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Government of Afghanistan - History

Government of Afghanistan - History


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Afghanistan

Independence Day, 19 August (1919)
Constitution:
history: several previous; latest drafted 14 December 2003 - 4 January 2004, signed 16 January 2004, ratified 26 January 2004
amendments: proposed by a commission formed by presidential decree followed by the convention of a Grand Council (Loya Jirga) decreed by the president; passage requires at least two-thirds majority vote of the Loya Jirga membership and endorsement by the president (2017)
Legal system:
mixed legal system of civil, customary, and Islamic law
International law organization participation:
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Citizenship:
citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must have been born in - and continuously lived in - Afghanistan
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years
Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf GHANI Ahmadzai (since 29 September 2014); CEO Abdullah ABDULLAH, Dr. (since 29 September 2014); First Vice President Abdul Rashid DOSTAM (since 29 September 2014); Second Vice President Sarwar DANESH (since 29 September 2014); First Deputy CEO Khyal Mohammad KHAN; Second Deputy CEO Mohammad MOHAQQEQ; note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ashraf GHANI Ahmadzai (since 29 September 2014); CEO Abdullah ABDULLAH, Dr. (since 29 September 2014); First Vice President Abdul Rashid DOSTAM (since 29 September 2014); Second Vice President Sarwar DANESH (since 29 September 2014); First Deputy CEO Khyal Mohammad KHAN; Second Deputy CEO Mohammad MOHAQQEQ
cabinet: Cabinet consists of 25 ministers appointed by the president, approved by the National Assembly
elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held in 2 rounds on 5 April and 14 June 2014 (next to be held in 2018)
election results: Ashraf GHANI elected president in the second round; percent of vote in first round - Abdullah ABDULLAH (National Coalition of Afghanistan) 45%, Ashraf GHANI (independent) 31.6%, Zalmai RASSOUL 11.4%, other 12%; percent of vote in second round - Ashraf GHANI 56.4%, Abdullah ABDULLAH 43.6%
Legislative branch:
description: bicameral National Assembly consists of the Meshrano Jirga or House of Elders (102 seats; 34 members indirectly elected by district councils to serve 3-year terms, 34 indirectly elected by provincial councils to serve 4-year terms, and 34 nominated by the president of which 17 must be women, 2 must represent the disabled, and 2 must be Kuchi nomads; members serve 5-year terms) and the Wolesi Jirga or House of People (249 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 5-year terms)
note: the constitution allows the government to convene a constitutional Loya Jirga (Grand Council) on issues of independence, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity; it can amend the provisions of the constitution and prosecute the president; it consists of members of the National Assembly and chairpersons of the provincial and district councils; no constitutional Loya Jirga has ever been held, and district councils have never been elected; the president appointed 34 members of the Meshrano Jirga that the district councils should have indirectly elected
elections: Meshrano Jirga - last held 10 January 2015 (next to be held in 2018); Wolesi Jirga - last held on 18 September 2010 (next originally scheduled on 15 October 2016 but postponed to 7 July 2018)
election results: Meshrano Jirga - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; Meshrano Jirga - percent of vote by party NA; seats by party - NA
Judicial branch:
highest court(s): Supreme Court or Stera Mahkama (consists of the supreme court chief and 8 justices organized into criminal, public security, civil, and commercial divisions or dewans)
judge selection and term of office: court chief and justices appointed by the president with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga; court chief and justices serve single 10-year terms
subordinate courts: Appeals Courts; Primary Courts; Special Courts for issues including narcotics, security, property, family, and juveniles
Political parties and leaders:
note - the Ministry of Justice licensed 57 political parties as of September 2016a


True Reason for Afghanistan’s Current State of Being

Afghan people hold values that have been used at their disadvantage by other countries. Numerous interventions have caused various problems in the country as a whole. Particularly, it has led to the economic backwardness of Afghanistan, numerous deaths, and wars that do not end. There is a clear indication that the values of the Afghan people are the main cause of problems that the country and its people are facing.

Discrimination is a common occurrence in Afghanistan. There exists a high income class that discriminates against the poor people in the society. This fact is evident from Khaled Hosseini&rsquos book The Kite Runner. For example, Assef tells his son Amir that he should not interact with Hassan because he is from a different race (Hosseini 11). Discrimination exists even in the government as the governing party discriminates the rest of the society in terms of development and employment opportunities. As a result of such kind of discrimination, a coup against the government has been executed by communists to take power from rivals. Russia intervened in the conflict to help the communist party, which was removed from power, and used military force to attack people. Due to these instabilities, the Afghan people have no time to engage in constructive economic activities that would enable them to combat poverty (Rubin 75). Unstable political environment discourages investment, especially from foreign business people. Hence, people fail to receive even basic services such as healthcare in such politically unstable situations.

How It Works

Another cultural value common in the country is tolerance and support for violence in the society. Thus, in the storybook, Amir&rsquos father is not happy that his son loses to his servant&rsquos son (Hosseini 37), which shows that there is tendency to support violence against others in the country. The praise for violence has portrayed the people in Afghanistan as individuals who are ready to engage in violence against their neighbors at any time. Countries such as the United States exploited this feature of Afghans, financing rebel groups in Afghanistan to ensure that they fight against their rivals (Rubin 89). Such armed rebel groups have been the reason for heightened insecurity in the country, which has led to the destruction of important infrastructure and other important structures that augment the development of economies.

The culture of corruption, especially among the people with a position of power, has also been the reason for foreign intervention and suffering of many people. The corrupt regimes have been able to give foreign companies contracts to exploit local resources at the expense of local companies and people. The culture has meant that those with money can always get their wish. Hence, in the book, Amir is able to adopt a child from an orphanage only if he can give some money to an official taking care of the orphaned children. Additionally, high levels of corruption have denied the poor their rights as wealthy people are always able to bribe and resolve issues to their advantage It means that institutions such as the judiciary cannot function efficiently to ensure justice for everyone with due to a high level of corruption (Rubin 71). Investors, both local and international, find it difficult to invest in the country since they are not assured whether it will be a good environment for them to operate. Consequently, lack of investment means increased rate of unemployment, hence suffering for people in Afghanistan.

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Donors also fail to finance development projects in countries such as Afghanistan because of corrupt systems in the country. Thus, when it comes to foreign aid, corruption also means that such funds do not benefit the most affected people such as orphans. Instead, leaders in various institutions always get means of pocketing money for their own benefit (Hosseini 152). Such a reality discourages donors from financing projects and activities that help support the poorest. On the other hand, the country cannot eliminate poverty without foreign aid. Thus, there are many unqualified employees in the country who cannot be fired because of corruption, which this makes it difficult for the government to develop policies that can benefit all people. Besides, corruption has made it easy for drug traffickers to operate in Afghanistan without being punished because they can give bribes to ensure they are not arrested. When the lives of the young people are destroyed because of drugs, it becomes difficult to exploit resources and improve the living standards of the society (Rubin 87). Therefore, corruption harms the young people because of drug trafficking and lack of investments in the country, which makes it difficult to realize their full potential and improve the economy of the country.

Revenge is another value that the Afghan people hold, which makes them vulnerable to manipulation. Thus, in Hosseini&rsquos story, Assef seeks revenge on Hassan and thus beats him up. In any case, cowardice is highly discouraged in the society, and everyone has to prove their society that they are not cowards. Amir also fights with Assef after returning to Afghanistan to avoid being considered as a coward regardless of the fact that he was beaten up (Hosseini 193). The strive to revenge enabled foreign governments such as the United States to finance and support some groups that are in opposition to the government of Afghanistan, thus causing further instability in the country. Driven by pure revenge, many people fight against the government and ultimately die (Rubin 18). The death of many people in the society means that Afghanistan has lost its human resources, which could have been used to attain economic development.

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Another cultural aspect of the Afghan society is that men do not value the role of women in the society. Thus, women are often abused, and their right to receive inheritance is denied. Gender discrimination hinders women from engaging in economic activities to improve their lives and the economy of the country in general. They are sometimes sold to the wealthy people in the society as a way of paying debts. The failure to support women has meant that the society lacks important leadership qualities that women possess. Furthermore, the country is deprived of experts needed in various sectors of the economy. The fact that the women are discriminated in the Afghan society means that they cannot participate fully in developing the economy of their country (Rubin 101). Human resource is thus understaffed because people are discouraged from pursuing a career based on their interest. As a result, both men and women are not able to advance in their careers and contribute to the society using their talents. Such lack of promotion of talents in the society hinders the well-being of the society.

In summary, development of a society is greatly shaped by its social and cultural values. In case of Afghanistan, issues such as corruption, social discrimination, urge for revenge, support for violence, gender discrimination and failure to support talents enabled foreign countries such as the United States, Russia and Pakistan to intervene and facilitate constant wars and conflicts, which are financed by various outsiders. This has the effect of increased suffering, poverty and destruction of property in the country. The current state of Afghanistan can thus be said to have been caused by the values that its people hold and foreigners constantly and successfully exploit.


Afghan president is overthrown and murdered

Afghanistan President Sardar Mohammed Daoud is overthrown and murdered in a coup led by procommunist rebels. The brutal action marked the beginning of political upheaval in Afghanistan that resulted in intervention by Soviet troops less than two years later.

Daoud had ruled Afghanistan since coming to power in a coup in 1973. His relations with the neighboring Soviet Union had grown progressively worse since that time as he pursued a campaign against Afghan communists. The murder of a leading Afghan Communist Party leader in early April 1978 may have encouraged the communists to launch their successful campaign against the Daoud regime later that month. In the political chaos that followed the death of Daoud, Nur Mohammed Taraki, head of the Afghan Communist Party, took over the presidency. In December 1978, Afghanistan signed a 20-year 𠇏riendship treaty” with the Soviet Union, by which increasing amounts of Russian military and economic assistance flowed into the country. None of this, however, could stabilize the Taraki government. His dictatorial style and his decision to turn Afghanistan into a one-party state alienated many people. In September 1979, Taraki was himself overthrown and murdered. Three months later, Soviet troops crossed into Afghanistan and installed a government acceptable to the Russians, and a war between Afghan rebels and Soviet troops erupted. The conflict lasted until Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew the Soviet forces in 1988.

In the years following the Soviet intervention, Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefield. The United States responded quickly and harshly to the Soviet action by freezing arms talks, cutting wheat sales to Russia, and boycotting the 1980 Olympic games in Moscow. Tension increased after Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. The United States provided arms and other assistance to what Reagan referred to as the 𠇏reedom fighters” in Afghanistan. For the Soviets, the Afghanistan intervention was a disaster, draining both Soviet finances and manpower. In the United States, commentators were quick to label the battle in Afghanistan “Russia’s Vietnam.”


Afghanistan Government

Afghanistan Government is an Islamic republic government. The current formal name is (The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) To know the current Afghanistan government better, we need to review a few previous governments.

The first government of Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion was the 2 months primary government ruled by Sibghatullah Mojadeddi. Then the government moved to Burhanuddin Rabbani. After a few months governance, fighting has started to intensify among rival factions. In reaction to the anarchy and warlordism prevalent in the country as well as lack of Pashtun representatives in the Kabul government, the Taliban movement emerged from the southern province of Kandahar with the support of Pakistan government. The Taliban took control of approximately 95% of the country almost until mid September of 2001.

