By: Rona Kabiri
Pause: Rights and Wrongs about Afghanistan
Nearly four decades of war in Afghanistan has changed social and intellectual aspects of many Afghans’ lives and minds. The very bloody war in Afghanistan has forced majority of Afghans to live in the war zone, and to think in the margins. Nowadays, Afghans mostly look either “inside” or “outside the box” and focus on only one dimension of the current problems, which in turn has added to delusions about right and wrongs for Afghanistan. Afghans have either blamed the outsiders for all the problems of Afghanistan or they have blamed other Afghans; as such Pashtun tribes blamed Tajiks and Uzbeks, and Hazaras in turn blamed the other tribes for whatever wrong happen with them. Rarely, one has thought of herself/himself as an element of change, as a powerful individual to be enough brave and critique herself/himself. The years of civil war and conflict, occupation and invasion for Afghanistan has taken the self-critique concept of thinking away, and the “Yes or No” and “Black or White” way of thinking and judgment in Afghanistan has been instilled and continues to grow among the perceived new generation of Afghans too. The delusion is common among Afghans – who are variously divided into different religions sects, various tribal identities, and has fit in different social roles. This delusion is also for the other internationals that seek an end for the Afghanistan’s war.
Here are some of the most common delusions about Afghanistan.
Myth 1: The other countries are entirely responsible for Afghanistan’s poverty and misery.
Reality: The way people think and the way they behave contributes to who they are. I am also the one who has a choice to decide, once in a while, to get rid of the poverty and hunger. In sum, until Afghans do not decide to take the full responsibility of their destiny, the country will remain the same.
Myth 2: Kandahar and Helmand are critical for the future of Afghanistan.
Reality: It is nothing more than a decisive campaign. Afghanistan is variously divided by now and every province is important for itself. In fact, localism is important whether in Kandahar or any other part of today’s Afghanistan. On the other hand, nationalism is of no value or very less for anyone in Afghanistan. It means that Kandahar is important for Kandaharis, and Mazar is important for Mazaris, but not for all the country.
The spiritual and religious Pashtun tribes’ history of Kandahar has been exaggerated more than reality. The centrality of Taliban in Kandahar and the national and political importance of this city has been weighed too much. In fact, the famous sentence which says “Whoever who holds Kandahar, holds Afghanistan” is not true. Because, Quite the reverse, whoever controlled Kandahar, has lost Afghanistan, from the Alexandra the Great to the British Colonialism, from Soviets in 1971 to NATO in today’s Kandahar. It is just happening for the NATO allies too.
Myth 3: Marjah is a center for Taliban, and a key of success for NATO.
Reality: Marjah has never been a real key of success for NATO. The 9 years of heavy military presence in Marjah has not approved this claim yet. As such, the total number of troops in Marjah is around 120000 soldiers while the population is estimated to be around 4560 population. If numbers count for the power then how come these figures can not speak out loud?
Myth 4: Karzai is still a politician for the west. After all, there is no good alternative and west can do nothing but only to support him.
Reality: Quite the reverse, he has never been able to prove it in last 9 years. Corruption, misery, and poverty are all over Afghanistan. For instance, the widest gap for the equality of income distribution (GNI index) throughout all the Afghanistan history has happened in the last 5 years. In addition, Afghanistan became the largest opium produce and a narco-state, 4/5 percentage of women and children addicted to opium and suffer from psychological disease, HIV/AIDS found its way in to Afghanistan, kids sell their bodies to provide income for their families[i], and the beggar management mafia abuse more children to become professional criminals. The weather pollution is the forgotten item in the country’s political agenda, democracy and women’s rights are exploited and the worst form of governance has been experimented in the country. What will be the future achievements if the continued support goes on for the current leaders?
Myth 5: U.S believes that Pakistan is its ally who helps with the Taliban’s removal, therefore the U.S’s military and development assistance to the Pakistan will increase.
Reality: opposite is the reality. Never Pakistan has helped to beat the Taliban. How the U.S. forgets the real politics and expects others not to behave the same. Pakistan needs to support the Taliban for his own political interest. Important elements of Taliban are in Pakistan and supported by Pakistan. India has been playing a little bit of Afghan card in last one year and half in regard to his relations with Pakistan in Afghanistan. Pakistan never can stand seeing a citizen of India in Kabul, and can not tolerate Kabul’s independence. Pakistan ISI has never detained Talibans in jail even in the most extreme cases. Pakistani behavior better speaks for the words. Moreover, the Guantanamo bay facilitates the radicalization process and never helps detainees to be socially and politically corrected and return to society.
Myth 6: Iran does not support the Taliban, obviously because of the 1999 massacre of the Iranian ambassadors by Taliban in city of Mazar.
Reality: The enemy of enemy is friend. Real politics allows to decide in “present” and think of “future”, but put the “past” events as experience in your box.
