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The Afghan issue for 2018

Afghanistan, at the crossroads of Asia, has seen many conquering armies pass by, but remains fiercely attached to its independence, acquired in 1747 after the collapse of the Persian kingdom of Afcharida. The British Empire learned it the hard way, undergoing many military setbacks before eventually resolving to sign the Rawalpindi Treaty, granting full autonomy to the Afghans. Today, America, and its satellites take a lesson of humility. Afghanistan will get rid of these new invaders, like precedents. It is about time to learn what Afghans want.

The political history of the country is violent. In the last period, President Hafizullah Amin, who wanted to free himself from the tutelage of Moscow, was killed by Soviet commandos. Then, the USSR invaded the country in 1979. The Talibans took Kabul in 1996 and murdered former President Mohammed Nadjibullah, who had taken refuge in a UN building. On September 9, 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud called "the Panchir Lion", leader of the Northern Alliance, was assassinated. We can also mention the assassination, without witnesses, of bin Laden and guess that the fall of Taliban power, during the international military operation of 2001, was probably not a pleasant moment in the history of mankind.

The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan lasted from 1978 to 1992. The country was then ruled by a pro-Soviet government, after a "revolution" sparked by Soviet services. Facing the United States, which supported Pakistan, the USSR, by supporting Afghanistan, and its claims to the Pashtun regions of Pakistan, was hoping to gain access to the Arabian Sea. Khomeini's Iran was opposed to the Soviet Union's maneuvers and triggered riots in the city of Herat against the communist regime of Kabul. On December 25, 1979, the Red Army entered Afghanistan to consolidate its advantage.

The pro-communist government of Kabul tried to change Afghan society: forced marriages were prohibited, such as the marriage of little girls. Women were invited to abandon burqas, to move freely and to drive. In 1988, women represented 40% of doctors and 60% of teachers at Kabul University. The government also tried to reduce illiteracy, redistribute land to poor peasants. But the reforms had come up against the weight of traditions. Afghan Muslims did not want these foreign ideas on their territory. Islamists came from Maghreb, Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, the Levant and even Europe, via Pakistan to do jihad. It was this "Islamic Alliance" that Washington used to counter Moscow. The United States, through the CIA's Cyclone operation, spent $ 3.3 billion, as much as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates, to help the most fanatical mujahideen available, Hekmatyar and Osama ben Laden. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former security adviser of Jimmy Carter, had carefully prepared the "Afghan trap" to attract Moscow.

Mikhail Gorbachev quickly understood in what quagmire the USSR was. He managed to leave Afghanistan without tarnishing the image of the Soviet army. But 80% of the country was in the hands of the mujahideen who, since 1986, were equipped with American Stinger air-to-air missiles that caused the Soviets to lose control of the sky. The Afghan government army, with a population of 302,000 in 1986, was well equipped, but every year 32,000 soldiers deserted the ranks. From January 1987, the Soviets were basically ordered to remain in their barracks. On 15 February 1989, the Soviet troops left. The communist regime in Afghanistan, which had been maintained only with the support of the Soviet occupation troops, fell a few years after this abandonment in 1992. Moscow, then in full perestroika, had renounced to move its fleet in Saudi sea.

Then began the civil war, from 1992 to 1996, in a country given over to the warlords. On 28 June, Burhanuddin Rabbani, a moderate Muslim from Jamiat-e-Islami, was appointed interim president and then elected head of government in December. Clashes continued in the country between the Taliban, the government forces led by Commander Massoud and the mujahiddins of the fanatic Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami party.
Pakistan had initially tried to install Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in power. But Hekmatyar wanted power for himself. Pakistan then turned to Talibans. Shiite Iran, for its part, supported the Shiite Hazaras of Hezb-e Wahdat of Abdul Ali Mazari, while Saudi Arabia backed the Sunni Pachtuns of Ittihad-e Islami of Abdul Razul Sayyaf. Uzbek President Islom Karimov would have liked to set up a security zone in the north of the country. He supported the Djoumbesh, of the former communist general, Abdul Rachid Dostom at its borders.

