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The Day Afghanistan Changed Forever

Hamidullah Bamik

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The ongoing war in Afghanistan began 18 years ago by the United States and NATO, and apparently, the September 11 was one of the main reasons for the US attack on Afghanistan. This war began with the aim of the fall of the Taliban regime and the elimination of al-Qaeda’s bases in Afghanistan. Although the US and NATO forces defeated the Taliban in the early days, the Taliban’s defeat in 2001 was temporary and the Taliban began its war operations in different parts of the country soon. Now, it has become stronger than the early of days of the twenty-first century over the past 17 years. Insecurity has spread from the south to the northern regions of the country, and now much of the territory of Afghanistan is outside the control of the government.

During the Jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, thousands of Arab fighters fought alongside the Afghans against the Soviet Union, and subsequently, they were sheltered by the Mujahidin under the leadership of Mr. Rabbani, the second president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan after the fall of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regimes. Then, when the Taliban dominated more than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, including al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a number of Arabs who had been living in Afghanistan since 1996, supported the Taliban groups in Afghanistan.

With the occurrence of September 11, 2001, that members of the al-Qaeda network were accused of taking part in the incident, the United States attacked Afghanistan and began a bloody war in the country after the fall of the Taliban regime. Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, and President George W. Bush announced on September 20, 2001, his stance against the Taliban government as following:

I.All al-Qaeda leaders should be handed over to the United States;

II.All foreign prisoners in the Taliban’s custody should be released and submitted to the United States;

III.All the terrorist training camps should be closed in Afghanistan;

IV.And the Taliban regime should allow the United States to have full access to Al-Qaeda camps for inspection.

The Taliban government stated through its embassy in Pakistan that the United States has not yet provided any evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the September 11 attacks. According to Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeif in Islamabad, the Taliban government made great efforts to verify the incident, but the United States did not retreat from the decision to invade Afghanistan. According to him, the September 11 attacks were not accidental, but the United States had already planned military presence in Afghanistan in order to secure its long-term interests in the region. The Taliban three times offered Osama bin Laden’s trial to the US government for the September 11 events, rejected by the United States every three times.

On October 07, 2001, the US air strikes began, and on October 31, the United Nation’s Forces joined Kabul with the help of US air strikes, and the Taliban regime was overthrown. On November 25, the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was held, and within 10 days, it established a temporary administration headed by Hamid Karzai. These successive accidents occurred rapidly that surprised everyone in Afghanistan. People were dancing and singing on the streets and roads celebrating the defeat of the Taliban and welcoming the United Nation Forces led by the US. But unfortunately, the positive changes and bestowed joys were temporary. By elapsing year, the situation of Afghanistan was getting worse than the previous year. Afghans were encountering challenges and problems that were rare in their nature and severity. This paper aims to analyze the events after the overthrow of the Taliban regime that changed the feature and situation of Afghanistan forever.

The Challenges that Afghanistan Rarely Experienced Prior to 11/9 Attacks

Roaming of regional and international terrorist groups into Afghanistan: After the fall of the Taliban’s regime in Nov. 2001, the number of terrorist groups increased in Afghanistan. It is said that there are 21 terrorist groups fighting with the Afghan Armed Forces and international forces stationed in Afghanistan. These groups include Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan and the Haqqani Network, Jamaat al-Dawa al-Quran, ISIL, al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in southern Asia, al-Mujahideen party, Taliban militant, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Islamic Movement Movement, Movement Al-Jihad Bangladesh, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jash Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tariq Guider’s group, Jamaat-e-Alahar, Jondallah, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan, Islamic Jihad and Qods Force.

Climbing of poverty and unemployment: Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and is widely supported by the foreign countries, even though the country’s economic growth is said to be about 2.6 percent by the end of the year. According to a new survey issued in Afghanistan in comparison to a decade ago, poverty increased by 21%.According to the source, the poverty line has risen from 38% in 1391 to 54% in 1395. The level of poverty is growing in Afghanistan simultaneously with an infusion of billions of dollars by foreign countries into Afghanistan. The United States Agency for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) articulates that the United States contributed to Afghanistan from 2002 to January 30, 2013, was about $ 1.4 billion more than the Marshall Plan budget for the reconstruction of 16 Western European countries after World War II.

