Tuesday, 19 October, 2021

Straight Talk

Afghanistan – Heading towards a New Crisis?

Abdul Mannan

Afghanistan – Heading towards a New Crisis?
Abdul Mannan

It has been little over a month since US and NATO forces have left Afghanistan after twenty years of occupation leaving the country to the same Taliban from whom it occupied the country twenty years back.   On 9th of September the Afghan Taliban managed to cobble together a government with same rag-tag gun totting Taliban fighters who forced the world’s most powerful country and its allies leave Afghanistan abandoning a staggering amount of military hardware from Black Hawk helicopters to Humvee armoured vehicles worth US$ 85 billion. When Kabul fell to the Taliban the Taliban leadership promised that they will have an inclusive government. But when the government was cobbled together with some of the most wanted terrorists in the world nothing like that happened. It consisted mostly of Pashtun tribesman and couple from the Haqqani tribe who were also part of Taliban. Ironically the day the Taliban formed the government America was commemorating the attack on the Twin Towers in New York presumably demolished by the Afghanistan born Al-Qaeda terrorists in 2021. Al-Qaeda, Mujahedin, Taliban and the ISIS all are internationally branded terrorist and militant organizations all are the results of the flawed US Foreign Policy. Now once the US and the NATO forces left Afghanistan seemingly in shame some leading US Generals who served in Afghanistan earlier are speaking out how the US irresponsibly and intentionally got involved in the Middle East and Afghanistan and the damage they have caused to the global security and peace and dismantled stable states like Iraq and Libya killing thousands of innocent lives and losing thousands of their own. After completely destabilising the region US have gone back home, but not entirely empty handed. The US corporations working in these countries in the name of rebuilding the damaged infrastructure (invariably by the US and NATO forces) have taken billions of dollars back home. Loss of lives was immaterial to them. For US all post Second World Wars have brought economic gains in some form or the other.

The reclaiming of Afghanistan from the occupation of US and NATO was supported amongst others by Turkey and it was expected that Afghanistan will follow the Turkish model of development and social norms and customs. Though Turkish President Recep Erdogan known as an Islamist has never tried to influence or impose on the people of Turkey to follow flawed and misinterpreted Islamic way of life. Anyone who has gone to Turkey and visited Istanbul or Ankara or any other  city will agree that life style of people are as liberal as those in any western country and no one shows any interest to intrude into fellow citizens’ private life nor is the government serious about enforcing Taliban style Sharia Law. Erdogan can at best be branded as person who is anti-Kemal Ataturk (anti Kemalist). Kemal Ataturk is known to be the founder of modern Turkey and credited to have saved Turkey when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing during the First World War. Erdogan has been the President of Turkey since 2014 and before that he served as the Prime Minister of his country from 2003 to 2014 and Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. Erdogan may not be like Kemal Ataturk but he has never tried to erase the memories of him from Turkey. The sculptures of Kemal Ataturk stands tall wherever they were installed, Ataturk’s residence in Istanbul, the Dolmabahce Palace is well preserved and is a major tourist attraction.

No attempts were made by Erdogan government to restrict women from public or professional life and the country has an excellent education system and there is no discrimination who gets what education and who studies where. Turkey is a model state amongst the Muslim majority countries. Currently the Saudis are trying to come out of their nearly hundred years of hibernation.

Since last three decades whenever US and its allies invaded Afghanistan or any other country, one of the things they announced was that they will make the invaded country a modern democratic state and transform it into an ideal nation. Unfortunately US or its allies have no or scanty idea of world history. The subject itself is alien to most of them and they fail to realize that it is very difficult to forge tribal or ethnic societies into a nation. Afghanistan is country but not a nation as the country has at least twenty ethnic groups, the Pashtuns being the largest comprising of about 42% of the total population. Excepting two or three members of the Taliban leadership, the entire Taliban leadership comprises of Pashtuns. Of the newly formed interim Taliban government, most of the members of the ministry are either enlisted militants internationally or are on most wanted list in many countries. The current Taliban government which is known to be friend of Pakistan their Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Ghani Baradar served jail terms from 2010 to 2012 in Pakistan. Strangely, Baradar has left Kabul in silence presumably on Tuesday and has currently emerged in Panjsheer. International media reported that there has been power struggle within the Taliban ministry.

