also be given adequate representation and power.
Afghanistan is a land rich with resources and minerals, the International community must help Afghanistan to harvest and use these resources in an effective manner in order to improve the economic conditions of the country.
Importantly, the Afghan people, especially young people should be given the lead role in nation building, an outside force or power cannot build a nation, it is possible only when the local population is empowered that the country can truly prosper. Trust between Afghans and between Afghans and the Afghan Government needs to improve. This comes only when citizens are allowed to express themselves freely. Fundamental Rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion need to be granted to all citizens.
The International community through organizations such as the WHO, UNICEF, The World Food Programme etc have to be deployed in full force. Countries like India, China and Russia need to help out with Soft Aid projects. The UN needs to ensure that the Afghan people get all available support. A world body of experts and policy makers needs to be urgently formed to advise the Afghan Government in matters of finance, military strategy, development etc.
The International community must also start engaging more directly with the Afghan Civil Society. We must recognize stakeholders like NGOs, tribal groups, women’s organizations etc. who can help us defeat the Taliban’s influence and also aid the nation building process. The Afghan diaspora across the world also needs to be involved in this process.
Any negotiation with the Taliban needs to happen only after they lay down all arms. The Taliban cannot use violence as a medium of expression. Only after the Taliban join the mainstream of Afghan society and use democratic principles to voice their concerns should any negotiation with them happen. The violence needs to stop. The entire bureaucratic framework of the Afghan Government needs to be completely redone. This needs to happen under international oversight and supervision.
We must remember that we need to offer the Afghan people a vision. A vision which is realistic and a vision which includes a peaceful future for Afghanistan. If we fail in our endeavor to provide a vision to the people of Afghanistan, especially to the young people, we allow other organizations and non-state actors to provide this vision. And the vision provided by these other groups may not be the one we want. It could lead to more violence, war and injustice. Therefore, today and always, we need to remember that Afghanistan needs us.
Afghanistan needs us