Heavy human loss: studies and issued reports echo that the number of foreign military victims in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001 to 2018, in total, 3,546 foreign troops have been killed from 30 countries in Afghanistan, with 2408 from the United States, 455 from the UK, and 158 from Canada, had the highest casualties in war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. After the attack on al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan on October 7th and overthrew the Taliban regime, but the war has continued so far, during which time Afghan security forces and civilians also suffered heavy casualties. As per the reports by the foreign independent researchers, since the fall of Taliban’s regime up to now, around 13,000 Afghan armed forces, including local police have been killed in the war against the insurgents.

According to a Brown University research report from the United States, the Afghan conflict since 2001, when the Taliban regime collapsed by US-led forces, has left nearly 100,000 dead and injured. The study, titled “War Expenditures,” conducted by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University in the United States, addresses the casualties associated with war and displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001 to 2014. The findings show that 26,270 Afghan civilians lost their lives as a direct consequence of the war and wounded 29,900 ones. The total death toll reported in this report includes civilian casualties, Taliban and other insurgent groups, US and coalition forces, as well as welfare workers and journalists.

Unprecedented natural resource losses: Afghanistan’s mineral resources, estimated at between $ 1 trillion and $ 3 trillion, have been an attractive potential for a long time. But the same mineral resources also fueled war and armed conflicts in Afghanistan. In a country like Afghanistan where formerly widespread corruption, an active insurgency, and scarcity of infrastructure and institutions have crippled it, mineral resources represent another potential source of instability. Millions of dollars go through pockets of armed groups, insurgents and armed forces through the extraction of illegal mines, while Afghan people benefit from only a small portion of the wealth generated from these projects. The Afghan government benefits little from its natural mines. It is estimated that there are currently about 1,400 illegal mine extractions in Afghanistan. According to the Global Witness report, 2016, “Military earnings of warlords and Taliban from a small Badakhshan region are equal to the total income of the Afghan Government’s natural resources sector.”In 2014, armed groups from two districts of the Diodara mine in Karan and the Manjan in Badakhshan province earned about $ 20 million. Illegal extraction of mines only undermines the impact of the Afghan security forces and the legitimacy of the state, but also it is a major obstacle to the development of the economy, including the mining industry.

Increasing violence against women: Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission’s statistics echo that violence against women has increased in recent years. For example, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission’s 2017 annual report shows that violence against women in Afghanistan has increased by 8.6%.The report states that 5575 cases of violence have been registered in 2017. This figure was 5132 in 2016.It projects a huge increase in violence against women over the past years. Of the total recorded violence, more than 1,500 cases of physical violence, more than 360 cases of sexual violence, more than 1,800 verbal and psychological violence, more than 1,100 cases of economic violence and remaining violence have been reported in response to behaviors that are traditionally (social traditions) are disgraceful. In the reported physical violence section, more than 1,200 cases of beatings, 10 incidents, 57 injuries, 45 forced labor and 234 deaths were included. The Independent Human Rights Commission says that the statistics do not show the full reality due to the extent of this problem, and many cases of violence against women are likely to remain hidden for reasons of custom and lack of security.

Mass migration and brain drain: the number of Afghan citizens who left the country in 2014 is more than those who left the country in 2001. According to United Nations statistics, since 2002, about 5 million immigrants have returned to Afghanistan, but the trend has fallen sharply over the past two years, and in 2014, only about 10,000 people have returned to Afghanistan. While in the first eight months of 2015, more than 122,000 Afghan citizens have requested asylum from European countries. Compared to the first six months of 2014, this figure that represents around 24,000 Afghan citizens who fled Afghanistan indicate a shocking increase in migration. Now the citizens of Afghanistan are the second largest refugee group in Europe. Among those who leave Afghanistan for other countries are mostly educated persons and professionals. The withdrawal of highly educated and highly trained people from Afghanistan is one of the bitter consequences of the war in that country. For sure, the withdrawal of human resources from Afghanistan will undermine its human resources. Many Afghan experts consider the deterioration of the security situation, the recession and the loss of labor opportunities and corruption in various organizations of the country as the main source of people’s frustration for the future.