Myth 7: Afghanistan National Police (ANP) faces challenges in the process; but ANP grows gradually.
Reality: ANP and ANA t can never grow more than the current number. 1/3 of the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) is seriously drug addicted and the other two are hardly to survive without immediate steps taken to prevent their further addiction. The ethnicity of solider in ANA is 60% Tajik, and only 5% from Southern Afghanistan Pashtun, and the rest are from other ethnicities. But the fact is that 44000 trainees never will be enough for a real army and police for a country like Afghanistan.
Furthermore, ANP is worthless as a national security force. German survey reported recently that they are the most hatred institution in the country. They easily give their arms to the Taliban in exchange to whatever. American soldiers die from the American bullets, not from someone else’s gun. No one joins the army and police for the motivation to serve Afghanistan, but they join the ANA and ANP just to get rid of unemployment, and to access an income. The designed type of ANP and ANA is according to the modern western way of police that has not fit in to the Afghanistan’s security culture. Therefore, such ANP will not be effective and acceptable. Destroying the ANP will make Afghanistan safer.
Myth 8: Afghanistan is not Vietnam for America.
Reality: Afghanistan is not Vietnam but a perfect example of what was going on in Vietnam: There are important elements in Pakistan that serves as North Vietnam: ISI support to the Taliban, and Pakistanis politicians want the Taliban to win in Afghanistan. The casualty level was even lower in Vietnam war (1955 – 1963), while the number of American soldiers lose in Afghanistan’s one year is more than the total of Vietnams’ war.
Myth 9: Taliban are stupid and ignorant bunch of guys.
Reality: The Taliban are not stupid because very long ago, and earlier than NATO they had understood what are the communities’ needs and desires in the war-torn Afghanistan. They had carefully studied the misery of Afghan people, the poverty and the shortage of aid and assistance to Afghan population. They are very well aware of the political anarchism, the corruption, and the absence of rule of law in the country. Taliban run political campaigns, and live within the communities. They use the western technology as such launching the websites and Facebook accounts to accomplish their informational campaigns and propaganda. They very well use the toll of civilian’s casualties, playing the winner card of the governmental corruption against the current regime and mobilize the most vulnerable and already damaged masses of population.
Myth 10: Opium funds the Taliban,
Reality: as per UNODC’s recent report only 4% of opium money goes to the Taliban, 22% goes to the farmers to maintain cultivation, and the rest goes to the warlords and the Kabul.
Taliban receive the money from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Myth 11: Additional number of troops will help Afghanistan’s war to end.
Reality: Additional troops will be decisive if the military strategy and the overall U.S policy remains the same. In fact Afghanistan is 4 times larger than the Southern Vietnam. U.S has 22000000 soldiers in Vietnam for 3% of Vietnam density, while the U.S has 88000000 soldiers in Afghanistan but a vague percentage of density.
Myth 12: There could be negotiations with Taliban and reconciliation is possible.
Reality: It is the most unacceptable and even unwise act so far. Taliban are the product of deprivation and poverty, and well educated children of Pakistani seminaries. The radicalism and extremism was injected in their blood when the religion was an element of war in cold war era of the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. The Taliban are committed jihadists, they are not only guerilla fighters, and jihad is the religious obligation for them. No negotiation will prevent them from their melancholic radicalism ideology. As earlier last month, Mullah Mohammad Omar made it clearer that no one is interested to talk to the apostate of Kabul for reconciling. What is then the delusion of peace talk? And why the Afghan intelligence continue meeting with Hezbe-Islami and the Taliban? It is still hard to believe that Afghan State and the U.S. count on negotiations with Taliban insurgents, and the U.N remains silent in this talk. As an example, the peace talks of Dr.Najibullah, the former president of Afghanistan proves how such reconciliations fails in Afghanistan politics, considering the historical background.
Myth 13: Obama’s strategy has a real chance to success.
Reality: New administration’s strategy is not that much different from the last. In slowness of the war, the American titanic is sinking and the Obama administration is not going to win it. Success is still possible, but requires dramatic changes in the military strategy: calling for a serious evaluation, for the review of the policy, and considering role of Pakistan to succeed in Afghanistan. The need in incorporating new approaches in the military strategy, to put more Afghans in charge, to reach the masses for their desired type of governance and to articulate it understandably is critical for Afghanistan’s failure of success.
In sum, Afghanistan war needs to be evaluated more. If the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban emerge, it would be very difficult to prevent another civil war in Afghanistan. The Behsood tragedy is just a warning alarm of what might happen if more Taliban are exported to Afghanistan either in forms of Kuchis, Pashtun or Uzbeks or any other Afghan identity. It would be extremely hard to read the minds in each single province and village of Afghanistan once the civil war emerges as a result of such violent trades. The last 38 years of Afghanistan proves this threat as a live one.
[i] Bacha bazi