In 2001 and after the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its coalition allies launched an invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban government. After weeks of bombardments by U.S air force on Taliban shelters, the Taliban have escaped to the southern provinces. On December 2001, the UN Sponsored Bonn conference was held in Germany and Afghan factions met. As a resault, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun from Kandahar was chosen as chairman of transitional administration of Afghanistan. After governing for 6 months, former King Zahir Shah convened a Loya Jirga, which elected Karzai as president and gave him authority to govern for two more years from June 2002 to October 2004. In 2003 the constitution of Afghanistan was made and approved by Loya Jirga (Grand Assambly) as the official law of Afghanistan. On October 9, 2004, presidential election took place and Karzai was elected as the president of Afghanistan in the country's first ever presidential election.

In 2004 the Afghanistan national anthem, was adopted in Pashto language and it was approved by Hamid Karzai in 2006. Since 2004 up to now Hamid Karzai is the President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with 25 ministers and one senior minister in the cabinet. These ministers were nominated by President Karzai and approved by the Wolesi Jirga (House of People), and sworn in by the President. The current 25 Ministries and Ministers in the structure of the Afghanistan government.

Also in Afghanistan government, there are 11 to 12 independent departments which were established to function within the executive branch of the government. Departments can propose acts and regulations for better management of their activities. Moreover, a number of commissions have been established in various fields within the structure of the Afghan government. Thses commissions are considered to be vital for the Afghanistan's overall development.

In December 2001 Bonn Conference Germany, Hamid Karzai was selected as the Chairman of the Transitional Administration of Afghanistan. In the 2002 Loya Jirga (Grand Council) was held and Karzai was appointed as the Interim-president of the Afghan Transitional Administration. Then in 2004 presidential election, Karzai has been elected as the second term president of Afghanistan for five years and his second term presidency ended on August 2009.

The Afghanistan presidential election was announced to be held on August 20th 2009. Many influential Afghans from inside and outside the country has registered themselves as candidates for the presidential election. There were forty candidates who run their campaigns for several weeks across the country. After weeks of campaign, two candidates remained for the final which were Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abduallah. On August 20th 2009, the election was held between the two candidates in a challenging situation. The Taliban had announced that they will interrupt the election process as well as threatened the people for not going to the polling stations to vote. However, despite all the security issues, people have participated in the election process and used their ballets in order to elect their president. A week later, the international observers and the Afghan Election Commission have announced over six hundred cases of fraud ballots due to security issues and lack of enough observers in some provinces.

On October,20,2009, the result of the election was announced after several weeks of investigation about the fraud and Hamid Karzai went to a runoff against his opponent Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai accepted his runoff due to pressure from the West and second term election was scheduled for November 7th 2009. Before the scheduled date of the presidential election between Karzai and his opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah announced that he won’t participate in the election. As a result of the non-participation of Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai was announced as the president of Afghanistan. However, the 2009 election was one of the controversial elections in the history of Afghanistan people are hopeful and optimist for the future of a free, peaceful Afghanistan. In recent years, the Afghan people and the international community have accused the Afghanistan government as a corrupt and a failling government.


Government of Afghanistan - History

See also Political Sites
See Also History
See Also Biographies
See Also Organizations
See Also Afghan Embassies Worldwide

Afghan Constitution Discussion Board - Get involved in writing this historic document

Notable Historical Afghan Figures:

Draft Constitution of Afghanistan for Transitional Period proposed by Dr. Salim Modjaz (11AA.com)

Loya Jirga (Grand Assembly) - History and it's implication in Afghan politics

Afghanistan Law (Library of Congress)

* tag. */--> * tag. */--> President of Afghanistan

Afghan.us - Federation of Afghan American Associations - Advocating for a democratic Afghan government in America

Dr. Hafiz Sahar - a champion of free speech and human rights in Afghanistan in 1950's and 1960's.

Afghanistangov.org - A world bank sponsored web site depicting the goals of the current Afghan Government

A Brief History of Afghanistan in the past 1000 years - A speech delivered by Adam Ritscher in Duluth, Minnesota (2002).


About Afghanistan


Official name: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Capital:
Kabul

Population: 29 835 392 inhabitants (2011)

Size: 647 500 square kilometers

Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 4.5

Currency:
Afghani

Official languages: Dari (persian) and pashto

Natural resources: Natural gas, petroleum, coal, cooper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones

Land use:
Arable land 12%, permanent pastures 46%, forests and woodland 3%, other 39%

Literacy rate:
38.2 percent (UNESCO 2015)

Major religious, ethnic, and linguistic groups
For centuries, Afghanistan has been a mosaic of people with diverse cultures, religions and languages.
Afghanistan’s ethnically and linguistically rich and mixed population reflects its location at the crossroads of Central, South and Southwest Asia. Communities with separate religions, languages, and ethnic backgrounds have lived side by side for generations. Afghanistan still remains a country of dynamic diversity.

The main ethnic groups are Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Turkmen, Aimaq, Baluch, Nuristani, and
Kizilbash.

Pashto and Dari are Afghanistan’s official languages. Afghanistan’s Constitution stipulates that all other languages are “official” in the areas in which they are spoken by a majority of the population. Smaller groups throughout the country also speak more than 70 other languages and numerous dialects.

Afghanistan is an Islamic country. An estimated 80% of the population is Sunni, following the Hanafi School of jurisprudence. The remainder of the population is predominantly Shi’a.


Women in Afghanistan

With the fall of the Taliban, women have been able to reenter schools and universities. In fact, girls composed a third of the nearly six million children who returned to school this year. Women have also started serving as teachers and faculty members again, and are filling political positions and participating in the national elections.

The health sector is working hard to improve the lives of Afghan women, and, free from the prohibitions of the Taliban, male physicians are now allowed to examine and treat female patients. However, while women can see male doctors, the availability of clinics and hospitals is nonetheless limited. Only 15 percent of births in Afghanistan are attended by qualified health professionals, thus contributing to the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world one pregnant woman dies for every 6 live births. Besides pregnancy-related deaths, a lack of sanitation and potable water has led to outbreaks of tuberculosis, among which 64 percent of the deaths are women. Continued efforts in the health sector will be pursued to provide women with advanced healthcare and promote their wellbeing. Afghan women have suffered through war, poverty, famine and violence, but with the help of the international community and the Government of Afghanistan, they are reemerging with even stronger voices for change.

2. GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE

Afghanistan’s rugged terrain and seasonally harsh climate have presented a challenge to habitants and conquering armies for centuries. Afghanistan extends from the imposing Pamir Mountains in the northeast Wakhan Corridor, through branches of smaller mountain ranges, down to the southwestern plateau where the fertile regions of Kandahar merge with the deserts of Farah and Seistan. More than 49 percent of the total land area lies above 2,000 meters. There are a number of smaller mountain ranges spanning Afghanistan but the largest mountains are found in the north-eastern section of the 600 km Hindu Kush mountain range.

Afghanistan is completely landlocked, bordered by Iran to the west (925 kilometers), by the Central Asian States of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north and northeast (2,380 kilometers), by China at the easternmost top of the Wakhan Corridor (96 kilometers), and by Pakistan to the east and south (2,432 kilometers).

For the most part, Afghanistan may be described as semi-arid but regional variations and climate contrasts according to levels of elevation. Annual rainfall is low, but the high mountains contain sources for many streams and rivers which supply water for cultivation.

The Official flag of Afghanistan: Black represents the occupation of foreigners, the Red represents the blood of freedom fighters, and the Green represents freedom and Islam.

The Afghan flag is made up of three equal parts, with black, red and green colors juxtaposed from left to right perpendicularly. The width of every colored piece is equal to half of its length. The national emblem is located in the center of the flag. The national emblem of the state of Afghanistan is composed of Mehrab and Pulpit in white color. Two flags are located on its sides. In the upper-middle part of the insignia the sacred phrase of There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet and Allah is Great are placed along with a rising sun. The word Afghanistan and the year 1298 (solar calendar) are located in the lower part of the insignia. The emblem is encircled with two branches of wheat.

The executive branch of the Afghan National Unity Government consists of a powerful and popularly elected President, two Vice Presidents and a Chief Executive Office. A National Assembly consisting of two Houses, the House of People (Wolesi Jirga) with 249 seats, and the House of Elders (Meshrano Jirga) wiyh 102 seats forms the Legislative Branch. There is an independent Judiciary branch consisting of the Supreme Court (Stera Mahkama), High Courts and Appeal Courts. The President appoints the nine members of the Supreme Court with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga.

President Hamid Karzai became the first democratically elected President of Afghanistan on December 7, 2004. Previously, Hamid Karzai had been Chairman of the Transitional Administration and Interim President from 2002.

3. HISTORY
Afghanistan’s history spans five thousand years and the Afghan people have contributed to the emergence of many Central Asian empires. The ancient centers of culture and civilization were influenced by diverse outsiders such as Rome, Greece, Arabia, Iran, Central Asia, India, and China. Great conquerors such as Jenghiz Khan and Timurlane swept through Afghanistan during the 13th and 14th century. These rulers brought with them the desire to establish kingdoms, and founded cultural and scholarly communities in Afghanistan. In particular, during the Timurid dynasty, poetry, architecture and miniature painting reached their zenith.
The rise of the great Mughal Empire again lifted Afghanistan to heights of power. The ruler, Babur, had his capital in Kabul in 1512, but as the Mughals extended their power into India, Afghanistan went from being the center of the empire to merely a peripheral part of it. In the 18th and 19th century with European forces eroding the influence of the Mughals on the Indian subcontinent, the kingdom of Afghanistan began to emerge. Ahmad Shah ruled from 1747 and successfully established the concept of a united Afghanistan.

Throughout the 19th century Afghans fought against British forces. In the 1830s, Dost Muhammad skillfully balanced the influence of the Russians, British, Iranians, and Sikhs. However, rising tensions resulted in several wars from 1839 and 1842 and from 1878 to 1880. The twenty-one year reign of Abdur Rahman Khan was an important period for the consolidation of a modern state marked by efforts to modernize and establish control of the kingdom. The borders of Afghanistan were established in 1893 through negotiations with the British and provincial governments emerged, taking the place of clan rule.

King Amanullah Khan

In 1919, Afghanistan gained independence from British occupying forces. From 1919-1973 Afghanistan modernized and built extensive infrastructure with the assistance of the international community. This period of relative stability ended in 1973 when King Zahir Shah was overthrown while away in Europe.

In 1978 and 1979, a number of coups brought to power a communist government that drifted increasingly toward the USSR, ending with a Soviet puppet government in Kabul led by Babrak Kamal and an invasion of Soviet forces. Throughout the eighties, an indigenous Afghan resistance movement fought against the invading Soviet forces. With the help of the International Community, Afghans successfully resisted the occupation. On February 15, 1989 the last Soviet soldier retreated across Afghanistan’s northern border. As hostilities ceased, more than a million Afghans lay dead and 6.2 million people, over half the world’s refugee population, had fled the country.