Starting from Kandahr in 1994, supported by the Pakistani army, the Taliban gradually conquered the various provinces of the country, except for the Tajik territory of Commander Massoud in the northeast.
Talibans established a fundamentalist dictatorship after taking Kabul on September 27, 1996. Mullah Omar, the charismatic leader of the movement and "Commander of the Believers," ruled the country without any political or constitutional title. During the summer of 1996, he granted hospitality to Osama bin Laden who had left Sudan. The Taliban movement (Persian: "students") wanted to end the anarchy of civil war and restore the traditional Afghan Islamic society.
Islamabad informally supported the taliban regime, hoping to secure its trade routes to Central Asia and establish a stable government that will encourage the three million Afghans who had taken refuge in Pakistan for 15 years to return home.
The Afghan population itself acclaimed the arrival of the Talibans, which put an end to banditry on the roads and allowed trade to start again. But the Talibans applied sharia law, a very strict Islamic law, to establish the "purest" Islamic state. Women no longer had the right to be scholarly educated, and summary executions were commonplace.Afghan communists were systematically murdered, and thieves punished by amputation.
Because of the treatment of the Shiite minority, relations between the Emirate and Iran were deteriorating, and the Iranians supported the Northern Alliance. In 1998, the Taliban seized the Iranian consulate in Mazari Sharif and executed diplomatic personnel. Tehran was preparing to militarily attack Afghanistan, but the United Nations and the United States prevented it.
Only in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan the various factions of the "Northern Alliance", under the general direction of the Tajik commander Massoud, evaded the Taliban rule. Non-Pashtun ethnic groups and opponents of fundamentalists found a more moderate regime there. On September 9, 2001, Massoud was assassinated, during a suicide attack, disguised as a false interview, by pseudo-journalists. Two days later, the attacks of September 11 in the United States, attributed to Bin Laden, provoked the American intervention in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had recognized, of course, the Taliban government they helped to create. Turkmenistan also maintained diplomatic relations with Kabul. But the rest of the international community did not recognize the Taliban regime. Westerners blamed the Talibans for assassinating former Afghan President Mohammed Nadjibullah in violation of international law, inside a UN building, during the fall of Kabul in 1992; the Russians, Indians and Chinese criticized Afghan fundamentalists for supporting the Islamists in Chechnya (Chechen Republic of Itchkeria), Jammu and Kashmir and Xinjiang.
Since the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, sanctions had been applied to individuals and organizations around the world, also targeting former Taliban government members. It is interesting to note that Afghan President Hamid Karzai would speak with the United Nations to obtain amnesty for five Pashtun notables, former Taliban officials.
Afghanistan, both yesterday and today, remains very attached to the system of alliances...As well as reversals of alliances.

The international community was outraged that the Taliban regime kept protecting Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda fighters. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, in which bin Laden was supposedly involved, the situation was no longer tenable. Mullah Omar probably did not understand the international dimension of the event. He lost power there. Washington attacked Afghanistan and overthrew Taliban regime.
The Taliban got the lesson. Today, they are working to reassure everyone.

Washington has established an adequate pro-American government in Kabul. Since August 11, 2003, NATO has assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in which 37 allied nations have been strongly invited to join. Since April 2009, the Pakistani army claims to fight the Taliban, but refuses to attack the Afghan Taliban based in North Waziristan.Since 2004, Afghanistan has been a presidential "Islamic Republic." The government is, today led by President Ashraf Ghani. He succeeded Hamid Karzai in 2014, following controversial elections criticized by the main opponent , Abdullah Abdullah. The pro-Western regime in Kabul, like the communist government in the 1980s, is maintained only because it is supported by foreign armies. The country does not want more of the American invaders than the Soviet, British or Persian predecessors.

