Afghanistan: We cannot give up

With the police shootings of soldiers in Afghanistan having escalated recently renewed calls to leave the belated country have been heard. This post will try and mute those calls for making the case of staying in a country which has known civil war for over 3 decades. The calls for a quick exit are not only misguided but downright dangerous. It is of extreme naivety people assume we can just pack up a military campaign and a civil campaign we have been engaged in and just tell Afghanistan it can look after itself. The three main things we need to do are remarkably clear even to the Lehman observer.

Firstly we need to negotiate with the Taliban, Al-Qaeda have been driven with the country and many in the Taliban believe Al-Qaeda was a curse from above. The Taliban were ill at ease with the 9/11 attacks by the raving mad Osama Bin Laden and believed it would lead to the invasion of Afghanistan which it did. Bin Laden believed he could destroy America economically and militarily. The Taliban isn’t one organisation and many in the Taliban are ill at ease with continuing to fight a war they know they cannot win. The New Statesman have conducted various interviews and many state similar things, the Taliban isn’t as radical on issues as it used to be. For example some would now support direct elections instead of an Islamic Emirate. We need to use these sections within the Taliban because the Taliban itself isn’t going away and we need to work with them. They know they cannot take the capital, they know they cannot overthrow the government. Maybe this is a stalling tactic until they can? After all everything in the history suggests as soon as they can wage a war they are confident in winning they do. However we must give them a degree of trust in a free democracy which we wish Afghanistan to be. If we conduct talks it must be a give and take procedure, the Taliban want changes to the constitution which is heavily rooted within a centralized state ideal, if we can negotiate terms maybe we can include some of what the Taliban wants depending on what it does want.

Secondly for a real free country to exist it needs fair elections and a functioning police and army, in 2011 the ANSF had 200,000 men and 13 of the 20 brigades were named as semi capable. This shows remarkable progress has taken place within Afghanistan’s own national security forces. They far outnumber the Taliban, the Haqqani network, HIG, and all of the other minor insurgents in the area. The largest estimate of the amount of insurgents in Afghanistan is currently around 80,000. This includes the Afghnaistan Taliban, the Pakistan Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan and numerous others. The ANSF currently has more than double the amount of insurgents, this shows the willingness of the people of Afghanistan to become a free, fair and functioning democracy. These results need to be continued and money and advice needs to be kept pouring in to maintain this. Many will state the vetting procedure for these men hasn’t worked and many Taliban sympathizers have leaked in, while the attacks have continued and become more endemic the numbers are still small. The vetting is being rechecked and the attacks will soon be cut down as those sympathizers are rooted out.  Now to my second point for this paragraph which is for free and fair elections, this is something that didn’t happen in 2009 due to Mr Karzai and his rigging specialists. It is believed that while there is an army of 150,000 civil servants who try to do their job for the country their is still widespread corruption within the country. This is something which has failed to be clamped down on by Mr Karzai and one could argue even exacerbated by him. We alone cannot remove Mr Karzai from office, that has to be done by the people of Afghanistan in the next election under international supervision.

Lastly but not least we need to educate the country, in 2011 only 28% of the country was literate, 46% of men were and only 12.6% of women. This needs to be changed for the economy to grow, to ensure we can settle arguments and problems with words instead of guns and to ensure respect is grown within a deeply divided country. In 2001 only 5,000 girls went to school, the Taliban didn’t believe it was right that these girls should go to school. However in 2009 now 2.4 million go to school, for boys the figures were 905,000 now up to 4.2 million. In many provinces around 60% of the children go to school and in only one province is it below 20% in a few provinces the intake is above 80%. Not only have numbers of pupils gone up but so has the number of teachers to 156,000 the number of schools to 11,500 and the number of universities to 17. We have created with the help and willingness of the Afghanistan people a small army of educators.  These figures are simply astounding to think that within less than a decade school rates have increased as they have is for me the most important figure which shows the country’s progression, the battle for Afghanistan has been building a nation more than fighting an opposition force and many simply do not realise this. If these results are continued and not hampered, then the country in time will become better and better and shall lead to prosperity. With education and the freedom of women ( in a better state it was 76% of women in a guardian survey said the country is better now than it was) poverty will be reduced and so will the fighting which has plagued the country for over three decades.

These are three simple things that either need to be done or to be continued and it shall take two or even three generations to see real changes. Those asking to see real progress in the form of results now are not only naive but damn right wrong. Nation building cannot be done overnight and while the amount of money put into the country hasn’t been enough real change has been enacted which you can see just above. Other infrastructure projects like 600 million dollars worth of roads have been built, the US has funded 300 million into keeping all day electricity in Kabul on through building a power plant. There were problems with the time it was built in but it is up and running. These all show a commitment to the people of Afghanistan which cannot be broken. We cannot just pack up and leave, we have to keep supporting the people, the government and we have to keep building a new nation. Otherwise it won’t just be us who will pay the price it will be the 40 million people of Afghanistan.

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