By Saber Azam*
The US internal serenity is essential to the political and economic stability of the planet. The last four years have been challenging for Americans, their allies, and the rest of the world.
Hardly in the US history, an election such as the forthcoming in November this year will be so crucial. Wizards predict that it would be a game-changer. If the winners of the country’s leadership are Joe. Biden and Kamala Harris, many critical issues will be high on their agenda, and the crisis in Afghanistan will undoubtedly constitute one of them.
To bolster the claim of “foreign policy success” for his re-election campaign, President Donald Trump has already made a deal with the devil, the Taliban, who form a notorious terrorist organization. It is a tragedy that the most powerful democracy on earth pitilessly ignored the fundamentals of human rights and accountability.
When the Soviet Union was crushing Afghans, they established a bond with their “friend,” Ronald Reagan. As a result, the free world defeated the communist giant; and the Soviet Union dismantled subsequently! Martyrized and fearful that they will face a horrible destiny at the mercy of the Taliban, Afghans seek the “friendship” of Biden and Harris to overpower terrorism.
The endeavours of the former Vice-President of the US are his credentials. The Obama Administration terminated the unconditional favour and protection that the Bush Administration had granted to Kabul’s corrupt ruling authorities. Biden was at the front line of seeking accountability from President Karzai and other muggers of the regime.
Afghan women would look at Harris with much expectation that she would understand their agony. Afghans are desperate to find a lasting peace after over forty years of bloody wars, during which they suffered enormous losses. They hope that Harris and Biden would consider the following:
Undoubtedly, there are serious questions as to whether the West, in general, but the US in particular, are in the process of losing the trust of the rest of the world in exemplifying democracy, human rights and fairness, the basic principles of the western political, social, and economic models. US-led Western interventions in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere have been enormous failures.
Support to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen is shocking. Elsewhere in the Islamic world such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tunisia, Mali, and many other countries, the West supports corrupt regimes and dictatorships. The situation with non-Muslim countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa do not seem to be better, though there are some rare exceptions.
With current information exchange tools, the world populations perceive that Western slogans and actions are contradictory. Without immediate and tangible measures, the US and its allies will soon lose their moral, political, and economic leadership.
They need to prove their honesty of thoughts and deeds to remain credible. Finding the right solution for Afghanistan constitutes a perfect opportunity that the Biden/Harris Administration should seize.
Speaking of post-Taliban Afghanistan in particular, the Bonn Agreement of 5 December 2001 did not reflect the war-torn country’s realities and the wish of its people. It was de facto a deal among “political traders.”
The Bush Administration and the United Nations leadership opted for a quick fix, ignoring political, social, and cultural transformations during harsh years of struggle against communism and Soviet invasion, inter-factional fighting among the Mujahidin groups, and the dark years of the Taliban rule.
While B-52 bombers and the US elite troops pushed the Taliban out of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, who had no leadership aptitude, was parachuted in central Afghanistan to run one of the most complex countries in the world, with a devastatingly tangled situation.
Perhaps aware of his serious shortcomings, his protectors brought an exclusive circle of people mostly from the US, UK, and a few other Western countries to assist him. He ruled as a “supreme and irreproachable leader.”
Systematic large-scale corruption, nepotism, tribalism, and inefficiency followed, making the effects of trillions US dollars aid futile; former warlords claimed their share of the cake and became part of the regime nobility.
Ashraf Ghani, the so-called “second brilliant brain of the world,” installed in the country’s realm in 2014, followed Karzai’s example and proved worse. He excelled in the art of empty promises to the people and promoted further divide in a country that was already fractured. Afghanistan is now crippled and gangrened at multiple layers; any possibility of good-governance and hope for a better future with former and current political leadership is pointless.
It is a perfect example of failing to amend the mess in a country where evil forces dispose of every liberty to subdue democracy, human rights, and good governance. The Afghan people, National Army, and the US and other troops providing countries’ servicewomen and men sustained heavy losses. No one should ignore their sacrifices.
The US intervened for the right reasons in Afghanistan to “smoke out” terrorists, mainly Al-Qaeda and their disgraceful hosts, the Taliban. However, the Trump Administration would like to leave it for the wrong reasons.
