The Mistake of Forgetting Afghanistan Again

It would be unjust, dangerous and a mistake for the international community to abandon Afghanistan again in 2014.

mistake-afghanistanThe mistake of forgetting Afghanistan again would be unjust for a simple fact that Afghanistan’s problems are a direct result of a global desire to win the Cold War. It is also dangerous because Afghanistan is still too weak to take care of itself and its boundaries. While many refer to the war against the spreading of communism in the 1970s as “cold war,” most Afghans disagree with this definition.

For Afghanistan and Afghans, it was a “burning hot war” ever fought on this beautiful land that literally burnt it.  When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, this central Asian country became an official theater of a hot war with the Soviet Union-backed communist government in Kabul.

The consequences were harmful for Afghanistan. In addition to losing a state order and prevailing peace, the war resulted in substantial human, physical and social losses to millions of Afghans. Millions had to flee and seek refuge in other countries accepting all sorts of miseries in their journeys.

This war went on for almost a decade with the Soviet Union finally deciding to leave the country in 1989; the year when the Berlin wall came down in Germany. While the world supported the fall of the Berlin Wall, Afghanistan entered another era of brutality.

The international community made the mistake of abandoning Afghanistan in its time of need

The result was the start of a proxy civil war which was practically expected after Afghanistan had been armed by competing superpowers. This conflict ripped the country apart. Beautiful Kabul was turned into a smoking war-field. Afghan children, women and men continued to live through traumatic events of losing loved ones for years. The world did not care.

Unfortunately, it was the 9/11 tragic events that reminded the international community of a long-forgotten country at the heart of Asia. It was only then when the world realized that they had committed a mistake in forgetting a nation that offered its wealth and blood in the 1980s against a superpower that seemed too mighty to face.

They rushed to return to dismantle an eminent threat; and in the process help Afghans rebuild hope for a better future. In addition to facilitating a new political administration, a new constitution was ratified and international security assistance was provided to secure the implementation of democracy and promotion of human rights in the country. Afghans are thankful to those favors.

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Most Afghans are thankful and welcomed the intervention and its intentions. However, they now realize that there was too little focus on Afghanistan’s real development. There has been way too much focus on military action that has been only counter-productive.

The majority of Afghans that live in rural areas feel little impact from the billions of dollars spent, either on military action or in other activities. In essence, it seems that other than changing regimes, there wasn’t any coherent strategy in place on how to re-establish at least a pre-1980s Afghanistan.

Today after more than a decade of international involvement, Afghanistan face similar issues it did after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in 1989. As at that time, most Afghans live with a limited and difficult government, weak institutions, high unemployment and little improvements in human development especially in rural areas. In addition, Afghanistan finds itself in between tensions with its neighbors. These challenges hinder future prospects for stability and prosperity.

Afghans hope that the world should have learned from its mistakes in the 1990s

The international community should not repeat these mistakes, and should continue to bear the minimum cost of supporting Afghans build a better future. The cost does not have to be only aid; it can also be sincere investment in Afghanistan’s economy.

The following sectors would benefit from international investment: Telecommunication, transportation, the education sector, health, the vast mineral reserves as well as agribusiness and carpets. In addition, Afghanistan can be turned to be a hub of trade between Central Asia and South Asia. Afghanistan cannot accomplish those difficult tasks alone.

It would be another dangerous mistake for the international community to abandon responsibility in post 2014 Afghanistan. Afghans do not want another 9/11 to bring NATO back. Instead, they want a civilian and investment surge.

Moheb Arsalan J. is an Afghan analyst and commentator on political, conflict, and socio-economic affairs in the Af-Pak region. He can be reached at Read other articles by Moheb.