Let the Afghans Decide

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One good news for the region is that all American troops will be leaving Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. This was announced by US President Joe Biden on April 14. The credit for the US pullout should also be given to former US President Donald Trump, who pragmatically decided to hold direct talks with the Afghan Taliban, paving the way for an agreement with the Islamic militia to put an end to the longest war in US history.

But the decision to hold direct talks with the Afghan Taliban and accept them as a reality was taken perhaps too late and at a great human and financial cost. Pakistan’s former military president, Pervez Musharraf gave the same advice to the Americans soon after they embarked upon their Afghan adventure in October 2001. However, his sane advice was rejected, as the US-led coalition started the Afghan operation with the lofty goals of overthrowing the Taliban government and destroying Al-Qaeda in response to the Sept. 11 terror strikes in the United States, as well as to rebuild and modernise Afghanistan and to give this war-torn country the gift of capitalist democracy and western notions of human rights. 

The US-led coalition did succeed in capturing Osama bin Laden in 2011 and flushing out Al-Qaeda with Pakistan’s active help, but it could not wipe out the indigenous Afghan Taliban and their resistance movement. With the passage of time, this resistance grew because the new political and social order, which the Western world wanted to impose on Afghanistan, was incompatible with Afghan society.

Earlier, the same mistake was committed by the former Soviet Union and their Afghan communist allies in the late 1970s and 1980s, when they tried to enforce an imported system in this deeply conservative and overwhelmingly tribal society. The backlash to these so-called “good intentions” of the former USSR was understandable and the US-led Western camp lent active support to the mujahideen to ensure that the Communists failed.

soldiers afghanistan women001 edited | Zeroing IN from Narratives Magazine

However, the Americans, too, committed the same blunder of trying to change Afghanistan with the help of a minuscule number of westernised Afghans and hired hands. Both the super powers failed because the objective conditions of Afghanistan were not ripe for their kind of experimentation. Outside interference brought only death and destruction to Afghanistan — as it did in Iraq, Libya, Syria and a host of other developing countries.   

The Americans kept shifting their goal post in Afghanistan. By the time President Barack Obama was about to end his second-term in early 2017, following the surge in troops, the United States had lowered its goals and wanted to leave just “a good enough Afghanistan.” But Trump saw things differently and realised that even achieving this humble goal was not possible.

Biden justified the US withdrawal decision by saying that the Afghan War was not meant to be a multi-generational undertaking: “We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives… And it’s time to end the forever war.”

But Washington’s decision is being criticised not just within the United States by the liberal media, but also by Washington’s Afghan collaborators and their handful of “friends and followers” in Pakistan. They are raising alarm bells by stating that following the US pull-out there would be a swift rollback in human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls. The westernised elite of Afghanistan can see that after the US pull-out, the Afghan Taliban takeover would only be a matter of time.

If Washington continues to act on behalf of the vested interests of this tiny segment of Afghans, it would only drag the conflict and the civil war. A war which the US and its allies failed to win themselves, cannot be won by their agents.

The best course of action for the US and its allies and all those powers which really want peace in Afghanistan is to stop interfering in Afghanistan through their proxies and let the country’s internal dynamics set the course of action and any future settlement. If the Afghan Taliban dominate the ground militarily and emerge as the eventual winners, which appears to be the most likely scenario, then the world must accept them.

Rather than trying to push alien political and social solutions, the Afghans should be allowed to decide which path they wish to take. The world should not interfere in the internal matters of the Afghans in the name of democracy or the western concept of human rights. And the sooner the West sheds its “white man’s burden,” the better it would be for this war-torn country.

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