On Tuesday, Kabul was hit by a Taliban attack – a painful reminder of the forces tearing at the institutional fabric of war-stricken Afghanistan. Dubbed the ‘graveyard of empires’, Afghanistan stands now to claim US interventionism.
Once upon a time, in a land far away lived a hopeful nation – a nation whose land, and natural resources spoke of a promising future; a future which will belong to its people, and its people alone. But imperial powers lurked in the shadows … and from the shadows they came to claim which was not theirs; they came to rob, pillage, and destroy in order to assert control over a geopolitical strategic choke-point.
Afghanistan’s history could be summarized in those lines – a nation forever interrupted by the clamors of war and greed of imperial powers; the land where empires come to die, where they dreamed of immortality by hoping to conquer Asia.
Located at a strategic crossroads in Central Asia, Afghanistan’s very geography means the country is vulnerable to foreign invasions and manipulations. From Genghis Khan, to Alexander the Great, the British Empire, Soviet Russia, and the United States — Afghans have lived with the reality of war for many centuries.
Ajmal Khan Zazai, a tribal leader of the eastern Paktia region, told me the year 1929, when Britain decided to support an uprising against King Amanullah, marked the beginning of Afghanistan’s descent into darkness. From that moment on the Central Asian country lost its institutional integrity, allowing foreign powers to feast over the nation’s carcass.
A country with a rich and proud history, Afghanistan is now synonymous with Islamic radicalism, and terror – the war which started all others. On its territory in the 1980s were born both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda – the former, a tool against Soviet Russia, the latter a product of Pakistan’s Afghan refugee camps.
Washington has been quite vocal in its desire to uproot and defeat radicalism in Afghanistan – both to revenge the trauma of 9/11 and offer that corner of the world some respite from violence … or so it said. It is important to remember that radicalism was wielded by the US in the 1980s so that Soviet Russia would jump into the fray. However, Afghanistan’s forever war began not with the Soviet invasion, but through America’s asymmetrical war strategy.
Here I would like to add something I believe we have grossly overlooked when considering Afghanistan and the grand power struggles which have plagued its land.
Back in 1979, in the heat of Soviet Russia’s military deployment over Afghanistan most Western media ran with the theory that Moscow was then looking to expand its political dominion further, to finally claim an opening onto the Persian Gulf, and thus wield greater influence over the world oil route. While it may have been so … Afghanistan was not a war of expansion. Rather, it was a war of preservation – a last deployment of force to prevent the disintegration of the Soviet Empire.
I believe America should heed the warnings of history as today it is its own imperial shadow the US is working to project, and protect by playing war in Central Asia. The infamous war on terror has little to do with anything here; merely a cover story for an over-zealous media.
And yes of course Al-Qaeda is real, and so is the Taliban, but those two monstrosities were never America’s prime targets, although they have both served as convenient narratives, allowing for the establishment of American military outposts across the region, and the rise at home of grand military complex – the new expression of Western capitalism.
So what has Tuesday’s attack to do with all this?
At the very least responsibility. If not for Washington’s desire to play war lord with powers and factions it did not understand, to pursue very myopic dreams of grandeur against a fictitious enemy: Soviet Russia, Afghanistan would not be in the situation it is in today.
It is the US which unleashed devastating ambitious plans and political agendas with no thought to the millions of lives which would ultimately be caught in the middle. Al-Qaeda was a CIA asset before it went rogue, and the Taliban was carefully bred in Pakistan’s refugee camps – a means to an end, Pakistan’s very own Trojan Horse against a powerful regional political contender.
“Afghanistan has never been the problem. It was Pakistan which exported terror into Afghanistan to sow unrest and assert control over the region’s greatest geo-strategic asset,” Prince Ali Seraj of Afghanistan told me in 2015.
Made impotent by decades of war, Afghanistan was never truly offered the means or the tools for its socio-economic recovery. Instead, its territory became home to a carrousel of NGOs, UN agencies, security companies and other war corporate moguls. If Washington was comfortable spending billions of its tax-payers’ money on war, reconstruction was never on the cards.
Looking at the carcasses American imperialism left in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) it appears self-evident that “building” is not America’s forte – obliterating, abusing and exploiting are however its modus operandi.
Prince Ali also argues that Afghanistan was never given the courtesy of a proper military either. I recall him saying how the Afghan army remains thoroughly under-developed before the might of both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Interestingly enough while radical militants have proven capable of unearthing powerful patrons to power their operations; the Afghan army has barely sustained a functioning military apparatus.
Kabul’s attack bears witness to that.
Afghanistan was turned into a security, institutional and economic black hole by years of irresponsible war playing.
“For all intents and purposes, the Great Game remains a palpable reality,” the Prince told me.
Today, the US, through Kabul, is sponsoring a peace process which includes the Taliban. Need I say that ‘peace’ and the ‘Taliban’ are too antithetical for even cohabitating in a sentence?
For a country which once claimed it does not negotiate with terror, the US has done a great job at forcing others to do so in order to open itself a dignified exit from Afghanistan. Make no mistake: America wants to escape from this quick sand.
The keys to Afghanistan’s salvation lies with its people – if only they are to allowed to have a say. If we are serious about defeating terror, let’s not engage in talks – the only outcome of which is violence and bloodshed – but instead offer economic growth, institutional reforms and security.