The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 weakened the communist government of President Najibullah, leading to his ousting in April 1992. An interim government under the presidency of Sibghatullah Mujaddadi was established by the Mujahedeen Council in 1992, and was followed by President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the founder of the country’s Islamic political movement.

Recent History
The government remained unstable and unable to form a national consensus amongst its various factions. This instability was exploited by a group of Islamic fighters called the Taliban (‘talib’ means ‘religious student’ or ‘seeker of knowledge’). With the assistance of foreign governments, organizations, and resources, the Taliban seized Kandahar and in September 1998 entered Kabul. Taliban rule became infamous for their repression of women and dissidents as well as their destruction of the country’s cultural heritage. Showing little interest in trying to govern and rebuild Afghanistan, they instead played host to the radical Al-Qaeda terrorist network. Following Al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks, the United States and its allies began military operations and quickly overthrew the Taliban. An interim government was installed.

In December of 2001, Afghan and world leaders met in Bonn, Germany under United Nations auspices to design an ambitious agenda that would guide Afghanistan towards “national reconciliation, a lasting peace, stability, and respect for human rights,” culminating in the establishment of a fully representative government. Many political and civil institutions were established with the Bonn Agreement such as the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the Judicial Commission, Counter- Narcotics Directorate, and the Constitutional commission.

Progress on the political front has been rapid, with elections leading to an elected parliament and president as well as a national constitution. With international assistance, the new government of Afghanistan is developing a stable, political infrastructure and security apparatus.

The security situation in Afghanistan necessitates the continued presence of international forces. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was created in accordance with the Bonn Conference, in December 2001, after the ousting of the Taliban regime. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) took over command and coordination of ISAF in August 2003. This is the first mission outside the Euro-Atlantic area in NATO’s history. Initially restricted to providing security in and around Kabul, NATO’s mission now covers about 50% of the country’s territory. ISAF currently numbers about 9,700 troops from 37 NATO and non-NATO troop contributing countries. The Alliance is expanding its presence in Southern Afghanistan.

The London Conference on Afghanistan in January 2006 aimed to launch the Afghanistan Compact, the successor to the Bonn Agreement, to present the interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy, and to ensure the Government of Afghanistan has adequate resources to meet its domestic ambitions. The Afghanistan Compact marks the formal end of the Bonn Process, with completion of the Parliamentary and Provincial elections, and represents a framework for co-operation for five years.

The Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy (I-ANDS) is the product of twelve-months of intensive consultations within the Afghan government and with a wide array of stakeholders including community representatives, the ulama, the private sector, NGOs, and the international community. The document outlines the government’s policy objectives and analyzes the obstacles to their achievement.

Historical review
Artistic activity in Afghanistan can be traced back as early as 18,000 BC. For centuries Afghanistan linked the civilizations of Iran,India, and China. In the Islamic Era, the Ghaznavid rulers of the 10th to 12th centuries and the Ghorids fostered artistic development. Continuing through the Timurid dynasty, Afghanistan’s cultural life prospered and flourished through the rulers’ high regard for men of learning and artists. The descendants of Timur turned the city of Herat into a center of cultural activity enticing artists such as Abdul Rahman Jami, Abdulhay, and Kamal al-Din Bihzad to create finely illustrated books and exquisite buildings.

Afghan Literature
Folk lore and legends told through song and storytelling are a centuries-old tradition in Afghanistan and continue to thrive today. Afghanistan has a rich literary tradition as well. During the medieval period literature was written in Dari, Pashto, Turkic and Arabic. The royal courts of regional empires such as the Samanids, the Ghaznavids, the Timurids, and the Mughals, were great patrons of Persian literature supporting literary geniuses like Rumi, Rudaki, Abdullah Ansari, Ferdowsi, Jami.

Maulana Jaluludin Balkhi (Rumi)

I Came
From the un-manifest I came,
And pitched my tent, in the Forest of Material existence. I passed through mineral and vegetable kingdoms, Then my mental equipment carried me into the animal kingdom Having reached there I crossed beyond it Then in the crystal clear shell of human heart I nursed the drop of self in a pearl, And in association with good men Wandered round the Prayer House, And having experienced that, crossed beyond it Then I took the road that leads to Him, And became a slave at His gate Then the duality disappeared And I became absorbed in Him.

Abdullah Ansari

One of the most important works of this period was the Dari epic poem Shah Nameh (The Book of Kings), completed in 1010 by Firdawsi and comprising 60,000 rhyming couplets. Another famous poet, Jalalaluddin Rumi Balkhi (1207-1273, also known as Rumi) from Balkhi, is considered one of the greatest Sufi poets. Much of his writings have been translated from Farsi into English.

In the 16th-18th centuries, many literary figures originated from Afghanistan but due to the partition of the region between Safavid Persia and the Mughal Empire, famous poets moved to literary centers. Khushal Khan Khattak, a 17th Century Pashtun poet and warrior, lived in the Hindu Kush foothills. He used verse to express the tribal code. By the late 19th century Pashto sung poetry had been formalized at the royal court into the classical genre known as ghazal, in recognition of the fact that music can be a powerful way to deliver great poetry.

Whenever I have said a word
To any single friend
Immediately the secret’s spread
Till all the world has known.
When the black partridge lifts its voice
From the lush meadow land
He is soon stripped of his regal plumes
By falcon or by hawk.
I’ve many quite devoted friends
The prize of passing years
But to their thousands there’s not one
To call a confident.

While Afghan literature can be split into Persian, Turkic, and
Pashto, there is a shared tradition and heritage that unites the
consciousness of all Afghans and is reflected in the literature.
For example, a tradition of military prowess and invincibility
presents itself in the literature, whether it is a product of
Khyber Pass Pashtuns, Uzbek Central Asians, or Tajik mountain ghazis.

In the 20th century, Kabul became the center of publication. Mahmud Tarzi (1865-1933), a reformer and editor of Kabul’s first literary publication, Seraj ul-Akhbar, was instrumental in developing a modern literary community. Afghanistan has produced several literary figures including Khalillulah Khalili (1907-1987) and Sayed Buhaniddin Majruh. A neo-classicist poet, prose writer, poet laureate, and ambassador, Khalili defined the Afghan Renaissance man.

A Night in Kohistan
On the mountain’s slope
The assembled trees form a dark green mass
The stars twinkle
And the moonlight adorns the Valley
It is a night of youth and love.
From the grassy meads, covered with wild flowers.
Where the nightingales sing
I hear the heavenly melody if the shepard’s flute.

Historical Sites
Ancient and modern architecture in Afghanistan combines elements from Iran, India, and Byzantium. Afghanistan is filled with architectural gems. Mosques, fortresses and minarets reveal the artistic glory of past empires. The best sites to view architectural masterpieces are Herat, Bamiyan, Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh, Ghazni however, architectural sites are spread throughout the country.

Efforts are currently being made to preserve Afghanistan’s many historical sites. Tragically, some of Afghanistan’s greatest cultural treasures, such as the Bamiyan giant Buddha statues, were destroyed by the Taliban. Other cultural heritage sites, such as the Heart mosque with its intricate ceramic tile designs, the hauntingly hidden Minaret of Jam, and the imposing Mazar-i-Sharif mosque have been preserved.

The Kabul Museum is also undergoing extensive renovation. The museum, which once housed the most comprehensive record of Central Asian history, was bombed numerous times throughout the nineties, causing extensive damage to the collection. Despite efforts by the United Nations and devoted museum staff to protect the remaining collection, thousands of antiquities were plundered for the illegal antiquities trade. Today, many of these items are being recovered, as efforts to restore and preserve Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage continue.

Etched into the dappled sandstone of the Bamiyan mountains are the faint remains of the once colossal Buddha statues that silently watched over the Bamiyan Valley for 1500 years. The Taliban’s destruction of the 174-feet and 115-feet tall monuments caused an uproar in March 2001. Recent efforts in the region hope to restore their magnitude and reintroduce their cultural significance.

The statues, which took Buddhist monks several decades to construct, date back to the 3rd and 4th century. Composed of mud-and-straw plaster and stucco, the Buddhas also harbored a variety of frescoes that decorated the walls in their vicinity. Until the 9th century, Bamiyan was a thriving Buddhist metropolis. Lying along the Silk Road, the area was frequented by many travelers who traversed the famous trade route linking China, Central Asia and Europe. Bamiyan’s beauty and the majestic presence of the buddhas have recounted in several ancient texts.

The structures, though over 1,500 years old, were remarkably resilient to demolition. The Taliban required several weeks of bombings to finally crumble the monuments, which they deemed idolatrous and un-Islamic. In 2003, in the wake of the Taliban destruction, UNESCO declared Bamiyan a World Heritage Site.

Beneath the shards of detonated bombs and rubble, archaeologists and other experts are attempting to gather and reassemble parts of the statues. Some hope that recovery of the fragments will lead to preservation and more importantly, reconstruction of the buddhas. Due to a lack of detailed photography, it is increasingly difficult to match fragments to their corresponding statue, but modern technology allows geologists to “fingerprint” pieces of the statues, which will later be scanned into computers and used to assemble the fragments. However, many Afghans and cultural experts believe that the statues should not be rebuilt, and that their absence is a stark reminder of the cultural destruction of the Taliban era.

Recently, archaeologists, engineers and architects have flocked to the Bamiyan Valley to search for buried Buddhist monasteries as well as a legendary 1,000-foot long reclining buddha statue. Zemaryalai Tarzi, an Afghan archaeologist, believes another giant Buddha may be hidden deep beneath the earth in the Bamiyan valley. A Chinese visitor in 632 described a reclining figure 1,000 feet long – if the account is accurate, the reclining Buddha is as wide as the Eiffel Tower is long.

Tarzi’s recent excavations have unearthed one of the 10 monasteries that he says existed in Bamiyan. While the monastery did not yield any signs of the sought-after statue, the discovery was nonetheless an important step in reclaiming the cultural heritage and history that diminished with the demise of the two Giant Buddhas.

Afghan Food
Afghan cuisine is an appetizing cross between the flavors of the Mediterranean, Middle East, Iran and India. It contains several rice dishes that are often served with a assortment of thick, curried sauces cooked with lamb, beef and chicken. Spinach and eggplants constitute two commonly eaten vegetables. Traditional Afghan fare is rich in spices like as cardamom, which lends a sweet, aromatic quality to drinks and dishes.

A quintessential Afghan dish, Qabili Palao consists of raisins, carrots, and lamb with browned rice. Variations in the dish include the addition of sliced almonds or pistachios. Another important savory dish is Aushak – a leek-stuffed dumpling that is served over a garlic yogurt sauce and layered with a thick ground-beef tomato sauce with dried mint and crushed red pepper sprinkled on top. Appealing to their meat-centric gastronomy, Afghans also enjoy kabobs, which are skewers of meat heavily marinated in a delectable concoction of herbs and spices. Afghan desserts are robust in flavor, often drawing upon fragrant ingredients, such as rosewater and cardamom. A popular treat is a creamy, custard-like dessert similar to the Italian Pannecotta with a crushed pistachio topping. With its mélange of flavors, Afghan cuisine offers food to appease even the most demanding palate.

Afghan Music
Afghanistan’s music tradition is expressed through three outlets: the art music specific to Kabul, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kandahar, the modern genres of popular music on the radio, and a plethora of regional ‘folk music’ styles characteristics of various ethnic groups inhabiting different parts of the country.