In reality, the insurrection is permanent, the warlords reign and the Talibans regain control of the country irremediably. The Americans and the government of Ashraf Ghani are aware of this and are trying to find ways to stop it. Perhaps that is why they went as far as having Gulbuddin Hekmatyar return to Kabul on Thursday, May 4, 2017. What better obstacle to Muslim fundamentalists than the fanatic "Kabul butcher" himself?

The Talibans, on the other hand, are trying, in a classic demonstration of Muslim takyya, to abuse Western opinion, if not local population, claiming their appeasement and disinterest for international jihad. But al-Qaeda and the Islamic state, which are also well established in the country, now control most of the province of Nangarhar and, since June 2017, the symbolic place of Tora Bora, former base of Osama bin Laden. The Salafist organization formatted the minds of the new Taliban leaders. There are also several Pakistani jihadist groups and the Haqqani network in the country, a total of 20 of the 98 organizations, labelled as terrorists by Washington, are currently active in Afghanistan. The risk of Afghanistan being, once again, a nest of international terrorism is real. We must remember what the international jihadism ideologist, Palestinian Abdullah Yussuf Azzam, wrote about the duty of the Muslim: "This duty will not end with the victory of Afghanistan; Jihad will remain an individual obligation until all the other lands, formerly Muslim, come back to us and Islam reigns again: we await Palestine, Bukhara, Lebanon, Chad, Eritrea, Somalia, The Philippines, Burma, South Yemen, Tashkent and Andalusia."

It would appear that President Trump has decided to hire additional troops in Afghanistan.What might be Washington's economic and strategic interest in maintaining itself in this country, yet so hostile to invaders?
It is not agriculture that attracts Washington, even though Afghanistan, before the Soviet intervention of 1979, was famous for its grapes, watermelons, cherries, apricots and melons. Nor is the renowned rubies, sapphires and lapis lazuli of Afghanistan attracting so much Washington, although the trade in emerald and lapis lazuli enabled Massoud to pay his army against the Talibans. It is not yet the superb Afghan carpets, the most important export product of the country, that hypnotize Donald Trump. Although their arrival in the country coincides with the explosion of the Afghan Narco-economy, the people from Washington can not officially justify their presence by controlling a country that has become the world's largest supplier of opium. According to UNODC investigators, poppy cultivation occurs now mainly in the Talibans controlled areas, along the border with Pakistan.
No, it is the huge potential of the Afghan subsoil that motivates the United States not to leave the country too quickly in the hands of the Talibans. There is lead, zinc, aluminum, molybdenum, tungsten, chromium, barium, lithium, tin, tantalum, iron and copper that is waiting to be Exploited in Afghanistan. The exploitation of iron ore has not yet begun, but represents a huge potential for the country. Gold deposits have also been discovered. In Badakhshan, an important gold mine exists, not yet exploited. More recently, another gold mine was discovered in 2003 near Herat in western Afghanistan. A British company took over the operation. For coal mines, it is known that the rationalized coal mining in Afghanistan could make the country self-sufficient. But Afghanistan is also rich with significant deposits of natural gas. In 1980, reserves were estimated by the World Bank at 140 billion m3. It is now known that these reserves exceed 2,520 billion m3, without taking into account the new deposits discovered in the south and east of the country.

Finally, oil reserves are 90 times larger than what Soviets thought in the 80s. Oil companies Unocal, Texaco, BP and Total are jostling in Kabul to win government tenders.
Since 2007, China Metallurgical Group Corporation has been involved in the Ainak copper mine, with an initial investment of $ 3 billion, the construction of a 400 MW power plant, a city for minors, a hospital and several schools. It gives a good indication of the strategic importance of Afghanistan. China has already promised to build a strategic railway line for the development of Afghanistan, linking the port of Hairatan on the Amu-Daria River in the north, to the Pakistani border at Turkham for a total value of US $ 10 billion. China is in the process of implementing its new Silk Road, "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR), which will completely transform the countries involved.
America does not wish, after suffering so much in Afghanistan, to miss the jackpot, for the benefit of China or Russia. This is why, in March 2015, President Barack Obama announced that his country was delaying the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, officially at the request of President Ashraf Ghani... Trump's relatives, including his adviser Steve Bannon initially opposed the US military remaining in Afghanistan, arguing that it was not the role of the United States to "rebuild the Afghan state."Donald Trump did not seem to know much about the international interests of his country before becoming president. He is now opening up and understands the Afghan issue.

