The NATO Withdrawal and the Future
of Afghanistan: Construction or Destruction?
May 23, 2012
“The care of human life and happiness and not their
destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”
- US President, 1801-1809)
It is far easier to destroy then to build; a single explosion can destroy in
a moment a building that took weeks to construct. This holds true for physical
artefacts as well as the human character. A single incident can tarnish an
individual’s reputation permanently, but it takes years to build a good name and
gain the trust of the community. Applying this axiom of ‘destruction being
easier than reconstruction’ to Afghanistan, the country needs political
stability, a rebuilding programme, and a thorough cleansing of the existing
network of corruption.
After decades of conflict, and as the withdrawal of US-led forces becomes a
reality, Afghanistan faces a turning point in its history. It faces the choice
of two paths: construction or destruction. The latter option will lead to the
prolonging of the tribal based conflict, and the former can only materialise if
there is peace and stability. At the moment, it seems, the Taliban are the only
obstacle for progress.
NATO leaders are meeting in the Chicago summit, primarily to discuss the
handover of security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, after which they will
play a secondary role, providing mainly financial assistance, and other forms of
support. The crucial question is: will the Afghan government be able to either
suppress the Taliban led insurgency or draw them into the political process to
create a stable government.
Based on the facts and figures, the outlook is grim. According to UN figures,
the number of deaths reached a record 3,031 in 2011 since the US toppled the
Taliban regime 10 years ago. Earlier this month, the Taliban announced the start
of their annual spring offensive with a series of raids. On Saturday, a suicide
bomber killed at least 10 people, a number of them children, at a checkpoint.
The recent killing of the former Taliban official, Arsala Rahmani, who had
become a senator in the Afghan parliament, is another major blow to the efforts
to reach out to the Taliban leadership, thus bringing the political process to a
halt. And corruption and nepotism is rampant in the Afghan government.
There are also problems within the Afghan security forces; there have been
many incidents of them turning their guns on NATO forces. Only, this week two
British soldiers were shot dead by two Afghan policemen they were training. But
this could be argued as a just reaction to the conduct of the US-led forces.
Another obstacle is re-engaging Pakistan to bring about stability in
Afghanistan. During the Chicago summit, the Obama administration will attempt to
persuade President Zardari of Pakistan to reopen key NATO supply routes into
Afghanistan, which were closed earlier after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani
troops and injured 13. So far, the Americans have not responded to the terms
offered by the Pakistani government. More important is the political engagement
with the Taliban. Pakistan can mediate between the US-Afghan government and the
Taliban; in addition it can also apply pressure on the Taliban to reach an
The simplistic ideology of the Taliban - applying the Islamic penal code and
enforcing one-dimensional literal interpretation of the texts, as a means of
making economic, technological and social progress - needs to be challenged;
this has to come from within the Afghan society rather than through the
Imperialist outlets of the Western mass media. Forceful imposition of Islamic
law should be the last resort, as the Hadith states clearly “every action is
judged by intention”. If there is conviction in Islamic law, the laws will
naturally be adopted and imposed. Hence, giving the Taliban a voice is needed;
hopefully they will respond through those channels.
Maybe the Taliban will reflect on the current situation: the end of Al-Qaeda,
the imminent end of US occupation, the emergence of the Arab Spring, and the
rise of India, Iran and China means Afghanistan has regressed even more at a
regional level; this makes it a suitable point to rethink the future of its
nation, and listen to the demands of its people.
Yamin Zakaria is the author of
Suicide Bombings - Jihad or Terrorism?, published by AuthorHouse UK.
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