In 2001, the US-led military alliance landed in Afghanistan to fight a war against terrorism against the Taliban and establishment of western-style democracy. Taliban were the same mujahideen, who were indoctrinated religious extremism against Soviets in the 1980s but left unattended after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989. The region is still stifled with religious extremism and radicalization and despite many efforts, the Jihad Syllabus designed in the University of Nebraska is imprinted on the minds of poor people of the region, who are often identified as Islamists, or terrorists.
Not denying the fact that their extremist ideology has suffocated the modern democratic norms not only in Afghanistan but across the borders, but no one questions those who funded this breed of militant radicalized groups. America still claims to be the champion of human rights and Saudi Arabia is the custodian of holy mosques. The buck stops at Pakistan, which facilitated the phenomenon of radicalization of a group of people with the Saudi version of Sunni Islam.
Pakistan after Afghanistan is the worst hit of terrorism and sacrificed more than 80,000 lives
The country, which was the front-line ally was either stigmatized with the double game or responsible for the creation of the ‘Frankenstein Monster’ and ironically attacked by its own allied forces. The state of Pakistan was sandwiched between two opposing forces: the allied and radicals. The strategic interest of global players and the vested interests of policymakers in Pakistan pushed the society into radicalization and extremism. Pakistan is still struggling to control the menace of religious extremism within its territorial boundary, which is embedded in the fabric of society.
The recurrence of abandonment after four decades is generating another crisis. The twenty years’ expedition in Afghanistan in the name of enlightened moderation, the allied forces under US leadership left the country and handed over it to the same people, whom they were fighting against. America is still finding plausible reasoning to satisfy its domestic and international audience regarding its achievements of two decades’ expedition in Afghanistan. Pakistan is again the target of the blame game.
The government of Pakistan has repeatedly raised its voice for the looming humanitarian crisis in the neighborhood and asked for immediate international help, yet many are busy pointing fingers. Essentially hundreds or more doctoral theses are required to clarify Pakistan’s position and the reasons for the American expedition to Afghanistan, but the need of the hour is to avert the crisis, which may turn into yet another unstoppable radicalization phenomenon.
The strategic and economic interests always ignore the ethical and human aspects of an issue
Humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Yemen and Syria are the best examples of how the human aspect is shaped by strategic interests. A troubling situation in Afghanistan will have dire consequences for the rest of the world. It is not only about the mass migration of refugees to neighboring countries, but also about the transcendence of extremist philosophy. In the 21st century, ideologies do not need people as the vehicle or medium for dissemination, but rather social media, which is a very powerful tool for propagation.
The transcendence of strong ideology(ies) across the borders be it knowledge, sociocultural, religious, or political theories, is transformative and powerful enough to trigger changes in states and societies, which is often beyond the states’ territorial boundaries and anybody’s control. The movement of people may be contained through stringent immigration laws, but the transcendence of radical ideologies sees no boundaries. A click of a button on social media propagates the message, regardless of how hateful it is, to many and at times to millions.
The phenomenon of cross-border mobilization has besieged areas adjacent to Afghanistan with perpetual belligerency and can penetrate deeper into the region. The current crisis is poverty, hunger, access to basic civic needs, which can comfortably be translated into a radicalized and extremist movement.
Needless to mention that the extremist religious organizations always look for poverty-stricken foot soldiers for recruitment, who are ready to fight for a cause’ against a few dollars; and there is no powerful cause than hunger now. Political instability in Afghanistan will provide a conducive environment for militancy and violence that will be difficult to contain by the ill-equipped Taliban government. There is no guarantee, if the Taliban’s lower tier will be attracted towards Islamic State-Khorasan, Al-Qaeda, or even join hands with East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM). Such a unison will be brutal and embrace larger areas and more people than in the middle east.
The reluctance of western democracies to avert the crisis is incomprehensible. Although as an IR student, I can assume it as a strategic move to keep the region volatile and difficult for China to make its ingress in it but as a human being, I am shattered to see the miserable conditions wherein the Afghans are living now. The region has always been engulfed in power politics, but the realpolitik can be paused for a while lest it’s too late. These are the same Taliban with whom the American special delegates were engaged in negotiation for so long—Doha Talks, for their peaceful withdrawal from Afghanistan, why can’t they be engaged in helping the poor Afghans. Not recognizing the Taliban government in Afghanistan will not resolve the crisis.
Dr Seema Khan is a freelance writer and holds a PhD from Deakin University in International Relations. Her core areas of interests are power politics, strategic studies, center-periphery relationships, and identity. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy