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Forecast by the BESA Center No.2,158, 23 September 2021
The origins of Afghanistan’s suffering that led to the catastrophic rise of the extremist Taliban * and which turn a failed state into a serious threat to the democratic world can be traced back to the 1970s, when an explosive mixture of Soviet communism and local Islamism.
At that time, he was on the throne of the country for four decades Muhammad Zahir Shah… A gentle man, educated in the West, the king wanted to modernize his country. He introduced constitutional democracy and tried to open up the civil sphere by granting universal suffrage, promoting civil rights, and giving women suffrage in a highly conservative tribal society.
However, in July 1973, the king’s influential cousin, General Muhammad Daud KhanFired as prime minister for his hawkish stance toward neighboring Pakistan due to longstanding border disputes, Zahir Shah was overthrown in a bloodless coup and took over as autocratic president of the newly formed one-party Republic of Afghanistan.
It was at the height of the Cold War, and the USSR was eager to acquire client states in South Asia to make up for a strong American presence in the Middle East. At first, since Daoud demonstrated socialist, pro-Soviet tendencies, the USSR welcomed his rise to power. But when he tried to distance himself from the Soviets and ordered a purge of the communists, Daoud and his family were killed by his former allies, the Communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).
The Soviet-backed PDPA has formed several chaotic governments in Afghanistan, but has failed to establish itself as the legitimate ruling party amid ongoing civil strife and riots. When the situation became unbearable, the Soviets, fearing the fall of their client state, finally intervened at the end of 1978 (so the author, in reality, the introduction of Soviet troops took place a year later, at the end of December 1979 – Ed.), sending the Red Army to occupy Afghanistan. The following year, the Islamic Revolution in neighboring Iran struck the United States in the gut in the region (in fact, the Islamic revolution in Iran happened 11 months earlier – in February 1979 – Ed.).
Internal chaos, combined with foreign occupation, pushed Afghanistan back into the Stone Age. Nascent democratic institutions disappeared into thin air, and nascent civil rights were nipped in the bud. The pro-Western army and modern police collapsed, and troops and weapons were scattered among the communists and insurgents. Under these circumstances, the tribal, religiously motivated militias known as the mujahideen were the only force capable of offering any resistance to Soviet power.
Naturally, the United States relied on the mujahideen. As part of a massive security project called Operation Cyclone, which will eventually cost billions of dollars, the CIA funded Afghan resistance against the USSR. Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, and Britain also made significant contributions to the war effort against the Soviets. However, since most of the international aid was channeled to the mujahideen through Pakistan, the lion’s share of it ended up in the hands of the most radical elements of the insurgency, backed by that country’s Islamist government.
In 1989, the Cold War was dying. The Soviet Union, still facing stiff resistance from the Mujahideen and already in its death throes, finally withdrew the Red Army from Afghanistan. The country now lacked a unifying nemesis, democratic and civic institutions, or any culture of inclusiveness or tolerance. What really happened in Afghanistan was an abundance of both eastern and western weapons. Tribal warlords rebelled against each other and plunged the devastated country into civil war.
In the mid-1990s, this paved the way for the emergence of Islamist Taliban extremists who swept across Afghanistan at lightning speed and took over Kabul in 1996.
The Taliban ruled with a draconian version of Sharia law that dispensed with Western notions of human rights and specifically targeted women and girls. The country suffered from Islamist radicalism and terrorism, which ultimately led to disastrous attacks by al-Qaeda ** on the American homeland. By the time the US government finally decided to respond, America and the world had already suffered a lot of irreparable damage.
And so, thanks to the ill-conceived withdrawal of American troops, the corrupt, dysfunctional, but quasi-democratic, peaceful and Western-friendly government of Afghanistan collapsed, and the country was again conquered by the extremist Taliban movement.
The withdrawal so far has claimed the lives of 13 American troops and many more Afghan civilians, and the war on terrorism remains largely unresolved. Many observers fear that Afghanistan will once again plunge into darkness and become the center of apocalyptic militant cults such as Al Qaeda, ISIS *** and the Muslim Brotherhood, which seek to terrorize the world and create a global Islamic caliphate.
Worse, hostile regimes such as Iran, Russia and China waste no time exploiting the failed state abandoned by the United States. Their common goal is to pull Afghanistan into their respective spheres of influence and turn it into a forward base of operations for global domination. Now that they have seen America’s inability to uphold its values and protect its citizens and friends in Afghanistan, these enemies will be more aggressive in their own way.
The Iranian regime, in particular, is already using the West’s confusion over Afghanistan to accelerate its drive to create a nuclear bomb that will threaten the entire world. At the same time, it intensifies and widens regional chaos, which will be directed primarily against Israel, the United States and US allies in the Middle East.
By: Dr. Reza Parchizadeh – Reza Parchizade – political theorist, historian and analyst. He sits on the editorial board of Al-Arabiya-Farsi (Al–Arabia – Farsi), as well as the Journal of Interdisciplinary Near Eastern Studies (Magazine for Interdisciplinary Middle Eastern Research). He is also a Correspondent of the Johns Hopkins University Shakespeare World Bibliography Committee (Committee correspondent for Jones Hopkins The university‘s Peace Shakespeare Bibliography).
* The Taliban movement was recognized by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation as a terrorist organization on February 14, 2003, its activities on the territory of Russia were prohibited.
** Al-Qaeda was recognized as a terrorist organization by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of February 14, 2003, its activities on the territory of Russia are prohibited.
*** “Islamic State” (ISIS) is a terrorist group whose activities in Russia are prohibited by the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation