AFGHANISTAN - Nation Building or Destruction of a Nation
(October 23, 2021)
Analysing the situation in Afghanistan from a historical perspective, Zahid Hussain, a senior Pakistani journalist said that forty years of war have left this country destroyed. It is a big tragedy. During his first visit to Kabul in 1991, he saw girls going to school and women working. It was quite normal. Now the situation has completely changed. Zahid Hussain said that Mujahedin were once supported by the US and other countries including Pakistan. In 1989 the Soviet forces left Afghanistan and Najibullah became the President. Najibullah‘s regime was overthrown in 1992, and a thereafter civil war started between the four Mujahedin groups.
Destruction of the Afghan Capital, Kabul started during the civil war between different Mujahedin groups after 1992. Zahid Hussain said that the Taliban emerged in 1994 as the strongest group from amongst warring Mujahedin groups. They took over control of Kabul in 1996. The Taliban managed to restore a semblance of peace; TV was banned, women were not allowed to go work. It was like peace in the graveyard.
Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden made Afghanistan their centre. Terrorists from the Middle East and other countries started pouring into Afghanistan and this place became the hub of terrorist activities. Then came 2001 and the attacks of 9/11 turned the history. It was the worst type of attack, in which more than 3000 persons were killed.
The US administration under President Bush launched a war in October 2001 to punish Al Qaida and to get rid of the Taliban. The objective of defeating the Taliban and replacing them with a new regime was achieved quickly, Hussain said. Under the aegis of the UN, Bonn Agreement was signed in December 2001, a new government was installed. Representatives of minority groups were included, and warlords were also brought back in the new government. Karzai, who was launched by the CIA became the new President. Those Taliban, who had surrendered were arrested and sent to Guantanamo. Al Qaida remained a problem. The war now spread over from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The Taliban were demoralised and got dispersed. They started re-organising themselves from the tribal areas of Pakistan after two years.
Taliban had no plan, on what to do after they were ousted from power. But why did they start gaining ground? Hussain gave the following reasons for this: corruption and incompetence of the new Afghan government; brutalities of the Afghan police; American domination (perception of Americans as the occupation force and bombardment of the civil population. The Afghan people were also disillusioned by the new setup. By 2010, the Taliban had large areas under their control.
Zahid Hussain explained that the US, in the beginning, had no plans except to take revenge on Al Qaida and punish the Taliban. After coming to power, President Obama declared the Afghan War as a good war in comparison to Iraq War as a bad war. Barack Obama also started talking about nation-building, human rights, and women’s rights. But there was no clear concept in this respect. The Americans started building the Afghan Army in 2014. The Afghan National Army was the extension of the American forces, and it was run by contractors and it was ethnically divided. There is no example of nation-building in history with the help of the army, Hussain commented.
President Trump, who had promised the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan started talking to the Taliban in 2018. It is the irony of history that the Americans now started negotiating with the Taliban, whom they called terrorists even some Taliban leaders were brought from Guantanamo prison to participate in the negotiations. Pakistan was forced to release Mulla Baradar so that he could take part in peace talks with the Americans in Doha. The Doha Agreement was signed in February 2020, which anticipated the withdrawal of American forces in 18 months. President Biden stuck to this programme. At the e the Afghan Army fell like the house of cards and the Americans and NATO forces were surprised by the speedy victory of the Taliban.
A lively discussion started between Zahid Hussain and participants, at the end of the Dialogue. Replying to a question, the key speaker warned about the spillover effect of the Taliban into Pakistan. He said that it could give impetus to religious fanaticism and intolerance in Pakistan.
Report by: Masud Mirza, he volunteers his time and competence to OPP