It is always wise to pull out from a war or a battle that cannot be won. Unfortunately US never learnt this lesson after the post Second World War even after their disastrous debacle in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Winston Churchill the Second World War British Prime Minister retreated from the mainland Europe in 1940 when the going for the Allied forces were getting unbearable for them against the German forces. Only after the US forces under General Eisenhower teamed up with Churchill and his allied forces did they invade Europe. The same happened in the Pacific front. On 11 March 1942, during height of the Second World War, US General MacArthur and members of his family and staff left the Philippines island for Australia when it became impossible to hold on for him against the Japanese advances. Only after reinforcement did he return to the Philippines in 1944.  In military terms it is commonly known as strategic or tactical retreat. Coming back to the Afghanistan, under the present Taliban rule the country is facing a humanitarian crisis. The country has no food, no healthcare facilities and no cash. Iran and China has sent them some emergency aid and Pakistan, EU and Russia have also promised to come forward to help the devastated and beleaguered country. But what is more worrisome the Taliban led government have announced some strange inconceivable plans, especially for the women of Afghanistan. The Education Minister Sheikh Moulavi Nuruallh has announced that in today’s world Master’s degree and PhD have no value. The government have announced the Afghan women should not come to office and asked  the  women  not come in public without ‘Burka’ that covers any women from head to toe in the  name of ‘purdah’. The government has also forbidden co-education in educational institutions. When the Taliban entered Kabul and the occupation forces were thrown out of Afghanistan, they announced they are new brand of Taliban unlike the earlier Taliban which ruled Afghanistan twenty years back before the US and allies occupied the Afghanistan. The Taliban of twenty years back were brutal and their behaviour reminds one of the medieval ages. Public flogging and execution became a common practice and anyone who dared to challenge any decision of the Taliban government would be surely condemned to death. They did not hesitate to train militants of other countries, some even from Bangladesh and export militancy in the name of Islam to other countries.

As of now the current Taliban regime have not shown any sign that their ideology is different from their predecessors. When nearly the entire ministry of the ‘new Taliban’ consists of internationally most wanted militants and terrorists, the future of Afghanistan may not be any better than it was twenty years back.

Regarding the Afghan style of purdah, i.e., covering of the women from head to toe without showing any part of the body the Holy Qur’an instructed that women should dress, move and look in a modest way. On the other hand, it has also been made mandatory in the Holy Book for men to conduct themselves in relation to women in a modest and gentle way, and not to look at or think of women in a lustful way. (Verse 30, Surah An-Nur). Not only in Islam, virtually in all religions women have been asked to follow certain types of dress code for the purpose of modesty. In different country the way of observing purdah by women varies. There are even interpretations that though women should dress modestly, their entire face should not be covered as it may mislead a man distinguish his wife from his daughter. Regarding women working, the so called new Taliban should not forget that the wife of Hazrat Muhammad (PbuH) Bibi Khadiza (RA) ran a business and his daughter Hazrat Fatema (RA) would often take care of wounded soldiers in the battle fields. Taliban government should not forget the first martyr in Islam was a woman, Sumayyah bint Shabbat who was killed by Abu Jahl with a spear. When Abu Jahl was killed in the battle of Badr, the Prophet said to Ammar, “Allah has killed your mother’s killer”. (History of al-Tabari Vol 39, The Biographies of the Prophet’s Companion, Pp 29-30).

Now if Taliban wants to rebuild a working and a viable state in line with other states, even Muslim majority states, it must realign its thinking and change its way of governance, giving its citizens equal rights as in any other countries. Turkey could be good model for Afghanistan.  It must not allow its territories to be used as staging grounds of militancy in the name of Islam.

Already the Pakistan’s infamous military intelligence ISI Chief has travelled to Kabul to meet key people in Taliban government. This is not a very good sign. Afghanistan under Taliban needs to behave in such a way that it will be welcome by Commonwealth of Nations. Till now no country has recognized the new Taliban government. The country needs international support for decent survival and development. If it fails to act at the earliest, it may become a new battle ground for a bloody civil war involving its ethnic communities. This may destabilize its neighbours.


The writer is an analyst and a commentator