By Prof. MK Othman
The Afghans born forty years ago to date have seen all kinds of wars, experienced all kinds of war-induced turmoil, sadness, and hopelessness in their war-ravaging country. This reminds me of my interaction with a Lebanese colleague as an undergraduate student of ABU Zaria in the Faculty of Engineering in the 1980s. That Lebanese told me that all his life he knew nothing but war until he came to Nigeria to study Civil Engineering. In Lebanon, then peace was a mirage; they were going to the schools when possible and thereafter dress for war. My facial expression indicated to him that I didn’t comprehend his narration.
He said, “deaths of people and destructions of properties were the daily realities we faced every day as children and adults, in fact, as a child before becoming a teenager, I thought people die only when they are killed with bullets or bombs until my uncle became sick and died, then, I realized that people can die out of natural causes”.
Imagine the psychological trauma of such war-torn children who were lucky to survive and became adults in the same environment without peace or rehabilitation. This is the kind of scenario witnessed by the able-body Afghans who passed through the ordeals of wars in the last forty or so years.
Afghanistan is a country that has been constantly drawn into armed conflicts in response to foreign invasions or support of its conquests in foreign lands as far back as the 1800s. In the 20th century, the country passed through series of upheavals that culminated in the 1978 Afghan coup in which the Soviet military invaded the country. The Afghan coup became a perfect setting for the so-called superpowers to use the country for their proxy war – a so-called Cold War.
In the 1980s, the world was worried about the Cold war between, on one hand, America and its allies, and on the other hand, Russia/China and their allies. This made many countries acquire Nuclear weapons strong enough to destroy the whole world ten times over. People in these so-called superpower countries were fully aware of the devastating consequences of using Nuclear as a weapon of war; the case of Nagasaki/Hiroshima’s atomic bombs attack of the 1940s was fresh in the people’s memory.
So, nobody dared breaks the ice. So, the Afghanistan situation provided the opportunity as a handy country, not only for the muscles’ flexing but a testing ground for weapons of mass destruction developed by the superpowers. Afghanistan was erroneously thought to be a perfect guinea pig to the world. Therefore, Russia installed Babrak Karmal as Afghanistan’s Soviet-backed ruler in 1980.
Naturally, Afghans were well known for their resistance to foreign intervention in their internal affairs and thus, a group of guerrilla fighters was formed. The fighters were named Mujahideen. A war against Soviet forces was launched and intensified. America hurriedly backed and aided Mujahideen with military might against Russia. As a clear indication of open support to Mujahideen, President Ronald Reagan of the USA invited Afghan fighters to the White House in 1983.
Additionally, in 1987; Mujahideen leader Yunus Khalis visited the White House. Thus, America, China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom backed the Mujahideen against Russia. All the countries, including Russia, have little or no heartfelt respect for Afghanistan as a sovereign nation but found it convenient to do what they did for their hidden agenda.
Initially, the Russia-induced and American-backed Afghanistan war seemed to be a child-play, it was thought all would be over within few months, thereafter, the victors and vanquished would be counting their losses, gains, and experiences but the war lasted for almost ten years. Russia had to literarily beg Saudi Arabia for intervention to stop the war. It was too much a shame for Russia to simply withdraw from the war.
Russia proposed conditional withdrawal before Saudi Arabia as a mediator but Mujahideen out-rightly rejected it otherwise, the war could continue unabated. Russia, then as the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was fast losing its exalted position of superpower and its economy was crumbling, had no option but to eat a humble pie and withdrew. That signified the end of the Afghanistan war of the 1980s.
At the end of the war, the deaths of over one million four hundred thousand Afghans and 15,000 Soviet soldiers were recorded. In fact, in major cities of Afghanistan, the number of martyrs’ graves doubles, if not triples the number of residential houses. If you are the type who so much loves life, you shouldn’t pay a visit to Afghanistan as the major story in the country is about the deaths of people killed through armed conflicts within and without.
No thanks to the proxy war between the West and the East fought in Afghanistan territory.
After the war victory, Mujahideen could not immediately manage the victory and an internal strive ensured, which caused anarchy that almost destroyed the gains until the core Taliban group emerged. The group initially consisted of 313 people who were mainly students of the University of Kandahar.
Taliban was an amalgamation of the Mujahideen groups. Mullar Umar became the leader and head of the Taliban government of Afghanistan in 1990. In the next ten years, the Taliban reigned power in Afghanistan with several pitfalls and glares from western and eastern countries. The Taliban, a puritanical Sunni Sufi/Wahhabi sect, and hold their Islamic views tenaciously and frown at different views of other Muslims with disdain. They were harsh on their citizens who transgressed and ruled their country with an iron hand.
Despite all these, the Taliban government had no issue with America until the incident of September 11th, 2001 took place. What went wrong between America and the Taliban government after the September 11th Incident? What are the accentuated lessons from the 40 years of war and instability in Afghanistan?
To be concluded next week.
Othman writes from Zaria
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily