The occupation of Afghanistan: a predictable failure

The scenes of the Taliban's attack to the protesters who raised the flag of Afghanistan yesterday in Jalalabad are a clear demonstration of the complexity of the reality of a people who, throughout history, have been forced countless times to fight against those who wanted to hijack their multicultural identity. Afghanistan is the country that has changed its flag the most times to the rhythm of invasions that were always defeated.

The current banner was adopted on January 4, 2004, in conjunction with the new Afghan Constitution. The flag consists of three vertical stripes in black, red and green, including the State emblem in the center. These national colors, used for the first time in 1928, represent the past, the independence struggle and progress, respectively. The Taliban want to replace it with the white flag that carries the Islamic declaration of faith and that represents the insurgents and their Islamic Emirate.

To understand how we got to this, we need to go back in time. When the Soviet invasion occurred, we remembered that Afghanistan had never been subdued: its orographic characteristics and the ferocity and will of its inhabitants had prevented it.

In the fight against that invader, the religious conscience of the people was revived before those who tried to fight their belief with slogans that were completely foreign to their millenary idiosyncrasy.

The attempt to win over the population with the removal and exile of the king fell on deaf ears in a population totally attached to its traditions. It seemed nonsense that the Soviet Union, in continuation with Peter the Great's policy and in order to do so developing actions to approach the warm waters, had not reviewed history to find out what had happened to all those who tried to subdue Afghanistan before.

At that time, the United States discovered that, by igniting the Islam, they could collaborate in a defeat of the Soviet Union. This is how they found Osama bin Laden, a Muslim fanatic determined to defend his faith against atheism. Bin Laden belonged to one of the great families of the Arabian Peninsula, a partner in Texas oil companies in which parents and children alternated in the presidency and other roles.

This is how Al Qaeda was born, with the support of the United States, to fight against the Russian invader in the name of Islam. A pragmatic alliance that withstood the time of Soviet defeat. Emboldened, well-armed and trained in the inhospitable mountain life, Bin Laden and his followers perceived that they had the possibility of attacking the nation that they considered the main enemy of their beliefs. Thus, they organize the attacks of September 11, with the result of deaths and suffering that we all know.

The American response was to invade Afghanistan, which welcomed Al Qaeda, to pursue and neutralize the terrorism that had caused so much damage. A strategy marked by the common mistake of not consulting history.

The result was, apart from a commando operation that ended the life of Bin Laden, the strengthening of traditional religious powers, the exponential increase in opium production, the maintenance of social injustices, the resentment against women who did not submit to the codes of a feudal society. A reality that became more evident every day in the outskirts while in the capital, Kabul, some tens of thousands of people were able to access the benefits that came from the hand of the communities made up of foreign military forces, although vulnerable to the permanent threat of terrorist attacks.

Thousands and thousands of deaths in the western ranks and the same among the Afghan population, the destruction of entire cities and part of the region’s cultural heritage, and above all an immense feeling of frustration among those who dared to believe in a better future, were the result of twenty years of wrong politics. Once again, the main foreign actors lacked the knowledge and respect for the richness of an ancient culture, as well as the feeling of obligation to protect a majority that is at the mercy of the fanatics' plans.

It will be impossible to erase from our memory the image of those falling from the airplanes. Of those who naively believed that they could be saved by the invader they had allied with.

The situation of the Afghan people continues like this, prey to conspiracies, alliances and interests of other countries. The opportunity to build a more modern society independent of regional powers was lost once again.


Aníbal Jozami, President of the Foro del Sur Foundation, is a sociologist specialized in International Relations and a businessman. He is Rector of the National University of Tres de Febrero in Argentina. In 2015, he founded BIENALSUR, a geopolitical initiative that connects more than forty cities on five continents throughout culture.