Illusion Of Peace: Human Security Challenges In Afghanistan – OpEd


The idea of peace, for people living in Afghanistan, has remained quite elusive and distant concept for a very a long time. Owing to very vivid conflictual fault lines, the prospect of peace has often been termed as the long road keeping in view the different factors that are entrenched in the Afghan society specially pertaining to the war on terror that had engulfed the country since 2001. The efforts put forward by the international community towards the peacebuilding have turned out to be futile and have intensified the deteriorating condition of human security indicators in already breached and war-torn society. Those very efforts were clouded with the hidden agenda of centralization and accumulation of power in the external hands with very apparent neglect of the local perspective and needs which in turn caused further depletion of the situation of human security. And now in the context of the fall of Kabul with Taliban coming back in power any final deal as a result of intra-Afghan dialogue for power sharing in its implementation phase will have to face the worsening situation of human security as one of the major challenges which would immensely impact the future prospect of peace in Afghanistan.

After getting defined for the first time in the UNDP report in 1994, the concept of human security is considered to be relatively young which emerged at the horizon of the international arena in the context of the crucial changes that emerged in global politics including the advent of new security threats ranging from poverty, ethnic violence, terrorism, climate change, health crisis and pandemics, water shortage, economic compression etc. Due to the transnational nature of this new set of threats, there was the need to devise a consensus on the comprehensive approach which will move beyond the traditional notion of the security which revolves around the national security that is considered mainly in terms of the external aggression. Over the years in Afghanistan one thing has been constant amidst the ongoing conflict and various phases of violence and that was non-deployment of the civil power directed towards the structural improvements relating to the human security. In addressing the security issues in a country like Afghanistan, it is extremely necessary to formulate and outline the priorities for action and policymaking. The neglect in giving attention and focus to the due policy areas created havoc in almost every domain associated to the human security.

After four decades subdued by violence and disorder due to conflict, natural disaster, increasing poverty, decreasing life sustainability, the advent of COVID-19 amidst the recurring phases of violence and now the eventual withdrawal of USA with Kabul being controlled by Afghan Taliban the people of Afghanistan are devastated and distressed as there is a looming uncertain future in terms of social welfare and stability.  The onset of global pandemic has gravely intensified the health crisis, malnutrition hunger, people’s income and level of debt due to economic downturn in Afghanistan. 

According to Humanitarian Needs Overview (OCHA), the situation of food security last year in Afghanistan has been very deteriorating with significant increase of food insecure people from 37% in September 2015 to 76% in November. While on the other hand there has been five-fold increase in the number of people who are in emergency level of food insecurity. Due to the underdevelopment of the health sector in Afghanistan because of the constant years of devastation caused by war on terror, Afghans are facing mounting health crisis specially in terms of the mayhem that is caused by the coronavirus across the globe. On the other hand, from the past few years due to the ongoing peace process and then the presidential election followed by the crisis of power sharing formula, the attention to the economic matters got diminished. Economic stagnation, rising poverty, increasing unemployment, high aid dependence, low income level and declining growth rate have been the constant feature of Afghan economy for past two decades. In a nutshell, the crippling situation of human security be it personal, community, environmental, food, health, political or economical realm. 

In the quest to consolidate military power against various warring factions in Afghanistan mainly Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban, the security in Afghanistan has always been seen in the US backed traditional aspect of security  with the state and region being the sole unit of consideration but in the past two decades the people of Afghanistan have suffered the consequences of such attempts which were devised from the perspective of national security and national political actors. Resultantly, the overall situation of human security in Afghanistan was immensely neglected by all the collective stakeholders of the war on terror.  Merely the absence of war does not amount to security, rather it is also one’s ability to function in a safe environment which entails more than physical security. Furthermore, to counter insecurity in Afghanistan, there is a need to incorporate the long term comprehensive human centric policies in the peace building efforts and not only just short-term military solutions which prolonged the armed conflict to such an extent that it became the obstacle in the human development progress of the masses in Afghanistan.

Hence, to create a secure and stable Afghan society without any substantial foreign intervention after the withdrawal of the US troops will be the major challenge for Afghan Taliban along with other major stakeholders of the Afghanistan. 

*Ajwa Hijazi is a student of MPhil-Peace and Conflict Studies in National Defense University Islamabad, Pakistan.

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