Putting Afghanistan on Track

23 May

Tariq Rizwan
We have been listening and witnessing Afghan war for almost five decades since our birth. Several generations have doomed since the breakup of political crisis in Kabul; quick successions of President Dawood, President Amanulla Khan and Zahir Shah followed by full-fledged invasion of USSR. The invasion of Afghanistan caused an exodus of Afghan Refugees in Pakistan and Iran. Next destination of the expansionist USSR was either Pakistan or Iran to reach the warm water. Man proposes God disposes, collective efforts of Pakistan & Iran and daring nature of Afghan Mujahideen with US\West financial and weaponry support defeated the USSR designs and pushed back the communist monster to disappear in its own ashes.
Ditched and left out by US/West in a fragile state, the warring Afghans continued fighting with one another instead of stabilizing their gains in Afghan Jihad. The Madrassa students “Taliban” led by Mulla Umer had driven all the Mujahideen groups and captured Kabul. Though fighting continued with elements in the north and Northern Alliance put up some resistance yet Taliban were able to annex most parts of Afghanistan quickly and introduced Islamic system in the country. After 9/11, Taliban were ousted by US led ISAF in 2001 and established administration of own choice with a Quetta based pro – Zahir Shah Teacher, Karzai as President of the new administration. Afghan Taliban dispersed and continued its proxy under the command of Mulla Umer. Mulla Umer is no more alive but his group has defacto rule on almost 70% area of Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani government has no writ in most parts of the country. US & ISAF troops became exhausted and left Afghanistan except some US airbases & air bases without developing and bringing lasting peace in the war torn country.
The war – dependent economy in Afghanistan is worsening day by day. Afghanistan’s economy slowed down dramatically from an average of 10% in 2003-12 to only 3% in 2013-15. The prevailing anarchy and fragile infrastructure in Afghanistan is in the news almost every day, and it is hard to escape the images of worst hit villagers caught in the middle of the conflict. With a growing Taliban insurgency centered in the south, East and Southeast, the violence continues to escalate. Analysts believe that too much aid, especially in the insecure regions of Afghanistan, has led to more instability. Money has siphoned off by corrupt government officials, which fueled anti-government sentiment in the people who were supposed to benefit from that aid. On the other hand, regions that were relatively stable received much less aid than unstable areas. Afghans think that it is not the Taliban who are winning rather it is that the Kabul government which is losing. Kabul government is viewed as corrupt and predatory. A US researcher Wielder says that interaction with local Afghans reveal that most Afghans think “when Taliban were in charge there were fewer problems. We didn’t have these warlords, and at least we had some form of justice. And the police then weren’t ripping us off.”
The problems of Afghanistan include overinvesting in warlords who were the actual cause of Taliban birth, illiterate young generation, lack of women empowerment, lack of government & business infrastructure and fear among the international donors and investors. Aid and military support cannot resolve all these problems. Political stability, secure environment and foreign investment can produce job opportunities and bring prosperity to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, only 23.5 percent of the population above 15 years old is literate, while the rate for women is even worse at 12.6 percent. At 36 percent, Afghanistan’s enrollment of girls in primary schools is low compared with 90.4 percent in Iran, 67 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 62 percent in Pakistan. Other impediments that hinder women’s education are violence against women, underage marriages, forced marriages, economic problems, and marriage as a solution to family disputes (known as baad).
As a quick-fix solution, we basically re-armed all the warlords who were willing to fight the Taliban. But they were the very ones who gave birth to the Taliban in the first place, since people were so fed up with the warlords. Most Afghans held them accountable for most of the instability of the previous 20 years. So very quickly we brought back to power some of the most unpopular and discredited individuals from the past, and they became the backbone of this new government that many Afghans see as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
Afghans are fed up of continued fighting and have become more security conscious over a period of time as is the case with international community. US is fast shifting its focus from Central Asia and South Asia towards Asia – Pacific to counter the growing Chinese-North Korean threat to its interests in the region thus affecting its focus on Afghanistan. Facing crises in Middle East, reduction in oil prices, empowering moderate new generation, Saudis have became more neighbors-centric and undermined to a greater extent its interest in Afghanistan. Warring parties became less dependent on Saudi finances and investment. Iran and India are developing its own infrastructure by developing Chabahar Port to pass on business to Central Asia using Western Afghan routes. Pakistan has allowed China to develop China – Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is the shortest route towards Chinese Xinxiang Province, Central Asia and even Russia.
There are reports that Mulla Umer’s successor Mulla Akhter Mansoor has been killed in Balochistan in US drone strike. It is yet not confirmed but if confirms will be a great setback to the upcoming peace talks between Tehrik – e – Taliban Afghanistan. Reportedly, he was coming from Iran when targeted in Noshki area, Balochistan on Saturday 21 May 2016. Indeed, Afghans should come out of their ashes and think seriously for peace and prosperity of the country. It is the real time for economic enhancement, prosperity of the region and the neighboring countries including Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well as the extra regional powers to put their interests aside and work sincerely for “Afghans’
owned and led” solution to the Afghan dilemma. Though the weak Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbadin Hikmatyar joined Ashraf Ghani government yet the fresh Taliban pre-condition shows that US may play a pivotal role by withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as per the desire of Taliban faction to prepare the ground for a meaningful dialogue between the sides. Sitting Afghan government may be asked to come out of Northern Alliance and their foreigner mentors to show flexibility and give some reasonable share in government to the Pashtun groups in South, East and North East of Kabul. Doing so, the warring factions may be convinced and brought on negotiating table to resolve the issue once for all.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in London

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