by Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan for The Saker Blog
Afghanistan is a landlocked country located within South-Central Asia. It is an old civilization have been passing through many experiences. It is on the main route connecting the eastern world with the western world. It was on the ancient trade route and military routes. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and China. With its population of 35 million approximately, having a GDP (nominal) of 22 billion US dollars in total, and per capita income of 600 Dollars only. Rich with minerals and natural resources, and well-known for its fruits & nuts, gemstones, minerals, and mining, still suffering and laying among the least developed country of the world, ranked 177. Four decades of the long-war have damaged the whole country even worst and the whole nation is a victim of war imposed on them.
Its geopolitical location is vital for the whole region, as it connects Central Asia, Iran, China, and Russia, with Pakistan leading towards “Warm Waters” – the Arabian Sea or the Indian Ocean. All of the regional nations are suffering due to instability in Afghanistan and desires a long-lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
In fact, Afghanistan was never totally ruled by foreign powers, although in the country’s history many misadventures happened. The people of Afghanistan always defeated invaders. It has been invaded by Alexander the Great, Mauryas, Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviets (Former USSR) and since 2001, by the United States with NATO-allied countries. But it has proved itself unconquerable. Afghans are brave people and believe in freedom only.
All of the regional countries, including Central Asian States, Russia, Iran, China, and Pakistan were trying to bring Peace and Stability in Afghanistan. Several initiatives for peace in Afghanistan were taken in the past, but none as successful as they were not involved or owned by locals –Taliban and were opposed by the US and its allies. The US-backed elected Governments in Afghanistan, do not enjoy popularity among masses and may not represent the voice of common Afghan nationals.
Afghanistan is a multiethnic and mostly-tribal society. It is a nomad style society and scattered in the mountains. There are big cities, but traditionally, lives in mountains far-flange area in isolation. Each tribe has its own traditions, laws, and autonomous lifestyle. The population of the country is divided into the following ethnolinguistic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aymāq, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashai, Nuristani, Gujjar, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri and a few others. By faith, the majority are Muslims up to 99.7%, with a very small population of non-muslims only o.3 %.
Although Pashtuns are the biggest constituent of the Afghan population up to 42 %, most of them are not highly educated and engaged in farming, small businesses, laborious work, etc. A very little portion of Pashtuns are highly educated and involved in the politics are in Government positions. They are hard-liners and good fighters too. Their role in freedom fighting or resistance to foreign invaders was huge throughout history. While other ethnicities like Tajik, Uzbek and Hazar are more educated and always playing an important role in domestic politics and enjoying good say in Government circles. They are more open-minded and have shown maximum flexibility toward the foreign invaders in the past. The Afghan National Anthem and the Afghan Constitution mention a total of 14 ethnic groups, a composition is given below:
|Ethnic groups in Afghanistan|
|Ethnic group||World Factbook / Library of Congress Country Studies (recent estimate)|
|Others (Pashai, Nuristani, Arab, Brahui, Pamiri, Gujjar, etc.)||4%|
Based on the above mentioned basic understanding of Afghan society, geopolitical location, demography, history, and traditions, let’s explore a few options of Afghan peace.
It is already decided that Afghans cannot be ruled by any foreign invaders, it was true in the past, and it is true now and will stand true in the future. So it is better to leave afghan, the sooner the better.
One of the options is to divide Afghanistan based on its ethnicity so that clash among ethnic groups may be eliminated. It means, to divide Afghan into several countries. Already, Afghanistan is a rather small state and landlocked nation. The further division may not help anymore. Afghanistan was a country for ages in the form of a collection of all ethnic groups and living together for centuries. Although, there were always differences, but still living together. I believe, Afghan territorial integrity must be respected. Division based on ethnicity may not be a good option.
Another option, partially merger with Iran and Pakistan or with any other country with whom it is bordering, is also a not a viable option. Afghan is a sovereign state and recognized by the United Nation. Change of its status may not help anyone, nor the Afghan itself or its neighboring nations. Again, I recommend respecting Afghan sovereignty at all costs.
Another option is considered by some of the regional powers is that under the influence of regional powers a union government representing all ethnic groups according to proportionately may be established and guaranteed by regional powers. I personally do not think it a viable solution as the involvement of regional powers may be considered as foreign intervention and may not be appropriate at all.
