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It's not the end for Afghanistan; its future might be bright

By John Wahome | September 22nd 2021
Afghans play cricket at the Chaman-e-Hozari Park in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Septemper 17, 2021. [AP, Bernat Armangue]

To many of us who view the Taliban as a gang of barbaric, backward insurgents bent on herding their countrymen back to Stone Age, it was flabbergasting to see them recently parading high-tech American weaponry worth billions of dollars seized from the Afghan national army. They even crowned their unexpected triumph by flying a captured top-of-the-range Black Hawk helicopter over Kandahar.  

The 27-year effort to install a progressive, pro-Western regime at the steep price of over 2500 US servicemen, 60,000 Afghan soldiers and countless locals dead ultimately fell through. An additional 13 US servicemen and numerous locals perished during the chaotic evacuations at the Kabul Airport. It is really heartbreaking that after a long, arduous ‘death walk’, Afghanistan is back exactly where it began!

After the Taliban’s effortless routing of a well-armed regular Afghan army, and their retaking of the country in a mere two weeks, a natural question arises: Has the vision of a stable and just Afghanistan forever evaporated?

The Taliban regime pledged to give greater respect to basic rights of Afghans, especially women and minorities, and seemed to kick-start their new benevolence by giving an unprecedented interview to a female journalist, Beheshta Arghand. They seem somewhat less severe towards the intensifying street protests against their hardline rule than their earlier version, too. This positive momentum, however, is being dismantled by reports of targeted repression and even extra-judicial assassinations behind the cameras.

At the end of the Second World War, Germany and Japan were in very similar states of devastation to that of present day Afghanistan. One had been pummeled by the Allies into ignominious surrender, while the other retains the distinction as the only country to ever be nuked - twice.

These two countries, like the proverbial Phoenix, still managed to rise from the debris to become global economic and pacifist beacons. This provides a glimmer of hope that Afghanistan and other oddball nations of the ‘Axis of Evil’ variety could still rehabilitate and modernise, someday.

North Korea might be the hardest nut to crack, but its potential for positive change is readily demonstrated by the existence next door of the modern and successful nation of South Korea.

The postwar transition by Germany and Japan from being fierce belligerents, then to war wastelands, and finally to leading world economies should provide an interesting benchmark for the Afghan case.

But the similarities end there. Whereas the Taliban govern through a strict interpretation of the Sharia, which to them is divine and immutable, the leaders of post-war Germany and Japan were willing to do honest introspection and to own up to the folly of their imperialistic aspirations. This made possible negotiations, reparations and other give-and-take engagements with their previous antagonists, who even supported the concerted efforts of rebuilding these countries’ economies.

So, despite the US debacle and the intransigence of the Taliban, the world must not close the door to a future possibility where Afghanistan will take its seat among the ‘comity of nations’.

Dr Wahome is a lecturer, Laikipia University


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