The music of Afghanistan is connected to the music of India and other Central Asian countries, though Iranian influences are also evident. The diversity of peoples including Tajiks, Pashtuns, and Uzbeks has given Afghan music a very rich musical heritage. In some ways, Afghanistan is a microcosm of all the different musics of Islamic Asia, the classical pieces of Transoxiana (modern-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), the love and spiritual poetry of India and Pakistan, the folk music of Turkmenistan, and a host of other styles from other cultures.

Whether at a home, a teahouse, a horse race, or a wedding, the same instruments dominate Afghan music. Along with the dutar and zirbaghali, there are variations on the fiddle (ghichak), the flute (badakhshani), and cymbals. The rubab, a lute-like instrument, is sometimes considered the national instrument of Afghanistan, and is called the “lion” of instruments. The most famous player of the rubab is Mohammed Omar, while modern performers include Essa Kassemi and Mohammed Rahim Khushnawaz. Uzbeks and Tajiks share a preference for the dambura, which is a long-necked, plucked lute. At home, women often play the daireh, a drum. Of course, one of the most important instruments in Afghanistan is the human voice.

Afghan folk music is traditionally played at weddings, holidays such as the New Year celebration, and rarely for mourning. Wedding music plays a vital part in Afghan folk music. A traveling people known as Jat, related to Gypsies, sell instruments door-to-door and play their own variety of folk music. The Jats frequently play for weddings, circumcisions and other celebrations as well. Afghan songs are typically about love, and use symbols like the nightingale and rose, and refer to folklore like the Leyla and Majnoon story.

The classical musical form of Afghanistan is called klasik, which includes both instrumental (ragas, naghmehs) and vocal forms (ghazals). Many ustad, or professional musicians, are descended from Indian artists who emigrated to the royal court in Kabul in the 1860s.

Radio broadcasting was introduced to Afghanistan in 1940 and fostered the growth of popular music. Modern Afghan popular music used orchestras featuring both Afghan and Indian instruments, as well as European clarinets, guitars and violins. Parwin became, in 1951, the first Afghan woman to broadcast on the air on Radio Afghanistan, while Ahmad Zahir, Mahwash, and Biltun found large audiences.

Religious Diversity
As with much of the region, the rise and fall of political power has been inextricably tied to the rise and fall of religions. It was in Afghanistan that the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism began in the 6th century BCE. Later, Buddhism spread west from India to the Bamiyan Valley, where it remained strong until the 10th century AD. The eastward sweep of Islam reached Afghanistan in the 7th century AD, and today the vast majority of Afghans are Muslim. In recent history, there have been small Sikh, Jewish, and Ismaili communities in Afghanistan.

Buzkashi is a game that dates itself into Afghan antiquity. The name Buzkashi, literally translated means “goat killing” suggest it was derived from hunting mountain goats by champions on horseback. Today the rider (or team) who is able to pitch a dead calf across a goal line first wins. The game may last as long as a week and is as free-wheeling as the Afghan spirit.

Another sport that is enjoyed by millions of Afghan children is kite-running, which involves competing teams that build and “fight” kites for large audiences.

Afghans also play a wide variety of sports such as soccer, cricket, martial arts, etc.

Education System
The modern educational system was introduced at the end of the nineteenth century by the Afghan government and combined traditional Islamic learning with a modern curriculum. In 1935, education was declared universal, compulsory and free. With its expansion, the secular system came to be regarded as the principle medium for creating a national ideology and emphasized productive skills. By the 1960s, technical education assumed critical importance as a result of Afghanistan’s development drive.

The Afghan educational system is currently experiencing a period of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Twenty years of conflict caused the exodus of many teachers and qualified instructors and caused literacy rates to plummet. Violence throughout the country during the Soviet invasion, the Civil War, and the Taliban period, made the existence of primary and secondary schools near impossible. Schools still existed during these times, but they had little access to resources or qualified professionals. Today, starting at age seven, children attend six years of primary school, three years of middle school and three years of secondary school. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education provides a specialized curriculum and textbooks that have been developed with the assistance of Afghanistan’s international partners.
Traditional religious schools, found in towns and villages, teach children basic moral values and ritual knowledge through the study of the Koran, the Hadith (Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad), and popular edited religious texts. Herat, Kunduz, Ghazni, Kandahar and Kabul have become important centers for religious scholars.

While higher education also suffered during the 1980s and 90s, the Afghan government is striving to recruit foreign professors, computerize the universities, and train young Afghans to be qualified professionals in today’s competitive market. Currently, there are thirteen universities in Afghanistan educating 40, 000 students (19% women, 81% men), a tenfold increase from the 4,000 enrolled in 2002. American University of Afghanistan, supported by USAID, is opening its doors to Afghanistan and the world.
In recent years, education development has been a focus for international aid. Many organizations, especially UNESCO, ACEM, UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank are sponsoring and organizing education initiatives. The Government of Afghanistan similarly view education is the key to the long-term success of the Afghan state.


Jirgas

A historically Pashto term, Loya Jirga, translates to “grand council.” It is a unique forum in which tribal elders of each ethnic group convene to discuss and resolve Afghanistan’s affairs. The loya jirga is centuries old tradition and a quintessential part of the Afghan government. A decision-making assembly, the jirga refrains from time limitations and continues until decision are reached through consensus. The jirga addresses a variety of issues, such as foreign policy, military action, or the introduction of new ideas and reforms.

Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, Afghanistan held several jirgas to determine the best course of action for the country’s social, political and economic development. Approximately 1,500 delegates from all over Afghanistan took part in the loya jirga in Kabul. Each district elected 20 people, who then held a secret vote to select one person to represent the whole district. The 362 districts in Afghanistan had at least one seat, with more seats allotted for every 22,000 people. Ultimately, women held 160 of the remaining seats.

In 2003, another historical loya jirga convened to discuss the proposed Afghan constitution, which was ratified on January 4th, 2004. The most pressing issues were those of centralized power, social reform, and the feasibility of a free-market economy in Afghanistan. Afghanistan’s Parliament draws upon this deep-rooted tradition in its structure and performance of legislative functions.

In September of 2006, President Karzai proposed holding jirgas along the Afghanistan-Paksitan border during a trilateral meeting with U.S. President George Bush and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Tribal elders on each side will side will meet with the participation of both President Karzai and President Musharraf with the hopes of resolving the problems of regional extremism and terrorism through consultation and consensus.


Health System
Since 2002, the government has made considerable progress in increasing access to health care services. Afghanistan’s health care sector has faced many challenges in the past four years, but the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) continues to move Afghanistan forward. Some achievements have included:

– Reform and restructuring of health system which has a public-private mix orientation
– Development of health policy and strategies for the period 2005 to 2009
– Expanded Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) from 9% of the population in 2003 to 77% in 2005
– Developed capacity at the Central MOPH for coordinating and managing donor funds.

In Kabul, state of the art hospitals have opened and clinics have been built and staffed all over the country. However, there is much left to be done. Maternal, infant and under-5 mortality rates are some of the highest in the world. Reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating malaria and other diseases and reaching Afghanistan’s Millennium Development Goals are central to Afghanistan’s public health mission.


Holidays

– Eid al-fitr: After a month of Fasting (Ramadan), Afghans visit or entertain their friends and give gifts.
– Eid al-adha: The tenth day of the twelth month of the Higra calendar commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s devotion to God.
– Ashura: The tenth day of the month Muharram is a day of mourning commemorating the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussain at the battle of Kerbala.
– Mawleed al-Nabi: The 12th day of Rabi al-Awal celebrates the Prophet’s birthday.
– Nawrooz: March 21st marks the first day of spring.
– Jeshen: August 19th is Afghanistan’s Independence Day.


The history of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan

Ellis Garvey, is a member of the YCL’s Manchester branch

Ellis Garvey writes about the socialist history of Afghanistan and its eventual attack from both Afghan counter-revolutionaries and the West

A land torn apart by war and devastation imposed by the United States and NATO for decades may seem as if it was always this way. However, in this article I wish to dispel that notion and tell the tale of the heroic Afghan people and their struggle for progress and independence. Afghanistan is a land rich in history and culture, as well as resources, which has seen a long-drawn-out class struggle by its people. This is its story both before and after the collapse of socialism by the hands of US, NATO and the nations of what would become the EU.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country sandwiched between the former Central Asian states of the USSR, Pakistan, Iran and China. Its strategic location made it a target for imperialism, Afghanistan would be relegated to being a ‘buffer’ state between the Russian Empire and the British Empire – in what was termed as “The Great Game.” By the 1960s, it would remain mostly undeveloped, still ravaged by old feudal relations, at the behests of the US imperialism who had invested in the country for cheap resources rather than developing industry. The Royal Family of Zahir Shah lived in luxury whilst the peasant dominated nation would own near to nothing. The peasantry was frozen in old land relations which had proved to be neither helping develop the agricultural growth nor provide sustainability in Afghanistan. Despite being a ‘constitutional’ monarchy, the Parliament provided little to no representation and was subject to incredibly low levels of trust. Republican and secularist parties were outlawed but the new People’s Democratic Tendency would grow in support.

In 1965 socialists led by Nur Mohammad Taraki and Babrak Karmal would bide their time and draw support from the failing Socialist Party of Afghanistan. Taraki would be elected the Secretary General of the newly formed People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), rapidly seeking support throughout Afghanistan. The ruling Afghan government was attempting to play both sides of the Cold War for aid, and many Afghans had the opportunity to go to the USSR and learn about the successes of socialism in developing Central Asia and Russia. Taraki and Karmal would go on international meetings to the USSR to gain international solidarity for the cause of progress in Afghanistan. In 1966, the newspaper Khalq (meaning masses), would be set to run and quickly spread the message of the PDPA, but was forced to stop running and replaced with another newspaper called Parcham (meaning banner or flag).

They would start running candidates in 1965 and several, including one of the first women in modern Afghan politics, Anahita Ratebzad, would be elected to the legislature. Eventually, tired of the lacklustre progress, Afghanistan would undergo a coup by the hand of Mohammed Daoud Khan, a relative of King Zahir Shah, partially with the assistance of members of the PDPA. Daoud Khan would establish a republic with himself as the President and the leader of his own party, the National Revolutionary Party of Afghanistan (NRPA), and would become the head of the country. The policies that followed would be a series of social democratic style measures aimed towards improving the country. This would also lead to the growing influence of Wahhabism as exiled religious leaders in Pakistan, who would later become leaders of the Mujahideen, declared Jihad against Daoud Khan – denouncing him as a communist.

The PDPA would become split into two groupings named after the two different newspapers. The Parcham represented a reform path in which they assisted Khan’s republican project from the beginning. The other group, the Khalq, criticised the Parchamis’ position, they demanded the entrenchment of a national-democratic revolution led by the PDPA as the vanguard of the working-class and not the petit bourgeois NRPA. This proved to be true as Khan started to turn 180 o away from the USSR, and began to deepen relations with the West, alongside opening the country to Saudi Arabia and monarchist Iran.

