Poverty, extremism, surging violence: Many Afghans fear what the U.S. is leaving behind

As America prepares to end its longest war in nearly 20 years, there is no guarantee that its withdrawal will end the much longer conflict that has ravaged Afghanistan for four decades. In fact, it can even expand.

Since the Soviet invasion of 1979, war and violence have left this country with more than 30 million impoverished people in need of foreign aid and desperate for peace. In the past decade alone, families have been torn apart and robbed. More than 100,000 civilians were killed or injured.

Now that the US begins its withdrawal, the Afghans are preparing for further uncertainty. In a country where transfers of power have often been violent, there is little to reassure them that a peaceful solution is in sight.

Growing uncertainty

Violence and attacks on civilians billowed according to the United Nations in the six months after the start of the peace talks between the Taliban and an Afghan delegation in Doha, Qatar, compared to the same period last year by 38 percent.

Recent unrest has included a wave of assassinations against prominent women, journalists and other progressives. It is widely believed that the Taliban are the prime suspects in the attacks, although they have long refused to attack civilians.

Afghan men walk past the site of a suicide bombing in Kabul on April 21. Omar Sobhani / Reuters

Late last month, the State Department ordered government officials to leave the US embassy in Kabul if their work could be carried out elsewhere “due to increasing reports of violence and threats”. It has also been suggested that US citizens make plans to leave the country “as soon as possible”.

Afghans are also concerned that the Taliban might opt ​​for more violence after the US withdraws.

In response to President Joe Biden’s announcement last month that all U.S. troops would leave the country by September 11, the Taliban leaders told NBC News that they would refuse to participate in any further peace negotiations unless otherwise , The US had withdrawn from the country by May 1 as agreed in a deal with the Trump administration last February.

Orzala Nemat, a UK-based Afghan researcher and human rights activist, said the insurgent group’s response had shown it was unwilling to accept peace or build a broad-based government that would represent all Afghans and that doing so would initiate a collision course with much of the political establishment.

“The Taliban should realize that this will be a recipe for another war,” she said.

Two Taliban commanders, one from Ghazni province and the other from Helmand province, said on Wednesday that their top leadership had consulted with international lawyers and experts on how to get out of the February 2020 agreement with the United States The Taliban had pledged to prevent terrorist groups from using Afghan soil to threaten Washington and its allies and to begin peace talks with an Afghan delegation.

Commanders, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that once they officially abandoned the agreement, they would resume attacks on US forces.

An official Taliban spokesman declined to comment.

Weak governance

The US-backed government in Kabul is built on a fragile coalition between President Ashraf Ghani and his former political opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the country’s National Council of Reconciliation.

The government is not recognized by the Taliban, who were ousted from power by the US invasion in 2001, but currently Control or competition more than half of the country.

A displaced Afghan child in a refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2016. Anadolu Agency / Getty Images file

Ashley Jackson, a researcher at the Overseas Development Institute, a London think tank, said confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to win the war had been waning among its political supporters in recent months, and confidence would wane after that US withdrawal likely to worsen further.

Troop morale is also likely to decline as Afghan security forces realize that without the support of the U.S. military they may not be able to hold certain fronts, she said.

“It’s a slow-motion collapse,” she said, referring to the Afghan government’s influence on the country.

Biden said the US would continue to support the Afghan government and security forces, as well as peace talks and ongoing diplomatic and humanitarian work in the country.

Poverty, Corruption and Foreign Aid

After more than 40 years of war, Afghanistan is ill-equipped to stand on its own two feet.

In addition to the ongoing violence and weak governance, the country has also struggled to fight corruption, detach itself from international aid and tackle the effects of the coronavirus pandemic that has hampered economic progress, according to General for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan , a US government watchdog.

Located at the crossroads of South Asia and Central Asia, Afghanistan has long been one of the poorest countries in the world. For many Afghans, however, economic conditions are getting worse and worse. In July, the U.N. estimated that the poverty rate would rise from 55 to 68 percent as a result of the pandemic.

Afghan school children study at the destroyed Papen High School in Nangarhar Province in 2019. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP via the Getty Images file

Afghanistan also relies on foreign aid to support everything from its security forces to its schools. In 2018, the company received at least $ 8.6 billion in foreign grants, representing nearly 80 percent of the country’s $ 11 billion public spending program. according to the Overseas Development Institute.

However, foreign aid is also decreasing Donors promise less at a virtual conference for Afghanistan in November than the last conference in 2016.

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It remains unclear to what extent the US will continue to fund the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Since fiscal 2002, Congress has allocated more than $ 143 billion to rebuild Afghanistan. according to the special inspector general.

Meanwhile, corruption threatens all US and international efforts in Afghanistan, particularly the development of a functioning government and effective security forces to combat the Taliban insurgency. after the guard dog.

The condition of women

Afghan women in particular are preparing for a difficult path.

Under the tough Taliban, women’s lives were tightly controlled. Many were not allowed to work outside the home or perform in public without full body coverage and a male escort.

The militants advocate a strict and strict version of Islam, and many women fear that if they return to power they will restore their draconian rule.

Those currently living in areas controlled by the Taliban are already restricted. Education for most stages of puberty, and women are not allowed to go to the bazaar or market unaccompanied Research by Jackson published in 2018.

In May 2020, a girl is looking for recyclable materials at a garbage dump on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif. Farshad Usyan / AFP via the Getty Images file

Women across Afghanistan are also victims of the ongoing violence.

In 2020 the U.N. recorded The highest number of women killed in a single year since the systematic documentation of the effects of the war on the civilian population began in 2009.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a press conference last month that the US had “made it clear that any country that seeks international legitimacy does not want to be a pariah, must respect women and girls, and that includes any future government in Afghanistan.” “”

However, many women are also concerned that even when there is peace, they will have to struggle to hear their voices. Of the 21 Afghan delegates negotiating with the Taliban in Qatar, only four are women.

Afghan researcher Nemat said the Taliban’s disregard for women’s rights and the country’s broader patriarchal society mean that women will face a “very” challenging time.

“We are approaching a situation in which the Taliban and many other misogynist groups will occupy important positions of power,” she said, referring to some Afghan officials.

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