Dr Nasreen Akhtar
I don’t think there will ever be a force to control Afghanistan or its affairs. This state is extraordinary in the modern state system. Afghanistan has never been a peaceful and comfort zone to the external forces. History shows that Afghanistan has been a hard country and its resilient people never authorized the external forces to stay and rule their land. Afghanistan has been a difficult trail to all external, great powers. Afghanistan has long been called “Graveyard of Empires” for so long that it is unclear who coined that undisputable term. All external forces have been inapt to understand the social fabric in Afghanistan. It seems Afghanistan is the land not to be conquered; it is to overpower the victors of history. Whenever empires attempted to conquer this land they gained nothing except catastrophe and embarrassment. Old and modern empires entered to capture this country but failed-Mongols, Mughals and British empires came to establish their feet in Afghanistan but left without success. The modern empire, Soviet Union, was defeated which had an ambitious to control “warm water”. The United States (US) could not defeat this powerful empire without the help of Afghan Mujahiddin, and their immediate neighbour, Pakistan. It was Pakistan that played its role in Geneva Accord and provided safe exit to the Russian soldiers. Afghan Mujahiddin were considered “the blue eyed children” of the US and the then President Ronald Reagon granted them special status. Mujahiddin, needed the US support to remove the Soviet’s soldiers from their soil.
Thus both, Mujahiddin and the US, engaged each other to execute their objectives. The modern technology was transferred to Pakistan to defeat the Soviet empire in Afghanistan. The post-Afghan-Soviet war era changed the world order; the US successfully designed the new world order and decided to alter the world map — politics and security. The US emerged as a sole power in the world — no State had enough capability to challenge the US imperialism; unfortunately, the incident of 9/11 questioned the US power that how it would use its force against the non-traditional enemy. In fact, the incident paved the way for the US Administration to engage with multiple invisible forces in Afghanistan. The war between the Mujahiddin and Soviet “empire helped trigger the complete collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union “recalled went into being recalled Russia again” the US exactly desired that. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to gain its certain goals but it was compelled to leave Pushtuns land with empty handed. Russia, now, historically is known as a loser at the hands of Afghan Mujahiddin — their power and resilient was undermined by the military strategist of superpower Soviet Union.
Soviet defeat and withdrawal was a victory for the US. The US had achieved its established goal to vanquish its competent rival in Afghanistan. The whole world observed that the US had left the region (South Asia), Afghanistan, and its people to suffer from militancy and extremism. Pakistan played its pivotal role in defeating the Soviet empire provided its territory and training to the Mujahiddin. But the US completely ignored both Pakistan and Afghanistan and made a great error. Afghanistan continued to fight, internally, after Soviet forces left the country in 1989.Internally divided factions of Mujahiddin took control without success. Internal rift increased and they began to fight with each other. Internal chaos and civil war among the powerful tribes paved the way for extremist Taliban. Consequently, unrest in Afghanistan provided opportunity to India to support the Northern Alliance non-Pushtun faction. Pakistan, however, succeeded to install the Taliban to rule Afghanistan. It is evident that “Afghanistan has never been a peaceful country; it has for centuries been a conflicted state with warrior groups. That presents a complex situation because of its geopolitical location, trans-ethnic population, and rivalry among its neighbour”. Taliban, however, enjoyed Pakistan’s political and economic support, Pakistan was confident to associate itself with the largest and influential group, Pushtuns, which also lived in the North and West of Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Providing assistance to the Taliban regime was not without purpose, Pakistan wanted to undermine the role of India via Taliban. Pre-Taliban Afghanistan has been a comfort zone for India to use it against Pakistan.
Taliban came in power and challenged the regional and world order. They misinterpreted Islam and suppressed their own society. Policies that Taliban, followed annoyed both Pakistan and the world. The incident of 9/11 provided historical opportunity to Pakistan to get rid of the Taliban ruthless regime threatening Pakistan’s security. Taliban wanted to expand their influence The US led NATO forces invaded Afghanistan to kill or capture the leader of Al-Qaeda- Osama bin Laden. Pakistan, indeed, was a close partner of the US. This partnership was unique because both old friends wanted to eliminate the Taliban’s regime. The US had very comprehensive goals; they were to eliminate Al-Qaeda’s leadership, to eliminate the Taliban rule and to install a democratic government in Afghanistan. Has the US achieved its goals in 17 years war? Straightforward reply is that the sole empire has not been able to achieve its fundamental goal- complete elimination of Taliban. Though the US administration installed a controversial democratic government under Hamid Karzai who remained helpless to bring peace in his country, however, he promoted corruption and lawlessness. Eliminating Taliban from their soil remains dream of the last empire US. Taliban have emerged as more powerful force and have convinced the US to negotiate if it seeks safe exit from Afghanistan, including China and Russia. Several regional and international powers are keen to see “peaceful Afghanistan”. These powers appreciate the ongoing peace process. Again, Pakistan has become an important state to facilitate the conflictual parties Taliban, the US, and the Afghan Government. Today’s Taliban are independent and influential. But they have changed their old behaviour and policies and would be different ruler if they assume or share power.
—The writer is Assistant Professor, IIUI, Islamabad.