By Mohammed Gul SAHIBBZADA
It has been two decades in the making since the US and allied forces toppled Taliban regime and installed Hamid Karzai as head of transitional Government of Afghanistan in 2001, who continued to rule the country for thirteen years, followed by Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, who took charge as President in 2014 by means of ‘so called’ democratic process – i.e., general elections would take place to either prolong existing president’s tenure or replace him with the next one. Oblivious to the prevailing ground realities of Afghan social and political structure, the West gullibly repeated past mistakes and included the same actors who were the reasons in the first place to usher and pave the way for Taliban to raise to power. Glutted with excitement and pampered by unprecedented financial and military support, the actors who took charge of the Government of Afghanistan (mostly mujahideen and to a lesser percentage individual who were trained in the West) started enjoying unprecedented power with the least responsibility or accountability. Worst was to see these actors use the Government power to settle personal scores and incite ethnic division, which paved the way for resurgence of Taliban in the form of ruthless insurgents – which was unconditionally supported by Pakistani military junta, who had been working to establish their ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan since 1970s.
In addition, the US and allied countries who had boots on the ground, did not have a specific Afghan-centered plan and strategy to focus resources and efforts to stabilize the country and the nation. Joe Biden, now the US President, and then Vice President of Barak Obama, told Hamid Karzai in 2009 that ‘Pakistan was fifty-times more important to the US than Afghanistan…’. This meant the US-led allied forces were not focusing on the stability and peace in Afghanistan alone. They were taking into account their interests and the interests of the very countries who had destroyed Afghanistan’s political and social structures, and continue to do the same by means of their geo-political leverage and diplomatic advantages in international politics, for example Pakistan. In the meantime, Afghan Government was and has been led by groups who have been attached to one or another regional country politically and since Hamid Karzai’s Government was installed in 2001, the same groups are in power. The salient features of these groups in particular, and of the entire Afghan Government as a whole is disunity, disarray in the ranks of senior Government officials, disagreement on almost every issue, fighting over titles and ministerial positions etc. This has paved the way for endemic corruption, lack of good governance and waste of precious resources and time (almost one hundred billion US dollars is said to have been injected in Afghan reconstruction efforts, but 90% of the population continues to live under two-dollar income a day, and most of the country doesn’t have basic infrastructure). This phenomenon has led to bigger distance between the Government and people, and younger generation become prone to insurgents’ conscription – especially in rural areas – which has substantially buttressed Taliban insurgents’ ranks.
Now that Taliban ‘forced’ the US-led allied forces to ‘beg for peace’, and the peace process officially started in late 2019, international community has made it clear to Afghan Government to ‘come to term’ and agree to the peace plan, which has been designed by US-led allied countries. Afghan Government tries to pretend that they are the ‘legitimate’ body to talk to when making peace, oblivious to the facts and realities extrapolated by international observers and its patronage countries, which says ‘Afghan Government badly failed to establish its writ all over the country, deliver good governance, eradicate corruption and force the insurgents to make peace…’. US-lead allied countries ‘are fad up with pouring in billions of dollars into Afghan Government coffers only to see it go into the pockets of ‘cronies’ and ‘corrupt officials’ instead of it being used in rehabilitation and delivery of good governance. This phenomenon has weakened the position of Afghan government substantially. It goes without saying that the world wants a disciplined, political force which should have unity in their ranks, unity of command, commitment to promises and agreements, and above all, capacity to deliver good governance, establish writ over the entire country, eradicate non-governed spaces and provide opportunities for quality education to the people and economic development of the country. One thing that international community has agreed upon and are resolved to achieve is that they want to ‘purge national institutions of corruption’ and establish strong institutions which should work under the articles of constitution, NOT individual and this is exactly what the people of Afghanistan needs.
Having said all the above, the future political set up might create challenges for the actors who run the Afghan Government institutions at present. It is most likely that the Taliban will be part of the new Government – whatever it might be called – in Afghanistan. They will come with an ideology, strong unity in their ranks, equipped with all information about what is wrong with the existing Government and ready to ‘embark on serving the people’. The world might give the Taliban plenty of rooms and provide needed resources so that they could put their performance on show, which might result in tight political rivalries among players with different ideologies, which will pave the way for a healthy society as political parties will uplift their standards, and will offer more to the people to gain their supports / votes.