Escalation of addicted persons and narcotics trade: in Afghanistan, drug addiction has become one of the most important health and social crises in recent years, and it can be said that due to the large volume of poppy production, on the one hand, the consequences of three decades of conflict, unemployment, and the weakness of strategic health programs, on the other hand, has heightened this dilemma its shadow every day. A recent study by the International Department of Counter Narcotics and the Law Enforcement of the US Department of State in cooperation with Afghan Ministries of Public Health and Counter Narcotics project that 11 percent of the Afghan population uses drugs. More surprisingly, according to some surveys, 12 to 41 percent of police forces are addicted to cannabis (New York Times, 2011). Similarly, in recent years, there has been an increase in drug use, and in particular, the use of drug injection throughout Afghanistan (Ted et al., 2009).This is due to the increase in the availability of and increased opium production in Afghanistan (UNODC, 2012), due to poor social and economic opportunities (Ted et al., 2009), the return of addicted migrants to Afghanistan (Hankins et al., 2002). The number of drug addicts in Afghanistan reached 920,000 in Afghanistan in 2005, according to Afghan Minister of Health 2005 report. The figure reached more than a million in 2009 and reached three million in 2014 that demonstrate a shocking increase.

Weak sovereignty despite granted billions of dollars by foreign countries: the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction 2016 report demonstrates that the United States since 2001 up to now had contributed $ 59.8 billion to equip, reinforce and train the armed forces of Afghanistan (40.2 billion to the army and 19.6 billion to the police) excluding 2017 and 2018 and other international donors’ contributions. The report adds that the Afghan government is controlling just over 61 percent of the country’s land, which has 68.5 percent of the country’s population (22 million out of 32.1 million). However, according to the report, 28.4 percent of the country’s land, which is home to 22.7 percent of the population (7.3 million), is in conflict and more than 10 percent of the rest of the country’s land is home to two million and eight thousand people (8.7% of the population) are under the control of insurgents.

Conclusion

Some analysts believe that the reappearance of al-Qaeda, Taliban control over parts of Afghanistan and the emergence of ISIL in the country indicate that Afghanistan is on the downside in its security. Moreover, the national and international critics’ voice regarding Afghanistan’s reconstruction process after 2001 is rampant and gets more widespread every day. They are criticizing the mismanagement of reconstruction works, spending international aids, prevailing financial and administrative corruption, lack of fairness and transparency in political process such as election and so on. What is disputed is the magnitude and quality of the changes that have taken place in Afghanistan over the past years. Some analysts believe the changes that Afghanistan underwent could be more fundamental and constructive if the Afghan government’s leaders have had serious determination in rebuilding the infrastructures of Afghanistan after the fall of Taliban regime in Nov. 2001. However, still, there is time until the end of the presence of foreign troops by 2024 to change the situation in Afghanistan.

Hamidullah Bamik, a Fulbright Scholar and Researcher in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA, E-mail: hamidullahbamik[at]mail.missouri.edu

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South Asia

Pakistan Securing Its Maritime Interest and CPEC

Qura tul ain Hafeez

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The IOR is a major sea route that unites the Middle East, Africa, and East Asia with Europe and America. The excessive economic growth of littoral states of Indian Ocean obliges them to protect their energy needs and interests in order to endure their purchasing power. This has great security implications for the sea line of communication of the littoral states of IOR like Pakistan.

Continuing to Pakistan’s interests in IOR the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has great potential to transmute Pakistan into a central trade platform, which would undeniably gushed the enemies, particularly India, to halt it. The development of Gwadar sea-ports as part of BRI in general  and that of CPEC in particular has amplified India’s concerns’ and aimed for more sophisticated and advanced naval build-up. Furthermore, India perceives the Gawadar port (that is considered as crown jewel of CPEC) as a hazard to its contesting interests in Central Asia countries.  The reason being, India can access Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian Republics (CARs) only through Cahabahar by passing Pakistan and Gawadar  a deep water sea port that is easily accessible to these land locked states then Chahabahr. A couple of days back on 24th December 2018 India has formally over taken the operational control of Iran’s Cahabahar port – only (0 Km away from Gawadar port. India’s aspirations to become blue water navy in the IOR raise serious concerns among Pakistan’s maritime security. CPEC would lead toward increased maritime politics and contestations not only between Pakistan and India but would also involve China and US.

