Afghanistan worse off after 17 years of war on terror 

Afghanistan worse off after 17 years of war on terror

In Afghanistan, where the US launched its war on terror in 2001, seventeen years later America finds itself on the back foot. The Taliban has made significant gains in the western part of the country

In Afghanistan, where the United States launched its war on terror in 2001, seventeen years later America finds itself on the back foot. The Taliban has made significant gains in the western part of the country. It continues to bedevil the government in Kabul as well as the U.S. forces in the country. Parliamentary elections have not been held for three years. They have been set for October of this year but will likely be postponed once more. No election can reasonably be held in this climate. Farah Province, at Afghanistan’s western border with Iran, has long been vulnerable to an assault by the Taliban. Recently Taliban fighters with heavy military equipment entered the centre of the district headquarters.

The Afghan National Army and US air support slowed their progress, but could not stop it. The dash of the Taliban into the provincial capital came after months of heavy fighting in this rural and sparsely populated part of Afghanistan. This is also one of the avenues for the movement of opium from Helmand Province—also largely in Taliban hands—out of the country.

Elections have now been proposed for October. Will this election be a shell, with significant parts of the country out of the hands of the Kabul government? The political parties that dominate Kabul showed, during the presidential poll in 2014, the fragility of Afghan’s political system. The ballot box is not immune to violence, and the one with the gun is not merely the Taliban.

The US and its NATO allies has been at war in Afghanistan since October 2001. None of the putative US war aims have been met. The Taliban remains in power in large sections of Afghanistan, the central government in Kabul remains a puppet of its foreign backers and the Afghan people continue to suffer from the detritus of the warfare. Peace agreements are hinted at but not taken seriously.

The data on the brutality inflicted on the Afghan people is stunning. Half of the Afghan children are stunted. Twenty per cent of Afghan women are underweight. Close to three-quarters of Afghans live in poverty in the rural areas. And less than 30 per cent of Afghans can read. The condition of life now is, by some measures, worse than when the US stepped in.

Taliban attacks inside Kabul have remained consistent. Their fighters have been moving quite swiftly across the countryside. In the northern provinces of Faryab and Baghlan, the Taliban has made significant gains. Half the districts in the southern province of Helmand—the center of poppy cultivation—have been in the hands of the Taliban for about five years. In the southern part of Helmand, in Dishu and Khanashin districts, al-Qaeda fighters have built up training camps. They are areas that neither the Afghan National Army nor US forces enter on a regular basis. Parliamentary elections have not been held for the past three years. In April, election authorities said that people in many provinces such as Helmand would not be able to vote due to the security situation. They had intended to hold these elections in July. They had to be postponed.

Elections have now been proposed for October. Will this election be a shell, with significant parts of the country out of the hands of the Kabul government? The political parties that dominate Kabul showed, during the presidential poll in 2014, the fragility of Afghan’s political system. The ballot box is not immune to violence, and the one with the gun is not merely the Taliban.

(The writer is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research)

For all the latest India News, Follow India Section.

Most Popular

Subscribe Newspaper