Talibans are now more powerful than they have ever been since 2001. They control 200 of the country's 400 districts. The Afghan army officially numbers nearly 325,000 men. They are much less in reality: corrupt commanders declare more men than they have to recover more money.The afghan army is no more reliable than it was in the 1980s with the Soviets. Soldiers desert and have little motivation. It must be said that between January and February 2017 only, more than 800 soldiers and police officers were killed and nearly 1,400 wounded. Many are thinking about their future and must prepare for Taliban victory. The Talibans already control more than 40 percent of the territory, and cooperate with government troops to counter the advance of the Islamic state. The Talibans are slowly, but surely, regaining control of their country, Afghanistan. It's just a matter of time.They know it. Everybody knows it in Afghanistan. The politico-military gesticulations of Washington and the international community will not change anything, because they are limited by an administration, a president, a budget. Talibans are anchored in Pashtun society, the country's main ethnic group, which gave Afghanistan its name. The alliances have changed, the Taliban Pashtun base remains. It may therefore be now time to take an interest in the Taliban to understand their views on their country.

The ideology of the Taliban was born in the south of the country, among the Pashtun tribes. The restrictions imposed on women are the result of this remote mountain culture. These prohibitions that surround women, such as the prohibition of any form of music, schooling for girls, theater, etc. Are linked to the ethics of virtue: women who do not sing or dance, do not know much and are confined to homes, are all less opportunities for men to commit forbidden acts.It is, therefore, a form of moral control over society.
Nevertheless, Talibans are evolving: their methodology, born in remote areas, is nourished today by the contribution of the current Muslim world, the discourse of Al Qaeda and the rhetoric of ISIS. Yet, the Taliban intend to keep their Afghan identity and to be the only ones, far from any Western or Pan-Islamist intervention, to govern their country.

Anand Gopal and Alex Strick van Linschoten, two specialists of the Muslim world, delivered an exciting study on the Taliban world on behalf of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN). Since the 1980s.Contrary to the usual analyzes, Taliban ideology has changed, even if it comes more from the mentality of the Pashtun villages than the madrasas, the Koranic schools, of Pakistan.

Almost all Taliban ideologues were formed by pre-1979 Afghan society in the hujras, the informal schools of village mosques.In these "schools", for eight or ten years, there were taught jurisprudence, logic, tafsir (interpretation of the Koran) and Tajwid (pronunciation and recitation of the Koran), as well as poetry, Human anatomy and botany, medicine or instruction on sexual taboos. The Pashtun Muslim doctrine, nourished by Sufism, Deobandism and local traditions, is more complex than one might imagine. Thus, it is known that the Supreme Leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, was deeply influenced by Sufism.
Recently, the Taliban adopted some exogenous imports, such as al-Qaeda's, by pragmatism. But their alliance with the Islamist movements is fluctuating. Thus, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, one of the leaders of the resistance movements, allied to the Northern Alliance of Commander Massoud, is the same who ordered the assassination of the latter. Also, after offering asylum to Osama bin Laden, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf sought the help of the Americans to expel the fighters of the Islamist international still present in his country.
Today's fighters are also very different from their predecessors in the 80s. They are linked with criminal networks, support opium trade, extortion and kidnapping, which was unthinkable in the 1980s. At the same time, emphasis on external conduct — knowledge of rites, prophetic lifestyle, prayer techniques — gave way to internal convictions and fidelity. Some Talibans thus begin to accept the use of cinema and propaganda photography to carry out the insurrection. While television has had little impact on the countryside, the use of mobile phones and the Internet opened Afghanistan to external influences, especially to international Islamic propaganda.Mention should also be made about the impact of millions of refugees returning from camps in Pakistan and conveying jihadist ideas.But more than jihad, the sovereignty of Afghanistan motivates the Taliban. It is therefore a nationalist as well as a religious movement that opposes the seizure of Westerners as well as Islamist movements on its territory.