In such turbulent circumstances Pakistan is required to prepare its sea based defense to secure its sea lines.   Islamabad needs to carefully evaluate its options and develop its strategic response accordingly, involving but not limited to continuous development of its naval capability and an even closer maritime cooperation with China. In view of the prevailing power dynamics in Indian Ocean Pakistan Navyin order to secure its interest in IOR inked a contract with China’s State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC)in June 2018 for two, Type 054AP frigates. The agreement is an extension of a previously signed agreement in 2017. Recently on December 19, 2018 steel-cutting ceremony for the second Type 054A frigate for the Pakistan Navy was held at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. The type 054 AP warship frigates will be equipped with modern detection-state of art sensor and Guided Missiles weapon systems; capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and air-defense operations. According to the report of China Daily report added that the “Type 054A is the best frigate in service with the PLAN”.

It is pertinent to mention here that maritime security is linked with the Economic security and vice versa. Gawader port is one of the most important projects of the CPEC where Pakistan and China are very hopeful that in future this shipping port will generate the revenue for Pakistan’s economy.  There is a big chunk of fishery industry through which Pakistan can earn a lot. It will stimulate business and trade activities at state level and across the region.  The 054 AP frigates ““Will be one of the largest and most technologically advanced platforms of the Pakistani Navy and strengthen the country’s capability to respond to future challenges, maintain peace and stability and the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region” a report on 2nd January 2019 released by  Chinese state owned media said.

In some, to deal with all these existing defies Pakistan Navy (PN) has espoused to a multi divided line of action for safeguarding the port in more effective manners. It conducts security patrolling h and coastal exercises from time to time. Furthermore, previously in 2013 it has inaugurated its Joint Maritime Information Coordination Center (JMICC) in Karachi to provide with an effective mechanism of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).  After receiving these 054 AP frigates warship Pakistan will definitely in far more better position to counter India’s vested interests in Indian Ocean region. It will also help secure the Gwadar port which is the chief component of Pakistan maritime trade activities. China has always been an al weather strategic partner of Pakistan. Although India always tries to propagate that CPEC is military agreement instead of an economic one however, securing the economic interests with an advanced mechanism does not mean at all that it’s planning something militarily. Pakistan has always adopted a defensive policy and it is the right of every sovereign state to secure its interests even if they are economic as there is no morality in international politics, still CPEC is an economic project which welcomes every state of the region for economic cooperation  even if it is India as well.

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2018 was the deadliest year in the history of Kashmir

Irfan Khan

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Kashmir is natural paradise and gorgeous valley located between Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, China and with a small strip of 27 miles with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But it is still a disputed region since partition of United India into India and Pakistan (also Bangladesh in 1971) in 1947.

The history of the freedom of Kashmir dates to 1931 when the people, both Hindus and Muslims, initiated a freedom movement against the then Maharaja (ruler) to have their own indigenous rule. The resentment of the people led to the ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign against the Maharaja in 1946. Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capital, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion. India, coveting the territory, set the condition that Maharaja must sign an ‘Instrument of Accession’ to India. At the same time, India had to attach another condition that accession was made subject to ‘reference to the people.’ On India’s showing, therefore, the accession has a provisional character.

Then India brought the dispute to the United Nations where the Security Council discussed the question exhaustively from January to April 1948. Then both India and Pakistan and approved by the international community that the dispute over the status of Jammu and Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial Kashmiri citizens vote.

The people of Kashmir, despite of being injured since long could not lost their hope. They believe in United Nation(UN), assuming it will advocate choice of freedom for them. During the July-August 2018, people from entire Srinagar and other towns, were protesting government of India’s violation of Article 35-A of Indian’s constitution. 35-A, assure special rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Whenever, there is peaceful demonstration from them, then they must suffer basic human rights violation, fear and state of starvation as response of Indian government. In 2018, 111 civilians are killed which is double to the previous year recorded 40 killing by the Indian forces. India has some 500,000 troops deployed in Kashmir. Popular unrest has been rising since 2016 when a charismatic young Kashmiri leader, Burhan Wani, was shot dead by Indian forces.

