Nation building in Afghanistan
It is now ancient history that on August 15 the Taliban entered Kabul without any resistance from the forces of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The Afghan president, dubiously elected twice, fled to a foreign destination, accompanied by a large sum of money and close advisers. Thus ended the 20-year occupation of the United States and its Afghan allies. President Joe Biden had previously pledged to leave Afghan soil sooner than promised. American policymakers expected the Ghani government and its army formed in American military academies and armed with sophisticated weapons to hold the ground, keeping the expected Taliban assault at bay. Once the Taliban started moving, the Afghan army collapsed, leaving behind US-supplied weapons in admirable condition.
Once the Taliban can form a government and bring reasonable stability to their country, they will be faced with the difficult task of building a nation, in a country that has virtually no viable institutions since the Soviet invasion in 1979. Even before the advent of Soviet occupation, the communist-leaning governments of Taraki, Hafizullah Amin, and Babrak Karmal had uprooted the age-old socio-political arrangement of a multi-ethnic Muslim society. Afghanistan has been a decentralized country, even under the powerful rulers in Kabul. Tribes living in remote areas, isolated by high mountains, managed their affairs through a Jirga system. The too centralized efforts and pushing the Afghan people towards a foreign ideology tore the social cohesion of the country.
The disruption in Afghanistan was further compounded by 20 years of total control of US forces. When George W. Bush began the occupation after the events of September 2001, he was promised, although he said the contrary, that the main objective of the Americans would be “nation building”, apart from the eradication of al-Qaeda sanctuaries. It was also promised that all attention would be focused on building institutions such as the elected parliament, an election system, a judiciary, a bureaucracy and, most importantly, a national army to protect the other institutions. .
In a public utterance, George W Bush shirked his professional responsibility and turned to the United Nations to do the job. Subsequently, Barack Obama and Donald Trump followed suit. They believed they would face the difficult task of nation building, even if it could have helped the state of Afghanistan in the long run.
A recent 2,000-page publication by Washington Post reporter Craig Whitloch, titled “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War,” recounts the basic reasons for the continued instability of Afghan society under US supervision. United. The blatant quotes from the book highlight the causes of a new war lost by the United States and, in so doing, destroying the balance of society, both horizontally and vertically. It reads. “Instead of bringing stability and peace,” they said, “the United States has inadvertently built a corrupt and dysfunctional Afghan government that remains dependent on American military might for its survival. Assuming it doesn’t collapse, U.S. officials have said it will need billions of extra dollars in aid every year, for decades. Speaking candidly on the assumption that most of their remarks would not be made public, those interviewed said Washington had foolishly tried to reinvent Afghanistan in its own image by forcing a centralized democracy and a market economy on an old society. tribal that did not suit either. ”. In fact, for the Americans and their European allies, development was equated with Westernization. We ask ourselves: what has been won? Especially since, according to the Brown University project report, the United States spent $ 2.261 billion to fight and then lose a war in Afghanistan.
Once the debris of war is behind and a coalition government in Kabul is in place, Afghan leaders must do their utmost to put in place the necessary institutions, so that the dream of nation building can come true. First, a constitution acceptable to all key actors in the Afghan political arena must be developed or this document amended to become inclusive. The presidential regime should give way to a parliamentary regime. Before the advent of the Soviets and then the Americans, Afghanistan was a highly decentralized nation, where decisions were made by the respective tribes according to their accepted standards and demands. Second, within the framework of the constitution, a federal system would be desirable. Afghanistan is a multiethnic society with diverse ethnic groups.
Third, a bicameral legislative body would be needed, so that the upper house had equal representation from all newly created provinces, like Pakistan and the United States. This will give a necessary sense of belonging to a nation where no ethnic group dominates. At present, there are 34 “provinces”, which are just administrative units. What is needed is a province in the classic sense of the word. The jurisdiction and powers of a province are provided for by the constitution on the basis of a division of powers with checks and balances.
Fourth, human rights must be guaranteed by the constitution. It is not a Western concept but well anchored in the supporters of Islam. Women, who make up almost half of the population, cannot be left behind in all areas. Girls alongside boys must be guaranteed education at all levels. Educated mothers have the ability to transform a society for the better. Ignoring women, who make up half of the population, creates an imbalance in society, thus hampering nation-building prospects.
Afghan leaders need to reconsider their previous mindset regarding the interpretation of Islam, but instead take the example of other Muslim democracies, where women are an integral part of their societies. Take the example of Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia. We can hope that Afghanistan will be able to overcome its difficulties and its ambiguities and move towards progress, as a responsible player in the international system, while keeping its culture and values intact.