The USSR encouraged the PDPA to stay together to prevent a potential collapse. Members of the military, many of whom came from the lower classes, were appealed to by the PDPA to finally put the country in the hands of the workers and end the opportunist regime of Daoud Khan. Students in Kabul were a haven for the PDPA to help unite the progressive classes of Afghanistan into a single vanguard they would be vital in providing a future for Afghanistan as a new young nation.

Khan prepared a massive purge of the Parchamis from government and consolidated his leadership. Several protests broke out through the mid-70s. This culminated in the 1978 assassination of Mir Akbar Khyber, the editor of Parcham newspaper and a former police academy ‘Ustad’ (instructor), who had infiltrated the military in favour of the Parchami faction with Khan placing the responsibility of the assassination on the growing Islamists led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Many suspected it was an assassination by supporters of Khan to finish off the Parchamis in government. Mass protests of thousands would be held, PDPA realised now was the time to rally the masses against foreign interference (CIA and the Iranian SAVAK) in the country. Daoud Khan would moved quickly to imprison Tarakiand Karmal.

One of the heads of the Khalqis, Hafizullah Amin, who had extensively infiltrated the military in favour of the Khalqi faction, asked to be taken to prison after merely being placed under lenient house arrest during which time, he had orchestrated the coup that was to follow only a few hours later.

On the 27 th of April the Saur Revolution/coup had begun. Daoud was informed of the unfolding coup and his guards. Refusing to surrender Khan was killed in the infighting. The PDPA, led by the victorious Khalqi faction, declared that it was a national struggle, and that it represented the anti-imperialist trend global trend which opposed the robbing of Afghanistan’s resources and would now be dedicated to providing a path of social justice.

Amin and Taraki would help form a government dedicated to building a society based on social justice with the PDPA as its vanguard using a Revolutionary Council. The country would be renamed to the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and a new constitution would gradually take shape as revolutionary changes are conducted. The changes would include a struggle to eradicate illiteracy (which was at a high of 90%) and achieve secularisation. It would also include the emancipation of women and women taking positions in government as well as the outlawing of feudal practices of forced marriages, Sharia Law and, importantly, changing the relations of production. A Land Reform decree was conducted, and land was given to the tiller and taken away from feudal rulers. However, some of the social changes, such as changing the nation’s flag and incorporating “revolutionary red colours” into almost every aspect of life, were taking place too quickly promoting USSR General Secretary, Brezhnev, to advise Taraki to slow down.

Counter-revolutionaries would try to destabilise the government and make the reforms unpopular by disrupting them through boycotts and terrorist attacks. The problem of Islamic Fundamentalism was a growing problem as the PDPA would attempt to modernise the country by re-educating the populace. Worse still Western Europe, the US and China (which at this time had cooperated with the US against the USSR) would all condemn the PDPA and the Saur Revolution. The foreign powers would fund and train the Mujahideen which had declared a Jihad against the DRA. With neighbouring Islamist Iran and far-right Pakistan providing a place to train and supply the opposition. Negative coverage on the international scale would continue and this would lead to the eventual boycott of the Soviet Union’s Olympics in 1980 harming the DRA’s reputation.

Bitter rivalries inside the PDPA were not resolved. Parchamis would criticise the fact that Afghanistan’s peasantry and workers needed more time in order to properly achieve a revolution. This would lead to the purging of the Parcham faction of the PDPA, with its leaders being exiled as ambassadors to foreign countries and many of the faction’s followers being tortured, imprisoned or executed.

As the pivotal year of 1979 progressed, Hafizullah Amin grew more and more impatient with the state of affairs and the leadership style of Taraki. Amin would have Taraki killed and accused of trying to start a personality cult around himself (even though it was something that Amin had himself cultivated around Taraki) and having followed weak policies that did not go far enough. Efforts to curb the uprisings going on in several cities such as that in Herat would take place and would be crushed. The oppositions ranks were stamped at every corner and mass arrests of “potential Islamists” began, many of whom would be executed.

Amin’s hardline stance on opposition, from within and outside of the party, stocked a fear of uncertainty with the Soviet leadership as did his talks of forming a coalition with the infamous warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. This was particularly worrying for the Soviets, as they would have faced a Wahhabist state on the borders of some of their Muslim-majority republics – Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Furthermore, Amin had requested direct assistance from the Soviets around 18 times, as he was disenfranchising more and more people, including from within his own Khalqi faction of the PDPA.

For these reasons, on the 27 th of December 1979 the KGB would launch an operation that would assassinate Amin and the leadership of the country would be passed onto the next most senior member of the PDPA,the leader of the Parcham faction, Babrak Karmal. Karmal would seek to work with the Soviets towards stabilising Afghanistan with one of his first acts being the declaration of full amnesty to the thousands of folks imprisoned during the fascistic reign of Amin.

However, the foreign powers were now able to cultivate the myth of ‘Soviet imperialism’ in Afghanistan. Trying to appeal to the broadest possible people, Karmal formed a national front and moved to write a constitution to unite the country. Women’s rights were still pushed with the Afghan Women’s Council (AWC) being reinforced with Parcham figure, Anahita Ratebzad, given the responsibility for this task. The AWC would work tirelessly to emancipate women, and by 1981, 230,000 where in schools and 7,000 women where in higher education they also achieved a record number of 190 female professors and some 22,000 teachers in the education system. Social security became a massive concern in winning people over.

Initially there was a lot of potential, with the DRA securing control over the majority of provinces with the Mujahideen forces only controlling small pockets. However by 1985 any hope of modernising Afghanistan’s economy became a distant dream Gorbachev’s faction in the Soviet leadership, no longer caring about the national revolution, gradually abandoned Afghanistan and pinned the blame on the DRA leadership. Karmal’s days became numbered. Gorbachev, only a couple of years his junior, asked Karmal to resign and hand over his position to somebody younger. Karmal, fearing a potential political crisis within the fragile Afghan leadership, reluctantly accepted.

The leader of the state security, Dr. Mohammad Najibullah, would utilise the support of the USSR and the reformation of the political institutions (which were to be clarified in the 1987 Constitution) to ease out Karmal’s policies as in 1986, he was elected the head of the PDPA. By November 30 th of 1987 the new constitution of Afghanistan was ready, and the country was renamed the Republic of Afghanistan, the new document, whilst proclaiming social justice, did reaffirm the role of Islam as the state religion and began diminishing the role of the PDPA as a Marxist-Leninist party – parallellng the Zahir Shah era constitution.

Insofar as foreign policy was concerned the focus was anti-imperialism as described in the following paragraph:

“The Republic of Afghanistan supports the struggle of peoples and nations for peace, national independence, democracy, social progress and the right of nations to self-determination and fights against colonialism, neocolonialism, Zionism, racism, Apartheid and fascism.”

Political parties were partially legalised, excluding the most radical Islamic fundamentalists, as the government was preparing for a broad coalition in order to complete the policy of national reconciliation. In a Western-style system, a Senate and a House of Representatives was set up formally to provide a place for the opposition parties alike. Most Islamists were not interested in reconciliation and more interested in demolishing the system of social justice and anti-imperialism even the more progressive Mujahid warlords, like Ahmed Shah Masoud showed to be little more than stooges of imperialism. Some liberals did take up the offer and many left leaning parties helped form a new government gradually. Accords were achieved in Geneva to oppose Pakistan’s support for terrorism, but this fell on deaf ears, as the US refused to abide by them and the socialist states could no longer pay attention to the situation in Afghanistan – having been neglected by the USSR and dealing with growing internal instabilities themselves.

The problems became compounded as Najib relinquished control over key strategic areas in Afghanistan as part of his reconciliation policies.

The last economic plans that went out would have seen Afghanistan’s industry and agriculture improve massively, but this was not to be with Najib’s liberal reforms in Afghanistan mirroring those of Gorbachev’s Perestroika policies in the USSR, the DRA entered economic problems. Slowly the cracks started to appear and by 1989 Afghanistan would have no more assistance from the USSR as Gorbachev was moving to abandon support for socialists internationally.

The Pakistani secret service, the ISI, would attempt to launch a massive offensive in the city of Jalalabad which cost many lives but was ultimately repelled. A few hardline Khalqis, in coalition with Hekmatyar, had attempted to launch a coup against Najibullah, but to no avail.

At this point, many more Afghans began fleeing the country.

By 1990, the party constitution of the PDPA was reformed to induct Islam and the PDPA was transformed into the Watan (Homeland) Party which would remove any trace of class struggle or representative function of the Working-Class, instead regarding itself as more of a liberal party.

Afghanistan would rapidly decline with the fall of the socialist bloc few countries were willing to defend it. Najibullah told the infamous revisionist renegade Shevardnadze that “I didn’t want to be president, you talked me into it, insisted on it, and promised support. Now you are throwing me and the Republic of Afghanistan to its fate.”

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Afghanistan would collapse into anarchy in April 1992 as Russia refused any aid. By this time the Mujahideen factions had surrounded Kabul, the heavy ISI and CIA support would allow them to converge on Kabul. A UN Accord would be signed to transform Afghanistan into a reactionary neo-colony of the US known as the Islamic State of Afghanistan. The country would still be in a state of civil war as factions of the Mujahideen refused to recognise any changes the factions of Hekmatyar, Ahmed Shah Masoud and others would brutally attack Afghans in their sectarian conflicts. This led to two reactionary regimes in a constant fight with one and other. Kabul for 4 whole years would see a brutal never-ending battle. Meanwhile a growing fascist group created by the ISI, known as the Taliban, were amassing support from the bitter hatred of the people towards the Mujahideen.

In 1996, the Battle of Kabul would end with a Taliban victory having come from nothing to the most organised fighting force. Kabul was left in ruins and its residents subject to atrocities. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was formed on even more reactionary lines than the Islamic State of Afghanistan, and subjected the people to brutal feudal relations designed at purging the country of all ‘Western influences’. Women were reduced to an underclass and mass persecution ensued. Najibullah was taken, from his safety within the UN compound in Kabul, to be tortured and then executed by hanging. The only ‘good’ from this period was the removal of the drug traffic and lack of engagement with the West. Arab fighting forces in the country, led mostly by Osama Bin Laden, would lead atrocities in hunting down the opposition.

Following 9/11, the Taliban offered to hand over Bin Laden and other Jihadists however the US were more interested in saving the regime of the Islamic State of Afghanistan. The US would invade Afghanistan in 2001 in a move that was ironically more extreme than the USSR’s protection of the DRA. The US would begin a campaign of bombarding Kabul and bringing havoc to the country. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan would replace the Islamic State of Afghanistan though the country is still embroiled in a bitter Islamist civil war, and has become little more than a neo-colony of US interests. Corruption runs rampant and the government is totally ineffectual it is often more interested in lining its own pockets with foreign investments than fighting for the workers and alleviating the severe poverty and hunger. Socialists and leftists are actively suppressed both in Afghanistan and internationally.

This is the sad reality of what has happened in Afghanistan today. The only government in Afghanistan’s history which looked out for its workers and peasants was attacked from the start by the imperialism of the US and NATO. Being completely isolated following the fall of the socialist camp has caused people to reassess the history of the DRA and PDPA. However, it is important to see where Afghans are going and how working-class politics are regaining ground as doubt in the system appears and Afghans clamour for peace and independence.