Let’s review the recent history of Afghanistan, starting from the King Zahir Shah, who ruled the nation for 40 long years 1933-73. Then was replaced by force by his own nephew in Sardar Daoud Khan in 1973. King Zahir Shah was forced to live in exile. Sardar Daoud was killed by an internal Communist coup in 1978 and Nur Muhammad Taraki, the founder of the Communist Party in Afghanistan became the President of Afghanistan. It was beginning of Afghanistan tilting toward the former USSR visibly. A resistance from local Islamic groups and, pro-Western Style democracy was initiated, with the passage of time the resistance kept on increasing.
In 1979, USSR troops entered into Afghanistan under a treaty with President Nur Muhammad Taraki, American Ambassador Adolph Dubs in Kabul was killed and wide-spread unrest started. Taraki was killed on Sept. 14 in a confrontation with Hafizullah Amin’s supporters. Hafizullah Amin took the powers and became the President of Afghanistan. Soon, he was replaced by Babrak Karmal and later by Dr. Najib as president of Afghanistan. During the USSR’s presence in Afghanistan, the change of leadership was frequent and stability of the Afghan government could not establish, Meanwhile resistance got momentum and finally, under a “Peace Accord” signed in Geneva in 1989, USSR has withdrawn its 100,000 troops. Sibhatullah Mojadidi as head of their exiled government was placed to head Afghanistan. .In 1992, Professor Burhannudin Rabbani became president of Afghanistan.
In 1995, the Taliban took power in Afghanistan. Although, Taliban era was a hard-liner period, one of the most stable, and safe period in the recent history of Afghanistan. Justice was easily accessible, Government writ was very strong, and the crime rate dropped to the lowest. Although the International community was offended by some of their extreme policies and actions, domestic law and order were fine, economic activities, the life of the common man was ensured safe and smooth.
Since the 9/11 incident, things kept on changing worldwide, especially in Afghanistan. US-led NATO and its allies attacked Afghanistan and to date are trying to bring Afghanistan under control. In spite of spending trillion dollars, using all types of latest lethal weapons, latest war tactics, modern weapons, and best-trained troops, the US failed to control Afghanistan. 19 years of the long war, the US has suffered some damages too, but turned Afghanistan into ruins. Killed thousands of locals and damaged almost everything possibly. Yet, it is the Afghan Taliban, who hold the grip on major part of Afghanistan. US-backed Afghan Government of Hamid Karzai or Ashraf Ghani has not rooted in domestic politics or no say in the side Afghanistan.
Noe US has realized that the actual pillar of the power in Afghanistan is the Taliban, and have already recognized them and contacted them. Having several rounds of peace talks, when reaching close to a deal, President Trump, took U-Turn. Anyhow, time is on the side of the Taliban, and sooner or later, the Taliban will win the deal.
Afghanistan is a society of unique characteristics in nature and to understand them comprehensively is next to impossible. But based on my experience with Afghans and based on historical facts, I must say, Afghans are brave and unbeatable. Afghans are one of the most beautiful races. The country is rich in natural resources.
Let Afghan decide their own way of life, way of governance, and political system. Only Afghan origin, Afghan-led solution will work. Anyone from outside wanted to impose any solution, good or bad, may not work.
As a first step, all foreign forces must leave Afghanistan, all undercover intelligence agencies must leave Afghanistan. Provide equal footings to all ethnic groups based on the proportion of their population. Let them solve their differences and overcome difficulties. They are capable to survive at their one. In history, they survived and possesses all capabilities to survive in the future too. It might be difficult in the beginning, but soon, they will stand on their own feet without any interference from the outside world.
The world must respect Afghan territorial integrity, and their customs, traditions and social norms. Developed nations may help to reconstruct war-ruined Afghanistan on a priority basis. Provide them incentives for developments and trade, to improve the economy. We all wish a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan in the very near future. It is expected, after withdrawal of foreign troops, there will be a vacuum and various factions of Afghans might fight with each other to grab power or political gains. But, let them decide alone, “the fittest will be survival”, who so ever can overcome others, may enjoy the power. But no intervention from outside. If there is any bloodshed, no one can blame any out-sider. It should be considered as internal affairs of Afghanistan. Sooner or later, Afghan people have to learn how to rule themselves.
Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist, ex-Diplomate, Academician, Researcher, member editorial board, Peace-activist, Geo-analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and GlobalizatiSelection_690on), Islamabad, Pakistan. E-mail: email@example.com)