The US neither defeated Al-Qaeda nor “smoked out” their protectors. No need to underline that while negotiating with the US, the Taliban terrorist organization continued to commit systematic killing of innocent people, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. They still perpetrate acts of inhumanity.
The US’s so-called “peace deal” with the Taliban, has already sent a strong message to similar violent bodies that the evil force of terror can defeat democracies and superpowers. Other groups in Asia and Africa feel empowered. No one can exclude the fear of many fragile countries crumbling under the yoke of terrorism.
Moreover, the Taliban have not conceded to any red line that sound democratic administrations should not cross. These include respect for democratic principles, equality of rights and opportunities, promotion of diversity, women rights, and freedom of expression.
They have not agreed to hand over their brutal leaders who ordered massive killings in Afghanistan and whose hands are tinted with the blood of American soldiers.
Finally, no administration in the world can forgive the pains inflicted on Afghans by the terrorist organization. It is their sovereign right to decide upon within the framework of a national reconciliation strategy and when a government and political system of their choice are in place.
Based on expert opinion, the “agreement” between the Trump Administration and the Taliban is synonymous with “submission” of democracy to the forces of tyranny. It is an incomprehensible enterprise ever undertaken by the world leader that can have serious negative consequences on the world’s peace and stability.
The association of the Taliban and the Afghan government will produce nothing tangible. The current expectation that a profoundly fractured society will come together without hurdle is mascaraed. Recent theatrical traditional Loya Jirga (grand assembly) became Loya Jagla (grand fight).
The possibility of a government of “national unity” with the presence of the Taliban seems utopic. In a deeply divided country along ethnic and religious considerations, they represent an additional burden to peace and security. Earlier such formula did not achieve its objectives.
In any circumstance, a complete takeover by the terrorist movement would soon follow; the Trump Administration is fully cognizant of the danger. As pointed out earlier, such an uncalculated policy opens Pandora’s box for other terrorist organizations to attempt “hold-ups” in numerous countries. No Western power would be capable of stopping the haemorrhage!
Afghans do not trust those who have been at the realm of power since 2001 as they had ample opportunity to serve the country and build a nation. Unfortunately, they busied embezzling to engross their wealth and power base unlawfully at the expense of the existence of Afghanistan as a country. The most honourable way for the US to end their longest war with a feeling of achieving their objectives would be to freeze or cancel the “deal” with the Taliban and support a Transitional Government of incorruptible individuals.
There are many young Afghans within the country who have the required knowledge and experience about good governance. They can serve their nation with honesty, dedication, and fairness. In such a scenario, they will accomplish a few critical tasks within 5 to 7 years, such as the following:
– Revision of the Constitution and its annex legal instruments to remedy all dysfunctions of post-2001 regimes.
– Elaboration and implementation of a robust nation-building program.
– Eradication of corruption and nepotism by instating a robust and functional ethics and accountability mechanism.
– Finding a negotiated solution with Pakistan for peace, stability, and security of both countries.
– Elaboration of a social, political, and economic development program for the populations’ immediate and longer-term aspirations.
– Preparation and organization of a transparent election at the end of the transitional period.
None of the Transitional Team senior members should be eligible for future public office to ensure the population’s buy-in. After the fair and transparent election, when Afghans earnestly elect the people and government of their choice, they can form the first National Council of Ethics and Good Governance and serve as role models and moral authority to monitor government and private sector actions.
The Biden/Harris Administration could support the Transitional Team based on a friendly, mutually respectful and beneficial relationship. The calendar of a decent withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan could constitute an essential pillar of such a tie. The Afghan population recognizes the hefty price that American servicewomen and men, and soldiers of other troops contributing countries have paid in Afghanistan to fight terrorism.
They would like to acknowledge and honour it in a more dignified manner, following which foreign troops could leave Afghanistan, this time around, for the right reasons.
*The writer is a former official of the United Nations and author of the recently released book, “SORAYA: The Other Princess”, a historical fiction that overflies the recent seven decades of Afghan history.