Women affected by the COVID-19 pandemic await financial support from the World Food Program in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: WFP / Massoud HossainiGENEVA, Mar 15 (IPS) – There is great anticipation of President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan strategy to effectively end the longest war in the United States. So far, he has continued to rely on Ambassador Zalmai Khalilzad, the special envoy for Afghanistan appointed by Mr Trump.
Initial statements by the White House, State Department, and Defense Department looked promising. However, some stressed that they were ignoring an essential element: the desire of the Afghan people for their future!
Various assumptions arose after Ambassador Khalilzad’s last visit to the region. It seems he is still pushing for an interim government formula involving Afghan chiefs and the Taliban, a new version of an old strategy that has never proven effective!
It can be pointless to go into details or speculate about President Biden’s intentions with regard to Afghanistan. However, an overview of the challenges will help to find a solid solution that will allow foreign troops to reclaim their land in the most dignified manner and the Afghan people to dispose of their future.
From the end of the 18th century, Afghanistan became the battlefield for the control of Central and South Asia between superpowers. Their “big game” and the inability of the Afghan rulers, who quickly succumbed to the politics of “division and rule”, never allowed the people of this country to develop as a nation.
Hence, it is difficult to understand the Afghan riddle. So far, those who have encroached upon this eternally fragmented country, more recently the British Empire and the Soviet Union, have never grasped fundamental obstacles. Both lost their fame due to their unpredictable decisions. The Biden government must not rush to take into account national challenges, regional obstacles and international hurdles in order to find a permanent, workable and sustainable solution.
A major source of perpetual conflict in Afghanistan is the unequal historical treatment of different population groups by their governments. Effective equality of opportunity and good governance form the basis for a peaceful future. Some basic national challenges are as follows:
Afghanistan has always been ruled for family, ethnic, religious and relational reasons. Meritocracy was hardly a problem for those in power. So far, this has been a major reason for the failure of international support strategies. Nepotism, cronyism, and tribalism, unless addressed immediately, will be a devastating deterrent to any positive action.
Since the Communists came to power in 1978, various regimes, warlords, mujahideen chiefs, and especially the Taliban and their Islamic state and al-Qaeda workers, have committed atrocious crimes against humanity. Without a truth and reconciliation process, it would be difficult for peace efforts to achieve their goals.
While Afghanistan is a country with defined borders and recognized status in important international and regional areas, Afghans never formed a nation. Without recognizing this fact and implementing a robust nation-building program, Afghanistan will remain a toy in the hands of foreign adversaries.
The post-Taliban Afghan constitution was drawn up without taking into account decades of profound political, social and economic changes in the country. It did not satisfy the aspirations of the population. Substantial reform of the current constitution can only improve the chances of lasting peace in the country.
Despite the efforts of the international community, Afghanistan is affected by widespread corruption. It has aggregated all layers of central and provincial government institutions, and even the private sector, and hampered efforts to rebuild and rebuild the country. A comprehensive framework, policy and action plan for good governance and ethics for the public and private sectors need to be agreed and implemented without delay.
Since Mr. Hamid Karzai has been promoted to the leadership of Afghanistan and, despite the trillions of US dollars granted by the various Afghan governments, the expected development path is unsatisfactory. The leaders were unable to define where their countries would be in a year, ten or thirty years. It is extremely urgent that the Afghan leadership clearly describes short, medium and long term political, social and economic plans for the country and the appropriate strategies for action so that the people understand the sacrifices that are still required to achieve peace and peace to achieve prosperity.
For decades, Afghanistan benefited from a recognized neutral status under King Zaher Shah, which helped the country position itself as an unbiased element of the “big games”! It then received development aid, in particular from the USA, the main European countries, the Soviet Union, India and the People’s Republic of China. Daoud Khan’s violent regime change from kingdom to republic with the help of Soviet-trained military personnel destroyed Afghanistan’s privileged neutral status. It is therefore in the interests of this country to regain its neutrality in the international arena and to stay away from the “new big game fights”.
Since 2009 the elections have been fraught with an unacceptable level of corruption and mismanagement. The people have lost confidence in the democratic process and do not believe in the results of the elections. This is a major obstacle to the country’s future political, social and economic development, as well as to prospects for peace and serenity. Without solid and impartial electoral law, rules and procedures and honest responsible persons, democracy in Afghanistan will have no future.
Afghanistan is located in a very volatile region in the world. For centuries, neighboring powers collapsed and caused unforgivable tragedies. The following are some of the main regional obstacles to the Afghanistan crisis:
Regional rivalries, particularly the tensions between India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Iran, are affecting Afghanistan, prolonging conflict and popular discord, turning the country into a battleground for proxy wars. There are historical, religious, political and strategic reasons that put Afghanistan in this situation. Among all its neighbors, Pakistan has made it much easier to accommodate, train and support terrorist movements, especially the Taliban. The regional powers must have a clear understanding to immediately stop this country from taking on the burden of defending various foreign interests. In particular, Pakistan must agree on an honest commitment to non-interference in Afghan internal affairs and end its support for the Taliban or any other subversive organization.
