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PublishDate: Saturday, May 26, 2012 11:50

The NATO Withdrawal and the Future of Afghanistan

It is far easier to destroy then to build; a single explosion can destroy in a moment a building that took weeks to construct. 

This holds true for physical artefacts as well as the human character. A single incident can tarnish an individual’s reputation permanently, but it takes years to build a good name and gain the trust of the community. Applying this axiom of ‘destruction being easier than reconstruction’ to Afghanistan, the country needs political stability, a rebuilding programme, and a thorough cleansing of the existing network of corruption.

After decades of conflict, and as the withdrawal of US-led forces becomes a reality, Afghanistan faces a turning point in its history. It faces the choice of two paths: construction or destruction. The latter option will lead to the prolonging of the tribal based conflict, and the former can only materialise if there is peace and stability. At the moment, it seems, the Taliban are the only obstacle for progress.

NATO leaders are meeting in the Chicago summit, primarily to discuss the handover of security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, after which they will play a secondary role, providing mainly financial assistance, and other forms of support. The crucial question is: will the Afghan government be able to either suppress the Taliban led insurgency or draw them into the political process to create a stable government.

Based on the facts and figures, the outlook is grim. According to UN figures, the number of deaths reached a record 3,031 in 2011 since the US toppled the Taliban regime 10 years ago. Earlier this month, the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive with a series of raids. On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed at least 10 people, a number of them children, at a checkpoint. The recent killing of the former Taliban official, Arsala Rahmani, who had become a senator in the Afghan parliament, is another major blow to the efforts to reach out to the Taliban leadership, thus bringing the political process to a halt. And corruption and nepotism is rampant in the Afghan government.

There are also problems within the Afghan security forces; there have been many incidents of them turning their guns on NATO forces. Only, this week two British soldiers were shot dead by two Afghan policemen they were training. But this could be argued as a just reaction to the conduct of the US-led forces.

Another obstacle is re-engaging Pakistan to bring about stability in Afghanistan. During the Chicago summit, the Obama administration will attempt to persuade President Zardari of Pakistan to reopen key NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, which were closed earlier after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani troops and injured 13. So far, the Americans have not responded to the terms offered by the Pakistani government. More important is the political engagement with the Taliban. Pakistan can mediate between the US-Afghan government and the Taliban; in addition it can also apply pressure on the Taliban to reach an agreement.

The simplistic ideology of the Taliban - applying the Islamic penal code and enforcing one-dimensional literal interpretation of the texts, as a means of making economic, technological and social progress - needs to be challenged; this has to come from within the Afghan society rather than through the Imperialist outlets of the Western mass media. Forceful imposition of Islamic law should be the last resort, as the Hadith states clearly “every action is judged by intention”. If there is conviction in Islamic law, the laws will naturally be adopted and imposed. Hence, giving the Taliban a voice is needed; hopefully they will respond through those channels.

Maybe the Taliban will reflect on the current situation: the end of Al-Qaeda, the imminent end of US occupation, the emergence of the Arab Spring, and the rise of India, Iran and China means Afghanistan has regressed even more at a regional level; this makes it a suitable point to rethink the future of its nation, and listen to the demands of its people. (AOP) 

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