POST TIME: 11 April, 2021 08:38:24 PM
The long path to stability and peace for Afghanistan
The forceful change of regime by Daoud Khan from kingdom to republic with the help of Soviet-trained military officers annihilated Afghanistan's privileged neutral status. Therefore, it is in the interest of this country to regain its neutrality in the international arena and stay away from the new great game battles
Rayhan Ahmed Topader

The long path to stability and peace for Afghanistan

It should not come as a shock to anyone that we have made it through two US political conventions with virtually no meaningful reference to the Afghan War and to the prospects for any real peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan conflict has become a war that most Americans have every reason to forget. A significant source of eternal conflicts in Afghanistan is an unequal historical treatment of its diverse populations by their governments. Effective equal rights and opportunities and good-governance constitute the basis of a peaceful future. While Afghanistan is a country with defined borders and recognized status in major international and regional arenas, Afghans never constituted a nation. Without acknowledging this fact and undertaking a robust nation-building programme, Afghanistan will remain a plaything in the hands of foreign adversaries. Afghanistan has always been ruled based on kin, ethnic, religious, and relationship considerations. Meritocracy has hardly been a concern to those in power. This has been a significant reason for the failure of international support strategies so far. Nepotism, cronyism, and tribalism, unless addressed immediately, will be a devastating deterrent element for any positive action. Afghanistan's post-Taliban constitution was drafted without considering decades of profound political, social, and economic transformations in the country. It did not satisfy the aspirations of the population. A substantive reform of the current constitution can only improve the chances of durable peace in the country.

Since the takeover of power by Communists in 1978, atrocious crimes against humanity have been committed by various regimen, warlords, Mujahidin chieftains, and more specifically, the Taliban and their Islamic State and Al-Qaeda associates. Without a truth and reconciliation process, it would be difficult for any peace effort to achieve its objectives. It may be futile to invoke details of what has transpired or speculate about President Biden's intention on Afghanistan. However, an overview of the challenges will help define a sound solution, allowing foreign troops to regain their country in the most dignified manner and the Afghan people to dispose of its future. As of the end of the 18th century, Afghanistan became the battleground for controlling central and south Asia between superpowers. Their great game and the ineptness of Afghan rulers who quickly succumbed to the "divide and rule" policy never permitted this country's population to evolve as a nation. Therefore, understanding the Afghan puzzle is laborious. For decades under King Zaher Shah, Afghanistan benefited from a recognized neutral status that helped the country position itself as an unbiased element of the "great games"! Subsequently, it received development aid, particularly from the United States, major European countries, the Soviet Union, India, and the People's Republic of China. The forceful change of regime by Daoud Khan from kingdom to republic with the help of Soviet-trained military officers annihilated Afghanistan's privileged neutral status. Therefore, it is in the interest of this country to regain its neutrality in the international arena and stay away from the new great game battles. Since 2009, elections have been marred with an unacceptable level of corruption and mismanagement.

The population has lost trust in the democratic process and does not believe in the elections' outcomes. This is a significant handicap for the country's future political, social, and economic development and peace and serenity prospects.   

Without a solid and unbiased election law, rules and procedures, and honest people in charge, there will be no future for democracy in Afghanistan. Despite efforts undertaken by the international community, Afghanistan is affected by rampant corruption. It has gangrened all layers of central and provincial government institutions and even the private sector, hampering efforts to rebuild and reconstruct the country. A comprehensive good-governance and ethics framework, policy, and action plan for public and private sectors must be agreed upon and put in place instantly. Since Mr. Hamid Karzai was propelled to Afghanistan's leadership and despite trillions of US dollars granted to various Afghan governments, the expected development path is unsatisfactory. Leaders have not been capable of defining where their country would be in a year, ten years, or thirty years from now. It is extremely urgent that Afghanistan's leadership clearly describes short-, med-, and long-term political, social, and economic plans for the country and elaborate the appropriate action strategies so that the population comprehends the sacrifices that are still needed to attain peace and prosperity. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has become multipolar. In the absence of sound morality, there is a bitter competition for global political and economic leadership. The four years of the Trump administration unmasked glimpses of some people’s ambitions to dethrone the United States from their leading positions.

While Europe is a stand-alone power and the Russian Federation rises from the ashes of the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China and India are undeniably the future centers of political and economic gravity. The Middle East and Central and South Asia are the battlegrounds for a new great game. Western powers have been shaken by the repeated failure of their policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and many other countries, particularly in Africa. As a crushing tool, social media allows people to have numerous instantaneous information portals that reveal the difference between rhetoric and realities. This fact enables other powers, notably the People's Republic of China, to ascertain and strengthen their stand in the international arena. Afghanistan seems to remain the playground for such competition that could last decades.

Afghanistan is no more a priority for the international community. Other emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic or an eventual conflict between important rivals in the world arena can make it even more irrelevant. It is, therefore, vital for the country to find lasting peace in a reasonably not distant future.

Afghanistan has been "an inspiration" for terrorist organizations for decades. However, it can be a significant source of regional and international stability too. It all depends on how the Biden administration shapes its strategy to bring lasting peace in this country. The 5 December 2001 Bonn Agreement, an understanding among political traders, was a quick fix and did not bring peace and security. Another deal involving a selected number of chieftains with the Taliban's inclusion may be an immediate success, but it would be a significant long-term disaster.

A repeat of the mistake of 1992 that led to the sharp rise of international terrorism and direct attacks on the United States will cause devastations of much larger scales. The United States must not rush and earnestly seek the view of the Afghan people about their future. Effective durable peace in Afghanistan will strengthen the trust in American leadership. Since 2002, the Afghan leaders proved inept, corrupt, and lawless. They cannot handle national challenges, regional impediments, and international hurdles surrounding their country. It is time to empower a new generation of young, competent, and incorruptible leaders within the country. Initiate a new inclusive peace process, conducted by the transitional team with the support of regional and international powers, following which an honest and transparent election would be conducted under international monitoring. No transitional government member would be eligible to have substantial public office in the future. They can form an Ethics and Good-governance Council to scrutinize the future governments and private sector actions and take immediate corrective measures in cases of breach of ethics. Peace in Afghanistan signifies the defeat of terrorism. Bringing terrorists and corrupt leaders to forge a future for this country will signify yet another immense failure. The United States and its allies must opt for a transitional government between five to seven years, formed by the new leaders who sound the population and address the national challenges and embark with regional and international powers to agree on a neutral and peaceful future for Afghanistan.

The initial statements issued by the White House, State Department, and Defense Department seemed promising. However, some highlighted that they ignored an essential element: the Afghan people's wish about their future! There also are many other governments in a COVID-19 world who desperately need US aid, who have demonstrated the capability to use outside aid effectively, and where a limited amount of money might well make a far greater difference in providing stability and ending a terrorist threat. More broadly, the US has few strategic interests in Central Asia, and leaving the region would force China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan’s other neighbors to deal with Afghan instability. Afghanistan would become even more of a human tragedy, but it would not be an American tragedy.

The writer is a contributor. E-mail: [email protected]