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Afghanistan: A Complex Scenario

Nilofer Suhrawardy

What does withdrawal of United States from Afghanistan and take-over by Taliban really indicate? Speculations resting on numerous analyses are being voiced about this. It is being projected by most as defeat of the Superpower and also as probable return of terrorism to the country spelling distress for most, particularly women. Let us view the ground reality from another angle. How should victory and/or defeat of United States be measured? Did the Superpower enter this distant region only in the interest of Afghanistan and its citizens? Not really.

It may be recalled, United States literally jumped in the region when the then USSR failed to mark its stamp in Afghanistan. USSR had to retreat and be witness to its own collapse and the phase of two superpowers ending with only one (United States) basking in its glory. Developments were also marked by Pakistan, owing to its geographical proximity to Afghanistan, being used as an ally (or a pawn) by US to facilitate its operations in the country. At this point, the Afghan-war may be briefly referred to. Troops from Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in late December 1979. The aim of this Super power was to keep a friendly regime in power in this country. However, it also met strong opposition anti-communist factions. These anti-government rebels were equipped with war materials supplied by United States and its allies via Pakistan, What is known as an “internal” Afghan-war roughly last from 1978 to 1992.

United States, Soviet Union, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed an agreement in 1988 by which the former superpower agreed to withdraw its troops (completed in 1989). Clearly, the eighties spelled a gradually disintegration of USSR, with it being replaced by 15 Soviet Republics in December 1991.

Though US launched an attack against Afghanistan, in response to September 11 attacks in its country in 2001, in essence, Washington had been using other tactics to strengthen its hold in the area ahead of that. The objective in 2001 was to defeat al-Qaeeda to prevent a repeat of September 11. Subsequently, hype was raised about nation building, democracy, etc. But practically nothing progressed on this track.

However, despite best arms and forces at its command, during its two-decade hold in the country, as reports indicate, the reach of US-friendly governments established there, did not extend much beyond Kabul. If United States’ motive was to gain control of deposits of minerals in Afghanistan, the Superpower hasn’t been successful. The country has around $1 trillion in mineral wealth, including iron, copper, lithium, cobalt and rare-earth deposits, according to American geologists. If the Superpower’s aim was to establish democracy and contribute to Afghanistan’s development, the country has only been pushed backwards.

Seriously speaking, if it were not for regional differences, the trauma witnessed by Afghans is hardly any different with what several countries affected by the so-called Arab Spring have been through. In fact, in the name of democracy, Afghanistan has borne the brunt prior to these Arab countries.

It is indeed amazing that the country known as the most democratic and with a “free” media has been “guided” by the impression that democracy can be exported and be imposed upon people of other countries by use of violence. Difference in culture between Afghans and Americans is as sharp as is between Arabs and the latter.

Against this backdrop, one recalls views of the famous linguist and social scientist expressed during an interview (published in The Pioneer, Jan 16, 1996). Noam Chomsky, voted once by New York Times as the greatest living intellectual is known for his anti-capitalist and anti-US views. During his lecture tour, this scribe was fortunate to secure an impromptu appointment with him and learn his opinion about US “imperialism” as well as role of media. In his view, American interventions in Third World countries have not been “humanitarian.” Western powers are not going to say that they are “mistreating” these countries but to justify such interventions, impression is created of the “good” US is doing. “The US media is democratic” and “but what what they feel like is determined by the interests of their owners.” “If reporters work on stories, which are true, but did not confirm to those interests, they would be unlikely to get very far.” Describing it as “undemocratic,” he said, “Media is not democratically controlled because private power is undemocratic.”

It is pertinent to understand the Afghan-situation from this angle also. Clearly, the country and its citizens have been subject to colonialism for around four decades. A lot is being said about US having invested billions in this country to suffer exit described as a “humiliating defeat”. It would be illogical to assume that manufacturers of weapons, etc used in Afghanistan have not gained. Afghanistan probably seems a dead game now with their eyes focused elsewhere. Perhaps. Or maybe the exit is a temporary drama planned with some other motives.

Nevertheless, it is as yet too early to view transition of power in Afghanistan as one which one will cause misery to its citizens and abuse of women. Negative news is propagated and spread when any Third World country spells “defeat” for US and its allies. Greater priority is accorded to rosy aspects when and if the Super Power plunges in any Third World nation, even if it be via use of bombs. For a change, people will have to wait and watch developments in Afghanistan prior to drawing conclusions resting on manufactured news and/or assumptions! ooo

[Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialisation in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. Her latest book is Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019). Others include:– Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).]
[Courtesy: Counter Punch]

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Vol. 54, No. 18, Oct 31 - Nov 6, 2021