I spoke with Iraj from the Khalq Collective. Having grown up in Afghanistan and now living abroad, Iraj tells us some reflections of the DRA, its lessons and what has happened since. The Khalq Collective is a group of socialist and anti-imperialist Afghans and Iranians.

Ellis: Hello I am very pleased to have a chance to speak to an Afghan socialist.

Iraj: Hi there. Pleased to be talking with you today.

Ellis: When looking at history, what brought about and made the PDPA successful? And what led to the success of the Saur Revolution?

Iraj: The PDPA was successful because it took up the mantle of the vanguard party at a time when the global movements for independence and emancipation, contributed to the overall class consciousness of the propertyless/toiling-class, as a global class, reaching an all time high. The conditions of a patriotic-democratic revolution (meaning a “class-collaborationalist” or a united front of workers, peasants, farmers and the national bourgeoisie against the comprador/finance bourgeoisie) in Afghanistan seemed inevitable, particularly following the events of Khyber’s assassination and Daoud Khan’s repressive measures. However the Saur Revolution, that is the bloody coup/Blanquist adventurism at the behest of the fascistic Hafizullah Amin, set up the revolutionary potential of the country for a fall. This is not to take away from some of the positive elements of the reforms that came about following the events of 7th of Saur (27 th of April). Nevertheless, had Amin not orchestrated the coup, or even taken Karmal’s advice against executing the Daoud family there would be less proverbial ammo to assassinate the image of the PDPA with.

Ellis: What were the positives of the period of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, what did the PDPA do well in the governance of the country?

Iraj: There were many positive elements: land reforms, especially in the case of raising the living standards of farmers and ethnic minorities women’s emancipation, particularly in rural areas cultural elevation, specifically in terms of music and poetry.

Ellis: What mistakes were made during this time? What is your take also on the struggle between the Khalqis and Parchamis?

Iraj: To reiterate, the bloody/Blanquist coup, conducted by the fascistic Hafizullah Amin was a mistake Karmal and the Parchamis favoured a united front revolution, which seemed inevitable especially given the material conditions post-Khyber assassination. When in power, Taraki entrusted Amin to carry out most of the party’s policies amongst which were the mistaken reforms to the flag and other social changes that were taking place far too quickly. Therein radicalising folks against the party. Overall, Amin was an bloodthirsty opportunist, who wasted little time in getting rid of any opposition to himself including executing Taraki, exiling Parchami leaders (like Karmal, Dr. Anahita and Dr. Najib) as ambassadors, and torturing and killing other Parchami members of the PDPA and their supporters – including executing approximately 3000 Parchami members of the PDPA. Rumours of Amin being a possible CIA agent had been circulating since his return from the US. By the time he had executed Taraki, even some Khalqis began to question whether or not Amin was indeed a CIA agent. His lack of theoretical understanding certainly did not help his cause. For example, he would refer to the DRA as, something along the lines of, “The democratic dictatorship of the military of the proletariat.”

Ellis: Soviet intervention is trumpeted as an invasion by the western media but what was your experience and view of this period whilst in Afghanistan?

Iraj: I was born in 1990 so I don’t have a lived memory of the events however, going back into the history of the events and speaking to family members and other folks, they recall how it felt – and it did indeed feel like an invasion. That is to say that although it was an anti-imperialist intervention (as many senior PDPA members felt that Hafizullah Amin was likely to have been a CIA agent – a claim refuted by the US) nevertheless, the Soviet Union’s into Afghanistan was meant to be a display of might. They were supposed to show their brute strength, as an older brother would to the children picking on their younger sibling they were to secure the country on the basis of internationalist solidarity and leave in a matter of months. The reality of the situation however, is that it was an orchestrated final curtain for the Cold War, designed by the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski in the US, to “give the Soviets their own Vietnam” a prolonged “Bear Trap,” which would see the Soviets stuck in a quagmire that drained their reputation, resources and morale. For Afghan citizens, the Soviet intervention had been a relief, “a great deed” in as far as it had resulted in the removal of the bloodthirsty Hafizullah Amin.

Ellis: Do you think the PDPA could’ve retained power if they handled the situation better?

Iraj: Yes. I think Dr. Najib’s reforms weakened the country, especially with regards to its economy and military capacity. The PDPA went from controlling the majority of the country when Najib took power, to declining rapidly as his policies of liberalisation of the economy (as advised by Gorbachev and Shevardnadze) and his reconciliation policies with the Mujahideen, were paralleled with a negative cult of personality. That is to say his often televised speeches/discussions would go something like, “our disenfranchised brothers (the Mujahideen) said they wouldn’t stop until the last Soviets were out of the country. Well I kicked them out. Najib told them to leave. So what is stopping you from entering into peace talks?”

Ellis: Was there any particular sources of blame, any individuals, responsible for the decline of the DRA and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism? Either internal or external?

Iraj: There were many factors. King Zahir Shah’s 40 year reign without material improvements for the rural population. Daoud Khan’s repressions. The Islamists declaring Jihad against Daoud. The assassination of Mir Akbar Khyber. Hafizullah Amin’s bloody coup. Khalqis rapid social changes. Collapse of relations with Pakistan Pakistani leadership wanting to see “Kabul burn slowly, slowly”. Islamic Revolution in Iran. Afghanistan’s geopolitical location US wanting to give the Soviets “their own Vietnam.” Gorbachev becoming leader of the Soviet Union and implementing Perestroika reforms mirrored in the DRA by Dr. Najib. And of course the fall of the Soviet Union, which in of itself was utterly catastrophic for the majority of the world.

Ellis: What was it like following the fall of Afghanistan to the Mujahideen? What facilitated the rise of the Taliban?

Iraj: The Mujahideen era or the “Tanzimats” (reformists, as they were more commonly called) was disastrous. Kabul fell victim to unprecedented crimes, too brutal and graphic to describe. This was part of the reason as to why the people of Kabul were somewhat optimistic when the Taliban entered the capital. The rise of the Taliban occurred mainly due to their creation as a proxy force/puppet government by ISI if you were to google “father/godfather/mother of the Taliban,” the results will always yield a Pakistani state official’s name.

Ellis: Today what problems do Afghans face?

Iraj: Afghanistan is a neo-feudal colony occupied by US+NATO. There’s an opioid epidemic, malnutrition, illiteracy, and the oppression of women runs rampant throughout the country. Afghanistan today faces almost the same problems that existed in China pre-1949 revolution.

Ellis: What do you see for the future of Afghanistan?

Iraj: As things stand, 20 years of US+NATO occupation have brought more misery and stagnation to Afghanistan. The puppet leader, Ashraf Ghani, has stated a number of times that the Afghan government would collapse within 6 months of US withdrawal. This isn’t wrong necessarily as by design, the US has kept the country in a state of war and instability to have an excuse to remain in Afghanistan – in order to extract from its >$3T worth of (known) resources. This after all is the modus operandi of US imperialism.

Ellis: Is there any working-class resistance? What is the state of the trade unions and are there any old PDPA or socialists still trying to fight for an independent Afghanistan?


Operation Enduring Freedom and Post-U.S. Afghanistan

It is past time to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans. The present government of the Islamic Repubic of Afghanistan exhibits the same deficiencies that characterized Afghan leadership for more than a thousand years—it is fragmented, tribal, self-serving, insular and corrupt. The United States is naive to assume that it can, by force of will, impose Western values and morals upon a culture that has endured for centuries. Afghanistan will not be transformed into an idealized Western-style democracy by any amount of continued sacrifice of blood and treasure by the United States and its NATO partners in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The announced withdrawal from Afghanistan of U.S. and allied troops by December 2014 (with the exception of some yet to be determined number of Special Forces, counterterrorism units and training personnel) comes none too soon.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) began in October 2001 because Afghanistan harbored the al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks against America. The United States set out to eliminate al-Qaeda’s Afghan operational base, and it succeeded in that effort while at the same time joining forces with the Afghan Northern Alliance to topple the repressive Taliban regime that had welcomed and hosted al-Qaeda. Yet OEF has never been a top U.S. priority except in those very early months. By May 2007, the ISAF commanding general admitted as much, saying, “This is a holding action.” At that time, the United States had only 24,000 troops in Afghanistan, while four times that number – over 100,000 American and allied coalition troops – attempted to stabilize Iraq.

The effort to train the army and police of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) was neither coherently addressed nor adequately resourced until November 2009. Unfortunately, by then it was beyond saving. Moreover, satisfying Washington’s strident demands to produce unrealistic numbers of “trained” Afghan army soldiers and policemen resulted in standards so low that the ANSF has proved inadequate to meet operational requirements.

Although the Taliban regime was overthrown, the United States never committed sufficient forces to Afghanistan to totally defeat the subsequent Taliban insurgency. Since there was insufficient troop strength and inadequate logistic support to eradicate all Taliban insurgents throughout Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO forces had to concentrate on subduing one insurgent “hot spot” and then moving on to the next one that popped up – a tactic the troops call “whack a mole.” Yet without sufficient forces to hold an area permanently, when U.S. and NATO units depart, the Taliban moves back in.

As America’s December 2014 endgame in Afghanistan approaches, comparisons to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War are inevitable. Indeed, there are some undeniable similarities in Afghanistan that echo the wasteful catastrophe in that earlier war: generally illiterate societies long traditions of successful warfare against Western forces that generated experienced, hardened fighters and protected insurgent enclaves across porous “sovereign” borders.

As in Vietnam, the United States and its allies in Afghanistan typically have fought from huge and extraordinarily expensive Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) that shelter forces which could be more effectively used by deploying them out in the villages to work with the local population. When General David Petraeus led the Afghanistan effort, he did this well, but for far too short a period. In both wars, U.S. forces lacked concentration of effort to provide essential nation-building support for the development of appropriate local village structure and leadership. Instead, in both Vietnam and Afghanistan, the United States fought wars of attrition to attempt to enforce the legitimacy of an inherently illegitimate and corrupt version of a Western style central government. (See Hard Choices, January 2014 ACG.)

LACK OF STRATEGIC FOCUS

America’s objective in Afghanistan since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban regime by the Northern Alliance and U.S. Special Forces has been to build up the capability of the ANSF and to transition security responsibility to the Afghans as the U.S.-led coalition gradually withdraws. A U.S. residual capability is to be kept in the country to continue advising and training the ANSF and, when necessary, to help coordinate specific surgical strikes to kill or capture the worst of the enemies still operating.

However, the OEF effort has suffered from a lack of coherent, clearheaded analysis of the strategic ends sought by the United States and the ways and means necessary to achieve those ends. Without prudent consideration for the concomitant risks involved, second- and third-order effects were not and are not considered. The United States has never, in over 12 years of war in Afghanistan, clearly specified the ends it seeks. And it is impossible, of course, to implement effective methods to achieve strategic ends without clearly articulating what those ends are. Early in the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, America’s political and military leaders should have developed a viable, achievable, long-term strategy for OEF, and then they should have vigorously prosecuted this strategy with unity of command, unity of effort, and urgency – none of which has been exhibited in this 12-year campaign.

