July 15, 2019
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has shamelessly suggested that if he can help broker a ceasefire and ensure women are involved in intra-Afghan peace talks U.S. involvement in Afghanistan should be seen as a net benefit. This is quite audacious coming from a man who about 17 years ago single-handedly destroyed any chances for peace in Afghanistan. Moreover, today the country – women especially – would be much better off if the United States had never intervened in Afghan affairs in the first place.
“We would like to leave a very positive legacy here,” Khalilzad said during a video clip aired at the Georgetown Institute in Washington on July 11 after his latest round of peace talks with the Taliban.
Khalilzad also said the United States is working on implementing a mechanism to ensure the Taliban allow Afghan women to have a voice in shaping the country’s future and that the insurgent movement follows through on its counterterrorism commitments. In addition, the U.S. envoy patted himself on the back for working with Afghan women years ago in drafting Afghanistan’s constitution.
This reminder will hardly put any minds at ease given the consequences of Khalilzad’s actions in the now infamous 2002 Loya Jirga, where he empowered women-hating warlords and helped anoint Hamid Karzai president against the will of the Afghan people. It is worth revisiting former election monitor Lucy Morgan Edwards’ first hand observations of Khalilzad’s handiwork.
“I witnessed how the warlords were given political legitimacy. The US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, sidelined the popular former king and made a Faustian bargain with the warlords to allow them into the meeting. This paved the way for them to hijack the state-building process,” Edwards wrote in a Gulf News op-ed in 2013.
Dr. M. Chris Mason in the U.S. Army’s think tank magazine described the Loya Jirga as a stage play rigged by the CIA to put Karzai in office as opposed to King Zahir Shah who actually had a record of promoting women’s rights.
“In 2002, three-quarters of the participants in the Emergency Loya Jirga signed a petition to make the late King, Zahir Shah, the interim head of state, an inconvenient show of reverence for the monarchy, which required an extraordinary level of covert shenanigans to subvert. Even a ceremonial monarchy would have provided the critically needed source of traditional legitimacy necessary to stabilize the new government and constitution,” Mason wrote in 2009.
The rule of the Taliban had brought women’s rights in Afghanistan to an all-time low yet the elements Khalilzad empowered were not much different. Even more important is the fact that Khalilzad’s decision to insert a U.S. puppet practically guaranteed that the Taliban would make a comeback.
It is also quite nauseating to hear so many U.S. officials boldly support feminist advances when Washington, for decades, deliberately backed elements that sent Afghanistan back to the dark ages especially in the area of women’s rights.
In fact, according to a 1966 State Department memorandum, the United States began strengthening the forces of Islamic fundamentalism inside Afghanistan in the 1950s through a CIA-front called the Asia Foundation as part of a strategy to counter the spread of communism. This peculiar strain of radical fundamentalism was made manifest by U.S.-backed Islamists aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood during the 1970s who were known to throw acid on the legs of women for wearing miniskirts.
A major myth that has been propagated for decades is that the United States began financing jihadists in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion in 1979 when in fact it began shortly after Zahir Shah was ousted by his cousin, Mohammed Daoud Khan, in 1973 – a coup that brought an end to a 40-year era of peace and progressive social reforms. The U.S. supported Islamist-led coup attempts in 1973 and 1974 because the CIA believed, wrongly it turned out, that Daoud was aligned with the Soviet Union.
In March of 1979 the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia jointly backed a revolt by Sunni hardliners triggered by the Afghan communist government’s attempt to teach girls how to read. And in July of the same year, President Jimmy Carter signed a secret finding that launched the biggest covert operation in U.S. history in support of jihadists who sought to roll back all the progressive reforms that had been achieved under Zahir Shah’s government and the communist regime.
This all raises a pertinent question: Where was the United States’ heartfelt desire to protect the rights of Afghan women throughout the half century before 9/11?
This brief review of the historical record regarding U.S. involvement in Afghanistan certainly raises doubts that the United States will achieve the objective set out by Khalilzad. Then again, no one can be 100 percent certain as to what Khalilzad’s idea of a “very positive legacy” looks like.