The exploitation of resources, especially minerals and water, is a major cause of discord. In addition, climate change has hit Afghanistan so badly that it is destroying its agriculture. All efforts by Afghanistan to exploit its water are exposed to the anger of powerful neighbors, who degrade the atmosphere for friendly understanding and peaceful coexistence. Regional power must recognize Afghanistan’s vulnerability and help overcome the difficulties by exploiting their own natural resources.
Internal challenges for regional powers, in particular claims for autonomy or independence by the peoples of Balochistan, Kurdistan, Yemen and Kashmir, affect Afghanistan. There are reports of Afghans being sent to Kashmir, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere to fight. Often, ethnic and religious motivations are the driving force behind such madness, which leads to a lack of unity in Afghanistan. Regional powers must refrain from using Afghans as foot soldiers for their interests.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has become multipolar. In the absence of solid morals, there is fierce competition for global political and economic leadership. The four years of the Trump administration exposed glimpses of the ambitions of some to dethrone the United States from its leadership positions.
While Europe is a power in its own right and the Russian Federation rises from the ashes of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and India are undoubtedly the future centers of political and economic gravity.
The Middle East and Central and South Asia are the battlefields for a “new great game”. Hence, the leading international hurdles for Afghanistan are as follows:
Western powers have been shaken by the repeated failure of their policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and many other countries, especially in Africa. Social media is a devastating tool that gives people numerous instant information portals that show the difference between rhetoric and reality. This fact enables other powers, especially the People’s Republic of China, to consolidate and strengthen their position on the international stage. Afghanistan appears to remain the playground for such a competition that could last for decades.
Afghanistan is no longer a priority for the international community. Other emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic or an eventual conflict between major rivals in the world arena can make them even more irrelevant. It is therefore of vital importance for the country to find lasting peace in the not too distant future.
The terrible terrorist attacks on the United States in Nairobi, Darussalam, Aden, and especially New York and Washington, were carried out by Al-Qaeda, whose leadership sought protection from the rising Taliban movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Islam, a religion of peace and mercy, was used as a pretext for their inhumane acts. “Islamic terrorism” causes misery to people in Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere. The image of Islam is permanently tarnished. The Islamic countries and Afghanistan in particular must make insurmountable efforts to bridge a lasting trust between all religious peoples.
The way forward
Afghanistan has been “an inspiration” to terrorist organizations for decades. However, it can also be a major source of regional and international stability. It all depends on how the Biden government formulates its strategy to create lasting peace in this country, with the firm claim that it has achieved the goal of fighting terrorism in this country. Therefore, Afghans ask President Biden and his team to consider the following:
Learn from past mistakes made by US governments. The Bonn Agreement of December 5, 2001, an agreement among the political traders, was a quick fix and did not bring peace or security. Another deal involving a select number of chiefs, with the involvement of the Taliban, may be an immediate “success”, but it would be a major long-term disaster. A repetition of the 1992 mistake that led to a surge in international terrorism and direct attacks on the United States will wreak havoc on a much greater scale. The United States must not rush to solicit the opinion of the Afghan people seriously about its future. An effective lasting peace in Afghanistan will increase confidence in American leadership.
Since 2002, the Afghan leaders have been shown to be incompetent, corrupt and lawless. They cannot cope with national challenges, regional obstacles and international hurdles in their country. It is time to strengthen a new generation of young, competent and incorruptible leaders in the country.
The United States and its allies must choose a transitional government of between five and seven years, formed by the new leaders who educate the people, address national challenges, and work with regional and international powers on a neutral and peaceful future for Afghanistan some.
Initiate a new inclusive peace process carried out by the transition team with the support of regional and international powers, after which an honest and transparent election is carried out under international surveillance. No member of the transitional government would be entitled to hold a substantial public office in the future. You can set up an Ethics and Good Governance Council to review future governments and private sector action, and to take prompt corrective action in the event of ethical violations.
Peace in Afghanistan means the defeat of terrorism. Getting terrorists and corrupt leaders to build a future for this country will be another huge failure.
* Saber Azam is also the author of SORAYA: The Other Princess, a historical fiction that inundated the last seven decades of Afghan history, and Hell’s Mouth, a historical fiction that tells the excellent work of humanitarian and human rights workers in Côte d’Argent. Ivoire during the first Liberian civil war. He also published articles mainly on Afghanistan and the need to reform the United Nations.
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