The U.S. military is exhausted and spread very thin. This means it cannot provide sufficient military force to adequately and simultaneously address all of America’s substantial global commitments. Although the post-Cold War U.S. armed forces drawdown that began in 1990-91 is a major factor, a large part of this inadequacy is due to the extraordinarily long-term commitments to Afghanistan and, until 2011, Iraq. OEF drains the limited, critical resources required elsewhere, but offers no corresponding positive payoff.

CULTURE CLASH

The United States has been consistently unwilling to acknowledge the truth about Afghanistan: it has been, and will continue to be, a tribal society of fragmented villages ruled with an iron hand by warlords. There is no respect at all throughout Afghanistan for the central government in Kabul, and deservedly so – President Hamid Karzai’s government is inefficient, self-serving and notoriously corrupt. There are a few honest, conscientious and patriotic Afghan leaders however, their efforts are too often thwarted by the country’s corrupt senior leadership.

Despite billions of dollars in foreign aid over a dozen years, Afghanistan’s infrastructure remains primitive and underdeveloped. In Kabul, the capital city of over 3 million inhabitants, less than 15 percent of the population has piped water service and less than 5 percent has sewer access. The city has no trash removal and fewer than a dozen traffic lights. There are only five fire stations in a metropolis the size of Los Angeles. Despite 12 years of U.S.-led coalition effort, it is obvious that there is no viable government and certainly no rule of law.

This is particularly a tragedy for the young people of Afghanistan. Over 65 percent of the Afghan population is under the age of 25. Many are fairly well educated and struggling to obtain more education. They are earnest, smart young people who want security, progress, democracy (albeit of a construct for Afghanistan), a reduction in corruption, and a quantum leap in capability for their country and its government. During the conduct of systematic and exhaustive inspections and liaison visits to all 50 police stations, installations and checkpoints in Kabul province in 2011, it was highly gratifying to see the thousands of boys and, more astonishing, girls in clean, neat school uniforms walking to and from schools carrying their Western-style backpacks. However, when the United States departs at the end of 2014, those schools – particularly for girls – will quickly be closed, and education for all Afghans will, in large part, be severely restricted or stopped completely.

There also exists a clash of cultures between Afghans and Americans that inhibits the ability of the United States to influence further development of Afghanistan. Many Afghan cultural norms run directly counter to some of Americans’ most sacred principles regarding basic human rights. In particular, the systematic ill treatment and abuse of women and children drives an enormous psychological wedge between the ANSF and Americans embedded with it as advisers and trainers. Yet the U.S. military prefers to soft-pedal this very real schism, pretending that the problem is that Americans – who have witnessed the abuses firsthand – do not understand Afghan culture, and “solving” this problem by ordering up more sensitivity training.

CURRENT TRENDS

The current trends in Afghanistan are obvious, horrendous and reflect problems that have existed for years. The facts show it is long past the time that the liabilities of OEF have outweighed any advantages:

  • Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Attacks: From 2010 to 2011, the number of IED attacks rose more than 100 percent, and it also climbed in 2012 and 2013. Taliban insurgents have shifted their increasingly effective IED attacks from primarily ISAF targets to softer ANSF and Afghan civilian targets. Although the attacks have produced fewer fatalities, the number of attacks and the number of resulting military personnel and civilians wounded has increased.
  • Insider Attacks: Each year since 2008, the number of insider attacks – “friendly” Afghan police and army security forces striking U.S. and coalition personnel – has doubled. Such attacks are simple to mount and effective, since they allow attackers to get within striking range before the “friend” is revealed to be a “foe.” They also have a psychological impact since they inevitably implant some level of distrust in the minds of U.S. and coalition personnel working closely with Afghans.
  • Number of Assassinations: The killing of Afghan government officials and leaders at all levels is a significant and demoralizing issue in Afghanistan. However, the number of assassinations is not tracked accurately by the U.S.-led coalition because most incidents are treated as civilian crimes. Further masking the true number of assassinations is the fact that the ANSF generally ignores all but the killing of the most influential Afghans.
  • ANSF Police and Army Desertion Rate: More than 25 percent of Afghan police and army security personnel desert per annum, largely because there is no penalty for desertion. This rate had decreased slightly in 2012, but it is now increasing due to the impending U.S. and NATO withdrawal.
  • Loss of U.S. Aid Through Waste/Corruption: Much of the billions of dollars in U.S. aid and resources provided to Afghan army and police has been squandered, destroyed, ill used, hoarded for use in future civil wars, or sold for personal gain. The exact amount is unknown because it cannot be realistically inventoried. Afghanistan’s government makes no real effort to reduce corruption, graft and bribery when these crimes are committed by government officials or those in the good graces of the Karzai regime.
  • Conviction/Incarceration of Criminals: The only Afghan criminals who are caught and subsequently convicted in Afghan courts are those who have offended the existing regime or local warlords. And even those who are convicted often use their political connections and/or bribery to gain their release outright or to arrange for facilitated escapes from custody.
  • Security Status of Afghanistan: The true status of the security of each of the 34 Afghan provinces – totally candid assessments based on verifiable facts – remains unknown since only “whitewashed” information is made available.

The United States and most of the world has benefited from the ouster of the Taliban from much of Afghanistan and the decreased ability of Afghanistan to be used as a base of operations and support for al-Qaeda. However, the point of diminishing returns has been passed. The United States can and should contain any residual, externally focused capability of al-Qaeda but it should accomplish this by the use of armed drones, long-range bombers and limited Special Operations Forces on the ground for target acquisition and surgical military strikes on targets of opportunity.

POST-U.S. AFGHANISTAN

As to the future of post-U.S. Afghanistan, here is what seems most likely in the wake of the American withdrawal:

  • The mission to withdraw all but a small fraction of the remaining U.S. and NATO troops by December 2014 will continue. However, the exact number of U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan is still inexplicably unannounced by America’s political and military leadership. This could frustrate NATO nations that consequently may accelerate their forces withdrawal time schedule, which in turn raises the possibility that the United States may decide to pull out more troops faster than originally scheduled.
  • IED and “friendly” Afghan insider attacks will continue to increase because they are effective and difficult to counter. The lack of meaningful background checks on Afghan recruits exacerbates this threat. Attacks likely will reach a point at which the remaining U.S. troops will be unable to effectively cope with the rising level of violence, which will cause them to retreat to the FOBs in a primarily defensive posture, using drones, airstrikes and artillery to retaliate.
  • The reduced number of U.S. forces and contractors who remain as advisers/trainers will face increasing risk. Therefore, their ability to conduct any work with the Afghans will be extraordinarily limited by the decreasing security situation. The effort and ability to provide guidance and assistance will correspondingly diminish.
  • U.S. Special Operations Forces will remain in some form and in some strength to facilitate strikes on key “high value targets.” However, such strikes may be significantly limited by the Karzai government’s pressure to curtail them. The situation in Afghanistan may replicate the severe restrictions the United States faced as it withdrew from Iraq when any police or military action had to be vetted and approved by “warrants” sought from Iraqi courts – which often, predictably, compromised the security and secrecy necessary for mission success.
  • Significant and daunting problems will have to be surmounted to move U.S. and NATO materiel and equipment out of Afghanistan by road to Pakistan and on to Karachi for shipment by sea. Much of it will be abandoned at enormous cost to U.S. taxpayers. U.S./NATO materiel that remains behind in Afghan hands will be non-functional in 12 to 18 months.
  • Once U.S. and NATO forces depart in significant numbers, the Karzai government will implode and competing Afghan factions will take control. In fact, factions already predominately control much of Afghanistan’s hinterlands. Kabul, along with the rest of the country, will be splintered into separate power blocks under local warlords. Within a year or two of the U.S. withdrawal, Karzai and most of his leadership either will be dead or will be outside of Afghanistan living on U.S. dollars they have secretly hoarded in foreign bank accounts.
  • ANSF army and police forces will quickly disintegrate into factions loyal to one warlord or another.
  • Lawlessness – rioting, fires, bombings and shootings – will become widespread in Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat.
  • Thousands will try to flee Afghanistan via the Khyber Pass, until the Pakistanis close this primary exit due to their own security concerns – more Taliban in their cities and the potential for again being overrun by Afghan refugees.
  • Huge caches of ANSF weapons and ammunition will be seized by Afghan warlords who have the power to take them. Already, much of what was to be distributed to the ANSF during the U.S.-led coalition mission has been hoarded by Afghan leaders to bolster their own forces against competing groups.
  • Afghanistan will again, as was historically the case, divide into tribal fiefdoms controlled by warlords. Some of these fiefdoms will be consolidated by the resurgent Taliban coming back from secure bases inside Afghanistan or returning from Pakistan to take control.
  • Sharia law and strict Islamic customs will be reimposed. Women again will be relegated to subservient status. The Afghan intelligentsia likely will be killed or forced to flee the country to survive. This exodus of Afghanistan’s “best and brightest” will deprive the country of further use of their educated and progressive collective intellect.
  • Poppy growth will explode (if the crops can be revived and sustained) to provide a steady source of illegal drug income for the Taliban (as was historically the case).
  • The Afghan government and economy will be short a minimum of 1 billion dollars per year to properly sustain the 352,000-man ANSF. These security forces cannot be maintained at current levels without a huge cash infusion from the United States that America cannot reasonably afford. The United States will probably provide some lesser amount to support the ANSF, but this will result in Afghan security forces of smaller size and inadequate capabilities.

This is a sad and disturbing picture. As with Vietnam, the United States – both its political and its military leadership – failed to plan and to prosecute the Afghanistan war intelligently, consistently and with the urgency and capability necessary for success. Most lacking in OEF has been the disciplined intellectual integrity that is absolutely essential in order to develop, resource and aggressively implement a coherent national strategy.

Colonel (Ret.) William V. Wengerserved 42 years in the U.S. Army as Infantry, Airborne Ranger. He volunteered for multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a senior adviser, as well as a tactical adviser, to the Iraqi and Afghan police and armies. He served three years on the U.S. Army War College faculty and is currently a U.S. State Department contractor developing curriculum and teaching at the Republic of Georgia Command and General Staff College in Tbilisi.

Originally published in the March 2014 issue of Armchair General.


The Executive Branch Of The Government Of Afghanistan

According to the new constitution adopted in 2004, the elected president and two vice presidents have a 5-year term. The president becomes the chief of state and the head of government. He or she appoints ministers who are subject to the approval of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the National Assembly. Today, the executive branch has 25 ministries and several independent departments and agencies as well as commissions who carry out government duties dictated by the constitution. The constitution concentrates decision making to the presidency. Like most nations around the world, the Afghan Constitution assigns little official roles and responsibilities to the vice president beyond assuming the presidency for a short while in the absence of the incumbent. The major function of the vice presidents is to attract ethnic voters for their running mates.


Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History

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If time spent studying Afghanistan brings wisdom, then Thomas Barfield must have the judgment of Solomon: He has been traveling there since the early 1970s as an anthropologist. Any book that he — now a professor at Boston University — writes on the subject deserves to be taken seriously. His latest book, Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History, also has the ambitious goalof being a comprehensive but readable short history of Afghanistan, with a heavy focus on the last nine years.

