Afghanistan was the homeland of my forefathers who migrated to British India about five generations back, I am sure in search of a better life. Not unlike my family, many Pakistanis trace their heritage to Afghanistan and areas beyond like, Central Asia, Persia, Arabia and even Greece; representing the various transnational movements through Afghanistan. Afghanistan was also center stage to the “Great Game” played between Czarist Russia and the mighty British Empire. The great game restarted when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and the US finally checkmated them. Unfortunately it was also at this point in time that Al Qaeda and the Taliban took root in Afghanistan.
Over the centuries, the harshness of the Afghan terrain has hardened the character of the Afghan people. There is a strong bond and understanding between rural Afghans and the terrain. Born warriors, for most of their history they have fought each other but when required they have united to fight against a foreign aggressor. The Afghans have a free spirit, they cannot be suppressed and evidently enjoy the fight. Historically and more so post 9/11 the Afghans and their kinsmen across the Durand Line have been very innovative in their combat techniques and tactics. They have been battling the most powerful militaries of the world and are putting up stiff resistance. Even the shock and awe of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) air forces has not diminished their spirit.
Let us fast forward to the present to carry out a review of the prevaling environment and try to predict the future. In essence, the question that needs to be addressed is–has the politico-military situation improved significantly post 9/11? From another perspective is there peace in sight for the people of Afghanistan in the foreseeable future? Some additional questions that also need to be addressed are:
- Is the present Kabul Government, supported by the international community effective in providing good governance, justice and security to the common man?
- Has drug production been brought down significantly?
- Has corruption been brought down to an acceptable level?
- Are there positive indicators of the revival of the Afghan economy?
- Will a future Afghan Government and its security apparatus be able to take effective control of Afghanistan beyond 2014?
I will let the readers mull over these questions and draw their own conclusions. However, I will offer my views on some of these issues. Let me begin with the state of the present government in Kabul.
I very strongly believe that President Karzai has one of the toughest jobs in the world, trying to govern a society that has been in the grip of severe violence since the Soviet invasion in December 1979. State institutions have been violated time and again, from within and from outside Afghanistan. The delicate balance that existed between regions, ethnic groups and tribes was shattered during the Soviet occupation and the resulting struggle.
– Mahmud Ali Durrani