Afghanistan, a nation plagued by a long history of crisis and calamity, finds itself trapped in a bewildering web of conflicting identities. Within this intricate dance, groups morph from oppressors to oppressed, war criminals to war victims, and human rights violators to targets of atrocities. Such a muddled landscape has emerged, where self-granted immunity and shifting allegiances have muddied the waters of justice, sympathy, and support in this war-torn land.
Even as Afghanistan embarked on its path towards democracy, the same warlords who once trampled upon human rights during the Cold War era found themselves in positions of power, courtesy of the US-led coalition’s entry into the country. This paradoxical embrace of former oppressors only further muddled the pursuit of justice and hindered the nation’s desperate need for a fair reckoning.
From the Soviet Union’s invasion in the 20th century to the US-led coalition’s intervention in the 21st, Afghanistan has endured a series of calamitous events that scarred its public life, inflamed the passions of its people against the invaders, fueled radicalization and extremism, and sowed the seeds of proxy wars and regional rivalries. During these tumultuous times, the country’s cherished tribal culture of peace was mysteriously shattered, leaving global security under threat.
Yet, amidst this chaos, a more profound societal transformation remains elusive. Centuries-old mentalities, marred by internal and external factors, persistently impede progress. The recognition of equal access to education as a fundamental human right, regardless of gender, remains an uphill battle in our regressive society, hampered by invasions and external manipulation.
Looking back two decades ago, had the Taliban taken a stance against terrorism akin to their present-day stance, or if the international community had engaged with them as they do now, countless lives could have been spared. Poverty would not have shackled 90% of Afghans, sparing the international community the burden of supporting the country, and, most importantly, the world would not have encroached upon Afghanistan’s borders had the costs of the war on terror been channeled transparently into the nation’s reconstruction under a corruption-free elected government.
While the struggle against foreign invaders can find sanctity within the principles of Islam under specific circumstances, our warring factions have recklessly shed the blood of their compatriots in a senseless pursuit of power. They have exploited religious and patriotic compulsions to justify their ongoing disputes, only to abandon their promises and commitments once they seize authority. This betrayal has exacted a heavy toll on the values that define our nation, be they religious or patriotic.
While some regional and global stakeholders have played a controversial and harmful role in Afghanistan, we must reflect upon our own shortcomings rather than incessantly pointing fingers at others. How have we fallen prey to their expectations, willingly surrendering to their ambitions, and naively succumbing to their devilish plans for decades?
The political game between the US and Pakistan over the past two decades exemplifies this intricate web of conflicting interests. The US, despite knowing Pakistan’s deceptive tracks and double standards, refrained from hitting back or responding provocatively due to its national interests and logistical dependence on Pakistan. It turned a blind eye, constantly revising its policies and focusing on its deficiencies until the complete withdrawal of its forces.
Pakistan, unaffected by its “NON-NATO ALLY” status with the US, has consistently reshaped its strategy in Afghanistan during the “war on terror,” breathing life into the Taliban to serve its national interests. Both parties have conveniently ignored the vast extent of the damage caused by their actions, prioritizing their interests over all else.
The question remains: why have we failed to rectify our flaws, strive for self-sufficiency, and discard the provocative perception of blaming others? Why have we not defined and prioritized our national interests and fostered relationships with our neighbors and global stakeholders based on mutual respect, despite being aware of the unfriendly ambitions of some neighbors and the unrealistic friendship of so-called strategic partners?
Regrettably, the pursuit of power, its retention, and its sharing, coupled with a lack of national agenda among politicians, a dearth of compelling political vision, and a culture of mindless imitation among the populace, have all contributed to the precarious state of our country. The Taliban regime has skillfully exploited these weaknesses of their rivals, positioning themselves as the only viable alternative amidst a sea of unfavorable choices.
Psychological scars from years of social deprivation also bear significant weight on the ruling elite, leading them to harshly perceive urban civilization and disregard the progress made over the past two decades. Unless sustained and coordinated interactions with the Taliban are undertaken by the people of Afghanistan and the global community, it will take decades for the ruling party’s mindset to embrace modernity and integrate into the urban fabric. In the meantime, the crisis will deepen irreversibly.
How can we claim to be a civilized nation when we lack a constitution—the very document that establishes the fundamental values of our society, serves as the framework for governance, identifies state institutions, outlines their relationships, distributes power, sets limitations, safeguards against totalitarianism, enumerates citizens’ rights and responsibilities, and fosters trust and harmony between the people and the government?
It is profoundly disheartening to acknowledge that the gaping chasm between the people and the government, as well as the confrontation with the international community, are primarily the consequences of these deficiencies that plague our society.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Afghan Herald editorial stance.
Waheed Waheed focuses on social and political issues in Afghanistan and can be contacted at: email@example.com.