It is important to remember that Sharia was used as an instrument for the modernization and forced uniformization of Afghanistan by Amir Abdur Rahman, the "Amir of Iron", before 1900, in his will to impose his yoke on the tribes and villages of this vast country. Previously, there was a very diverse interpretation of the Koran, according to the traditions of each tribe. This is where the Islamic tradition of the Taliban is located.

The Talibans were linked too hastily to the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia. It is to forget that Sufism, clearly condemned by Saudi Salafists, remains deeply anchored in southern Afghanistan, linked to the poetic traditions in particular. Many Sufi shrines remain on the border with Pakistani Baluchistan. In Kandahar, the Taliban drum circles gather in the squares on Friday. The young men then turn to intoxication. Mullah Muhammad Omar, as we have seen, was taught by Sufi masters like Haji Baba. Later, then Supreme Leader of the Taliban, he continued to visit his former teacher's grave, almost every week, in Kandahar. Like so many Afghans, Mullah Omar had grown up with the habits of Afghani Islam: belief in taw, amulets or tiny scrolls containing verses from the Koran, visiting graves to pray the deads and Sufi preachers itinerants, who survived without being disturbed by Talibans.

This has, moreover, generated violent disputes between the Taliban and Al-
Qaeda, who considered that Sufi sanctuaries and worship on tombs, were an affront to Islam. The ideologues of Al-Qaeda, Yusuf al-Ayiri and Abu Musab al-Suri, even publicly questioned whether the Taliban belonged to Sunni orthodoxy. The communist government of Kabul, with the Soviet invasion, imprisoned and executed thousands of local notables. Millions of Afghans fled to the Pakistani and Iranian refugee camps. Entire villages disappeared over one night. Traditional social order has been reversed. Aristocratic tribes like the Popalzais and Barakzais, who occupied most of the government posts in the ancient regime, were dismissed.

As a result, social codes have mutated. The old arrangements, based on village traditions, were supplanted by Islamic rigor: everything became "Sunnah" or "non-Sunnah." White trousers were worn, the width of which should be equal to the width of the open arms. The special rope, in the pants, had special standards that had to be respected.The turbans should be seven meters long, and the tail of the turban should be five inches long. The turban should be completely black. The shirt, kamiis as in Arabic, had to reach the middle of the leg, its lateral openings not exceeding the width of an inch, etc.

The obsession of the Taliban in the 80s was the virtue of Islam. They fought militarily, but continued to study constantly, submitting themselves to a discipline that impressed the other groups of resistants.In the chaos left by Communist repression against the notables and the CIA's interference in the resistance groups, Sharia became the mode of resolving all conflicts. Islamic courts were set up in the Kandahar region, which were held by Talibans. These tribunals banished music, drugs and pederasty, among other vices. They also banned pigs, human hair objects, satellite antennas, movie projectors, pianos, organs, flutes, and any musical instrument, billiards, chess, card games, Masks, alcohol, audio and video tapes, computers and television screens, any fermented beverage, energy drinks, lobster, nail polish, fireworks, any animal photo or representation, Christmas cards, greeting cards representing living beings, ties and non-Islamic clothing accessories.

Following the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, the Taliban continued to fight the communist regime of Mohammed Nadjibullah until the fall of the Kandahar government in 1992. After that, most Islamist students went to study in Pakistan or returned to their villages, disinterested by the exercise of political power. The country sank into chaos, the roadblocks turned into haunts of drug-trafficking bandits, looting travelers, raping women and young boys. It is interesting to note that men could be shaved by force, making them resemble those young boys who could be raped.