Pakistan always has been bolstering the way of peaceful talk with India over the issue. Last year, in October, Prime Minister Imran Khan, repeated Pakistan’s stance that the solution to the region’s dispute laid in dialogue. He said,”It is time India realised that it must move to resolve the Kashmir dispute through dialogue in accordance with the UN SC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.

Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in response to PM Khan said we welcomed “Pakistan’s concern” but called for Pakistan to “do much more” to “put an end to the appalling grind of repression and human rights abuse that Kashmiris are suffering at the hands of Indian state.

Happily, UN has issued human right report on Kashmir in June 2018. The report of 49 pages strongly emphasis on human right violation and abuses and delivering justice for all Kashmiris. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein remarked “The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering. Therefore, any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties and provide redress for victims”.

2018 was the deadliest year in the history of Kashmir. Hope so, Pakistan and India sandwiched by UN would resolve the issue based on Kashmir people’s choice of freedom so that human violation could be ceased.

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South Asia

CPSEC: The Saudi addition to CPEC

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CPEC has been a cornerstone of Pakistan’s long-term macroeconomic policy, and no matter who has been in power, the resolve to continue it further has been steadfast. Pakistan has realized its geopolitical advantage and has focused on constructing trade, energy and transportation corridors throughout its length. China and Pakistan in 2015, had agreed on partnering for the development of an economic corridor which would connect China’s western front with that of the Indus Belt and eventually with the Arabian Sea. The plan saw $ 62 Billion being committed to the execution of the project, building roads, rails, and power projects all along the length of Pakistan.   Contrary to popular belief, the economic corridor actually benefits both countries. China needs alternate routes for uninterrupted trade and energy supply, while Pakistan direly needed infrastructure and power sector development.

Saudi Involvement

At the recent Investment Conference titled “Davos in the Desert”, Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister had pitched the investment opportunities in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia now wants to be a partner in the CPEC project. The investment revolves around the establishment of an “Oil City” in Gawadar. Adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister had said Saudi that the investment in the huge Oil City project in Gwadar would be $22 billion.

Recently after the twitter spat between the US and Saudi Arabia, the relations have been strained between the two long-term allies. Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally in the region is looking to diversify its relations with other nations to reduce its American dependence. This is why Saudi Arabia wants to partner into the CPEC project.

What benefits does Saudi Arabia have with the joining in the project? Saudi Arabia is still the largest supplier of crude oil. It has been looking to secure its oil exports and look for stable markets for its oil export. China is the largest importer of crude oil in the world, accounting for 18.6% of the total global import. The US, on the other hand, is the second largest importer of crude oil, though it also has a huge domestic production which accounts for 40% of its total domestic use. China clearly has the demand and the will to import Saudi oil and for this reason, Saudi Arabia wants to establish refineries, storages, and oil processing units at Gawadar to allow for uninterrupted oil flow into western China. The flow of this oil would be through Pakistan which has longstanding friendly bilateral relations with both Saudi Arabia and China. These relations are also independent of each other, hence the relations would not be affected by overlapping national interests. China also wants to have an uninterrupted energy supply to its mainland via alternate routes, which could not be affected by the geopolitics of the seas.

Saudi Arabia also looks at Pakistan as its long-term partner and a potential market for its exports.  Pakistan has a 202 million population, 70% of which is under 35 years of age. In case, peace returns to the region, Pakistan could show exponential growth and bulge of a new vibrant and energy-hungry middle class. In addition to that, Saudi Arabia wants to have stakes in Pakistan’s economy and what better way of doing all this than to invest in an Oil City, which also happens to be geographically nearby Saudi territory. Pakistan has also been very eager for investment diversification in its economy to avoid being labeled a China-only economy. Showing to the world that’s its doors are open for any country willing to invest into Pakistan.

Convergence of interests

This incredible convergence of interests paves the way for the China Pakistan Saudi Economic Corridor to be a very constructive regional partnership.  This partnership would see three regional powers engaging in positive regional trade and connectivity projects which would eventually increase trade, trust, and dependence on each other. Pakistan and China, both have repeatedly stated that CPEC is open for all to join in and collectively reap the benefits of trade and regional connectivity.

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