It hits the target. Although casual readers may find the early pages hard going, the pace soon picks up quotations from the poet Sa’di and Ibn Khaldun provide variety. Barfield’s vision of the "longue durée" means looking at Afghanistan’s development over the course of centuries. Not for him the perpetually renewed mantra that "the next six months are critical" he can instead bring a vision of Afghanistan over the centuries to cut through knott ydebates with easy self-confidence and lapidary sentences.

On Afghanistan’s new ties with its northern neighbors in Central Asia, Barfield asserts: "Turko-Persia is back, and Afghanistan is a part of it."

For those who helped the Afghans design their present Constitution, a scathing epitaph:

"Afghan state-building in the twenty-first century was fatally flawed because it attempted to restore a system designed for autocrats in a land where autocracy was no longer politically sustainable."

For the defeatists, on the other hand, who feel the entire enterprise in Afghanistan was doomed from the start: "In 2001, Afghanistan was a failed state but not a failed nation."

Stripped of their context, such remarks can look superficial but the good thing about Barfield is that the reader can know these are intellectual icebergs, with a vast amount of research under the surface — and very often a number of implications and conclusions at which Barfield hints, but never states openly.

None of these remarks above are meant lightly. His repeated condemnation of the centralized structure of Afghanistan’s post-2001 government is based on his knowledge of the people of its regions, who wanted a proper say in the way they are governed. Barfield’s remark about Afghanistan not being a "failed nation" is based on some detailed thinking about why, exactly, no Afghan ethnic group wants independence.

What can the busy American policymaker take from this book? Taking lessons for the future involves reading somewhat between the lines because the book is mainly descriptive its only prescriptions are addressed to Afghans.

First, centralization has been a mistake. Afghans, Barfield says, have been misled by the example of the "Iron Amir" Abdur Rahman more than a hundred years ago — who achieved central rule of a limited kind, but only through massive bloodshed. President Karzai should learn from the decades of peace enjoyed between 1929 and 1978, when the government co-opted local leaders rather than trying to impose Kabul’s direct rule.

Second, reform will come slowly to Afghanistan, starting in the cities and then spreading to the countryside. Abdur Rahman imposed Kabul’s rule by killing more than a hundred thousand of his subjects but even he "never conceived of the state as an instrument of social and economic change …transforming Afghanistan’s economy, values and attitudes was a task better left to God." And reform must be led by Afghans, not dictated by foreigners.

Third, Barfield takes an upbeat view of Afghanistan’s natural resources and the new overland routes — especially via Iran — which can free Afghanistan from its dependency on Pakistan.

Fourth, donor agencies which have insisted on spending money directly rather than through the Afghan government have "divorced the reconstruction process from the political one, reducing its utility as a source of patronage to build support for the new regime, since NGOs plastered their own logos on projects rather than the government’s insignia." Likewise, they spent their money less effectively by using non-Afghan contractors and labor, so missing out on the chance to provide employment for Afghans.

On the whole, this book is an authoritative and well-written summary of what we might call the majority view. There is a streak in this book, however, of more radical thinking of which the "Turko-Persia" quote is the first sign. Barfield is seeking to shift the reader’s sense of what kind of country Afghanistan is and to what region it properly belongs. He is emphasizing its Central Asian connections and drawing on his own knowledge of its people (where his experience has mainly been in the country’s north) it leads him near the end of the book to some startling predictions forAfghanistan’s possible futures.

For the two final points, tucked away at the very end of thebook, are the most dramatic. Bad news for President Karzai: Reliant on foreign support and lacking real political support within the country, he "meets neither Afghan nor international standards of legitimacy. Afghan history portents an unhappy end for such a ruler."

Bad news, too, for his enemies. The Taliban, "fixated on a past that never existed," offers nothing to a burgeoning younger generation. Pakistan meantime — which, Barfield says, never abandoned its covert suppor tfor the Taliban — has been neatly sidestepped, in a maneuver that appears to owe little to Western ingenuity and a lot to Indian resource: With a new roadlink between Afghanistan’s Nimroz province and the Iranian Chahbahar port, "India now has the capacity to dispatch troops and supplies directly to Afghanistan via Iran if it chooses to do so." Barfield suggests that a U.S.-India alliance against the Taliban, following a U.S. withdrawal, would undermine the basis for U.S. support of Pakistan and would provide a permanent means to keep Islamic militants at bay.

Here is Barfield’s radical streak: With the building of aroad (the first of several which will link Afghanistan with Iran, and with former Soviet republics to the north), Afghanistan is suddenly part of Central Asia — or Turko-Persia, as Barfield calls it. He is right to see these links as opening up new possibilities for Afghanistan’s future, but his next argument is more controversial. The book does not endorse Afghanistan’s breakup indeed, it gives reasons why Afghans have historically rejected this idea. But it does signal the possibility of it, opened up by these newfound links with "Turko-Persia" Afghanistan could split, it suggests, if no satisfactory accommodation can be found between a weak and overweening government in Kabul, which has failed to deliver Pashtun support and bargains with the Taliban, and strong local (and largely non-Pashtun) communities which are feeling more and more alienated. Mazar, Herat, and Kabul would join to form "Khorasan," while the troubled south and east could be Pashtunistan.

This bombshell is tucked away in the middle of a paragraph,when it really deserves a whole book to itself. Perhaps it will get one we can only hope that it will be as well written as this one.

Gerard Russell was in charge of the British government’s outreach to the Muslim world from 2001 to 2003. He is now an Afghanistan/Pakistan fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights.

If time spent studying Afghanistan brings wisdom, then Thomas Barfield must have the judgment of Solomon: He has been traveling there since the early 1970s as an anthropologist. Any book that he — now a professor at Boston University — writes on the subject deserves to be taken seriously. His latest book, Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History, also has the ambitious goalof being a comprehensive but readable short history of Afghanistan, with a heavy focus on the last nine years.

It hits the target. Although casual readers may find the early pages hard going, the pace soon picks up quotations from the poet Sa’di and Ibn Khaldun provide variety. Barfield’s vision of the "longue durée" means looking at Afghanistan’s development over the course of centuries. Not for him the perpetually renewed mantra that "the next six months are critical" he can instead bring a vision of Afghanistan over the centuries to cut through knott ydebates with easy self-confidence and lapidary sentences.

On Afghanistan’s new ties with its northern neighbors in Central Asia, Barfield asserts: "Turko-Persia is back, and Afghanistan is a part of it."

For those who helped the Afghans design their present Constitution, a scathing epitaph:

"Afghan state-building in the twenty-first century was fatally flawed because it attempted to restore a system designed for autocrats in a land where autocracy was no longer politically sustainable."

For the defeatists, on the other hand, who feel the entire enterprise in Afghanistan was doomed from the start: "In 2001, Afghanistan was a failed state but not a failed nation."

Stripped of their context, such remarks can look superficial but the good thing about Barfield is that the reader can know these are intellectual icebergs, with a vast amount of research under the surface — and very often a number of implications and conclusions at which Barfield hints, but never states openly.

None of these remarks above are meant lightly. His repeated condemnation of the centralized structure of Afghanistan’s post-2001 government is based on his knowledge of the people of its regions, who wanted a proper say in the way they are governed. Barfield’s remark about Afghanistan not being a "failed nation" is based on some detailed thinking about why, exactly, no Afghan ethnic group wants independence.

What can the busy American policymaker take from this book? Taking lessons for the future involves reading somewhat between the lines because the book is mainly descriptive its only prescriptions are addressed to Afghans.

First, centralization has been a mistake. Afghans, Barfield says, have been misled by the example of the "Iron Amir" Abdur Rahman more than a hundred years ago — who achieved central rule of a limited kind, but only through massive bloodshed. President Karzai should learn from the decades of peace enjoyed between 1929 and 1978, when the government co-opted local leaders rather than trying to impose Kabul’s direct rule.

Second, reform will come slowly to Afghanistan, starting in the cities and then spreading to the countryside. Abdur Rahman imposed Kabul’s rule by killing more than a hundred thousand of his subjects but even he "never conceived of the state as an instrument of social and economic change …transforming Afghanistan’s economy, values and attitudes was a task better left to God." And reform must be led by Afghans, not dictated by foreigners.

Third, Barfield takes an upbeat view of Afghanistan’s natural resources and the new overland routes — especially via Iran — which can free Afghanistan from its dependency on Pakistan.

Fourth, donor agencies which have insisted on spending money directly rather than through the Afghan government have "divorced the reconstruction process from the political one, reducing its utility as a source of patronage to build support for the new regime, since NGOs plastered their own logos on projects rather than the government’s insignia." Likewise, they spent their money less effectively by using non-Afghan contractors and labor, so missing out on the chance to provide employment for Afghans.

On the whole, this book is an authoritative and well-written summary of what we might call the majority view. There is a streak in this book, however, of more radical thinking of which the "Turko-Persia" quote is the first sign. Barfield is seeking to shift the reader’s sense of what kind of country Afghanistan is and to what region it properly belongs. He is emphasizing its Central Asian connections and drawing on his own knowledge of its people (where his experience has mainly been in the country’s north) it leads him near the end of the book to some startling predictions forAfghanistan’s possible futures.

For the two final points, tucked away at the very end of thebook, are the most dramatic. Bad news for President Karzai: Reliant on foreign support and lacking real political support within the country, he "meets neither Afghan nor international standards of legitimacy. Afghan history portents an unhappy end for such a ruler."

Bad news, too, for his enemies. The Taliban, "fixated on a past that never existed," offers nothing to a burgeoning younger generation. Pakistan meantime — which, Barfield says, never abandoned its covert suppor tfor the Taliban — has been neatly sidestepped, in a maneuver that appears to owe little to Western ingenuity and a lot to Indian resource: With a new roadlink between Afghanistan’s Nimroz province and the Iranian Chahbahar port, "India now has the capacity to dispatch troops and supplies directly to Afghanistan via Iran if it chooses to do so." Barfield suggests that a U.S.-India alliance against the Taliban, following a U.S. withdrawal, would undermine the basis for U.S. support of Pakistan and would provide a permanent means to keep Islamic militants at bay.

Here is Barfield’s radical streak: With the building of aroad (the first of several which will link Afghanistan with Iran, and with former Soviet republics to the north), Afghanistan is suddenly part of Central Asia — or Turko-Persia, as Barfield calls it. He is right to see these links as opening up new possibilities for Afghanistan’s future, but his next argument is more controversial. The book does not endorse Afghanistan’s breakup indeed, it gives reasons why Afghans have historically rejected this idea. But it does signal the possibility of it, opened up by these newfound links with "Turko-Persia" Afghanistan could split, it suggests, if no satisfactory accommodation can be found between a weak and overweening government in Kabul, which has failed to deliver Pashtun support and bargains with the Taliban, and strong local (and largely non-Pashtun) communities which are feeling more and more alienated. Mazar, Herat, and Kabul would join to form "Khorasan," while the troubled south and east could be Pashtunistan.

This bombshell is tucked away in the middle of a paragraph,when it really deserves a whole book to itself. Perhaps it will get one we can only hope that it will be as well written as this one.

Gerard Russell was in charge of the British government’s outreach to the Muslim world from 2001 to 2003. He is now an Afghanistan/Pakistan fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights.



Comments:

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  8. Amare

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