This moral decline shocked the population, which demanded a return to law & order.
In the autumn of 1994, Talibans wanted to return to the traditional order, which existed before the Soviet invasion. They differed, again, from the Salafists, who, not trusting the village traditions, preached the return to the time of the prophet.
Talibans intervened more and more frequently, to the great relief of the populations, against the roadblocks, the pataks, where were committed so many exactions. But measures of control of the moral order were rapidly transformed into abuse of power, based on a futile interpretation of the Kuran that upset people, in addition to compulsory military conscription and a daily routine which became particularly sluggish, under the control of Multiple religious prohibitions.
In short, Talibans were no longer very popular in Afghanistan when they outraged the international community by destroying the two buddhas of the Bamiyan Valley, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in March 2001, and were responsible for the murder of Major Massoud, In September 2001. on the domestic front, the abrupt ban on the cultivation of opium suddenly plunged many farmers into the difficulty of an unplanned reconversion. It was in this context that Mullah Muhammad Omar, refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda's leaders to US justice after September 911 attacks, triggered the bombing and then US intervention in Afghanistan. Most Afghans welcomed international troops as liberators. The American occupation of Afghanistan did not question Islam in the country; only women's education programs and the re-opening of schools for girls would bother conservatives. Groups and personalities who had the privilege of being in contact with the Western occupation troops used this advantage to harm their opponents. For example, Governor Gul Agha Sherzai harassed the Ishaqzai tribe in western Kandahar, which was excluded from power after 2001; Mir Wali and Amir Dado also organized in the center and north of Helmand the exclusion of the communities of the districts of Kajaki and Baghran and the Ishaqzai community in Sangin. Consequently, it was in these communities that Talibans were able to recruit and organize counter-attacks against international forces.

During the 80s and Soviet invasion, Talibans struggled against the communist attempt to erase their traditional religious way of life. In the 1990s, they struggled against the collapse of society and the loss of benchmarks. Since 2001 and the American invasion, Talibans have been fighting against abuses of factions set up by American occupation. It would be interesting to know whether the leaders in Washington are well aware of these abuses, exercised under their tutelage, which fuel the dispute in the provinces. Talibans refuse to meet Kabul government. Their solution, more than a simple religious crusade, is to reclaim full sovereignty for Afghanistan.
As we have seen, the use of the internet, mobile phones and the return of millions of refugees from camps in Pakistan and elsewhere, has introduced new ideas in Afghanistan. It should be added that today's Taliban leaders are mostly born after 1979 and are inspired by foreign Islamists, be it Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, leaders of the Pakistani Jamaat-e Islami party, Qatari theologian Youssef al-Qardaoui, Indian intellectual Zakir Abdul Karim Naik or even Salafists. A new practice, the martyr, has become ubiquitous in Afghanistan. Suicide bombing is becoming an increasingly popular tactical mode of action. Conversely, religious study among today's Taliban fighters is very uneven, whereas it was mandatory in the 1980s.
Taliban claim their distance with Islamic emirate excesses in the 90s, such as the deployment of an aggressive religious police, arresting people on the street to check the length of the beards, prohibition of television and cinema or prohibition of women's education or games. In fact, without accepting women's freedom, Talibans now communicate on their efforts to support girls' (religious) education.
The movement aims to reassure international community by sending messages of peace, saying it wants to restrict its action within Afghan borders. It might not work as well with Afghan population. Talibans groups would like to themselves as unifiers of all Afghan ethnic groups. But because of the persistence of networks of allegiance and clientelism, andiwal networks as they are called, Talibans and their leaders belong mainly to the Pashtun tribes. Other ethnic groups in the country, such as groups that have participated in successive governments since the Americans arrived in the country, may legitimately be wary of the return of Talibans.


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