Afghanistan has been a theatre of war for the last 35 years. In 1979, the then Soviet Union invaded the country. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, Afghanistan passed through a civil war until 1994. Since then, the Taliban ruled the country until toppled by the US in 2001. And since then, the Taliban have been fighting the US intervention.
The biggest loss the country suffered appears to be the failure of the people of Afghanistan to establish popular political parties. All institutions of the country were destroyed as well, and the country became dependent on foreign aid for survival.
Due to longstanding conflicts, Afghanistan was neither able to form an organised military force nor maintain a functional police force. The former Soviet Union had destroyed the country, but no one asked them what the Afghans would do after the withdrawal. Who was to compensate for the public and private properties that were bombarded for a full decade? After the withdrawal, the Afghan warlords were locked into a civil war.
Unfortunately, none has been able to hold these mercenaries accountable either. The question is: who is responsible for providing the Afghans with the amenities for education, health and employment?
Ironically, warlords are still ruling the country, but instead of working for the rehabilitation of the war-torn country, they are still locked in a cold war in a quest for more power in the present administration.
The civil war had resulted in the emergence of the Taliban. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE recognised the Taliban as legitimate rulers. The people of Afghanistan, though, did not have access to basic human needs and facilities during the Taliban rule either.
A new phase of the conflict commenced with the launch of the US-led war on terror. Hamid Karzai was elevated to the office of the president. The US and its allies directed billions of dollars to the Karzai administration for the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country. Karzai remained in power for ten years; India was also pouring millions in aid to the Karzai administration.
No one has asked Karzai whether he managed to ever set up an educational institute, or a hospital, a clean drinking water project, or a scheme for electricity generation, transport system or a system for the registration of Afghan nationals to satisfy the people of Afghanistan and foreign donors that their money was spent on public welfare projects.
Karzai could not even organise the election commission of the country, which was to be an instrumental institution in Afghanistan’s journey to a modern democratic future. The present election commission was not even able to hold the presidential election in case foreign allies were not there to help and assist.
Karzai has been hurling accusations against Pakistan to conceal the corruption he and his family committed during his long rule over Afghanistan.
The US spent more than $105 billion during its 14-year long presence in Afghanistan. During this period, the US and its allies focused on reforms in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan police. The US and its allies provided more than $7 billion a year in aid to Afghanistan, but without any accountability. These sums are visible in the records, but there is no proof of them on the ground.
In September 2015, the Afghan Taliban invaded Qunduz and overran the province in a few days. The Afghan National Army and the police could offer no resistance. After Qunduz, the Taliban also launched similar offensives in other provinces. The question here is: was it not the responsibility of the US to ask why Afghan rulers could not prepare their army to resist the Taliban even after more than $105 billion was spent for this very purpose.
Today, there is no effective police system in Afghanistan. The Taliban attack and capture whichever province they choose. In this scenario, the Afghans must also raise their voice against their corrupt rulers and demand their accountability. Afghanistan’s rulers cannot blame their neighbours for every incident of bloodshed.
The Afghan people must ask their rulers why they have been left to wander in the world as refugees for the last 35 years. They should also hold those in the Karzai and Ashraf Ghani administrations accountable for the billions of dollars of aid money provided by foreign donors for the people of Afghanistan.
They should ask why their lives and properties are still not safe even after such huge amounts have been spent these past 14 years. Both the people of Afghanistan and their rulers should realise these bitter realities and try not to conceal their incompetence by blaming their neighbours.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad.