Seven key facts about AfghanistanDecember 6th, 2011 by Paul Hensby
Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, told the global conference on Afghanistan’s future that international support after foreign forces withdraw in 2014 is crucial if Afghanistan is to remain stable.
Many observers foolishly regard a long-term international commitment to Afghanistan as critical, as Western forces prepare to leave the country by 2014. To date, almost 400 British troops have died in Afghanistan, to add to many more from the US and other allied countries.
Karzai no doubt has his eyes on the £4.5bn a year that ‘experts’ believe is needed if the country is to stay at current levels of development. Up to now, the vast majority of aid money has ended in the bank accounts of his friends and family.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has said that the objective of the talks is “a peaceful Afghanistan that will never again become a safe haven for international terrorism.” This goal won’t be reached as neither Pakistan nor the Taliban are taking part.
I find it amazing that those who believe that Afghanistan can be turned into a peaceful liberal democracy are unwilling to address the following:
1. Afghanistan isn’t a conventional state, but a series of local centres of power run by warlords, Islamists, criminals, elders, many of whom are also locally elected leaders who resent the inefficiency and corruption of Karzai.
2. Afghanistan is made up of two major ethnic groups, the Pashtun and the Tajik, with several smaller groups subdivided into tribes. Tribes often occupy specific areas such as valley passes and are suspicious and hostile towards other tribes. It is not possible to unify these groups or deal with them as if they are unified.
3. Some of these groups straddle national boundaries and have little loyalty to any nation but to their own group, its customs and beliefs. Their culture has nothing in common with Western values.
4. The Taliban are not interested in international terrorism. They are a loose alliance of Islamist gangs and individuals, many from other countries, who want to fight the occupying forces and install an extreme Islamist code of living, often supported by local tribes and villagers.
5. The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan can’t be closed. It is almost 2000 miles long and much only passable by those who know the mountain passes.
6. Pakistan cannot, even if it wanted to, control the homegrown Islamist militants who want to help their co-religionist zealots in Afghanistan.
7. Afghanistan, like most muslim countries, is divided between a Sunni majority and Shai minority with mutual fear and loathing.
All the money and armaments in the world won’t change these facts.
So the quicker the West leaves the country to find its own solutions, the better, and also the more successful the solutions will be.