As the US is wrapping up its longest military engagement and the imminent inclusion of the Taliban in getting shape, the preservation of 20 years’ gains is turning to a hot and concerning topic of Afghanistan, the region and Afghanistan’s allies. Apart from the Taliban, there is a global consensus on the achievement of the past two decades to not only remain intact but rather keep evolving. Taliban have repeatedly been conniving these gains and believe that there is no gain worth preserving. They as a sign of flexibility admit preserving some but with major reforms namely the Afghanistan National Army or ANA.
Being a matter of controversy, do the gains really need to be preserved? Has Afghanistan really achieved things that are inviolable or subject to elimination or significant reforms? Is losing gains the sole price of peace?
When it comes to the gains of the past 20 years in Afghanistan, democracy appears as the biggest achievement of all. Not only the Afghan government but international allies of Afghanistan unanimously speak out for preserving the very democracy established throughout the past two decades. To be frank, real democracy is yet to take root in Afghanistan. Afghans still have a long route towards being a fully democratic nation. There is still vas proportion of Afghanistan’s population in particular rural who have no concept of democracy whatsoever. As per the global belief, democracy needs at least three decades to thoroughly take root in a nation. Despite all the flaws, the very democracy is way better than not having it at all, hence it is worth preserving.
When there are talks over democracy in Afghanistan, the election is used parallel to that. Being an integral and inseparable principle of democracy, election forms the base and root of it. Afghan people in the past 20 years have cast ballots in different elections i.e. presidential, parliamentary and provincial councils’ elections irrespective of the low turnout, flaws and/or technical problems. Howsoever the electoral system has been, it has resulted in an elected government, parliament and provincial council members, thus the very system necessarily may be in need of reforms but is considered again which does not have to be turned a blind eye on.
The establishment of Afghanistan’s national defense and security forces or ANDSF and civil apparatus of government are core gains along with the ones mentioned above.
20 years back, the 25-year old employee of the government, teacher of the school, engineer, doctor, reporter and a colonel of the army was just a 5-year old kid who did not even attend school. This is gain that need not be stepped on.
Millions of girls go to school while tens of thousands of them attend university classes, thousands of women are employed particularly in high ranks, thousands of schools and tens of universities are built and the transportation system in now provided with tens of thousands of kilometers of asphalted roads nationwide, these are all the gains of past two decades one cannot ignore.
A 90s Kabul is now one of the fastest-growing cities in Asia with hundreds of relatively tall buildings, to some extent modern-day urban life, factories, transportation and electricity. The ruins of Kabul are now lit with the glorious nightlife of the city. This is definitely a 180-degree turn from that of pre-2000.
On the other hand, there are surely some matters of grave concern which desperately need to be addressed and consequently be reformed.
The appearance of fresh warlords along with the already existed ones is of serious worry. The priors have been seen to be committing major crimes which are most often hurting national interests and security. Escape of some prominent and high-ranking figures to a specific province after embezzlement and corruption of high level to evade arrest. Unfortunate advocacy of these culprits by people in the highest positions of government. The inability of the government to reshuffle its cabinet on specific occasions. The mentioned items are too concerning on a high level because it directly implies the incompetency of government which can overshadow the gains.
The recent but hazardous current-demolition of imported power pylons, ultimate insecurity of Kabul, vas corruption and illegal recruitment based on party, ethnicity, region, and language and the compromise of meritocracy can undoubtedly spoil the achievements of the past 20 years. Kabul certainly was not a city where one could brutally be killed just for his cellphone. It was not a city where citizens could not commute comfortably and without worry. These all together have contributed to the creation of a system that people do not trust to be able to provide them with cozy life hence the process gives the Taliban the justification to call it an impaired system in need of grave reforms.
If we have inviolable and irreplaceable gains on the one hand, on the other hand, we too have parts of the current system which ought to be reformed one way or the other. The core issue for the time being to ensure the potent of government is taking action vas-a-vis the warlords hurting national security. This can on the one hand signify a capable central government, on the other hand, it will enable the government to mention the gains as non-negotiable at the negotiating table with the Taliban.
To sum, life can not necessarily be called peaceful as long as you are devoid of the gains achieved during the past 20 years. So, the price of peace cannot and should not be those achievements.
DISCLAIMER – The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Khaama Press News Agency. We welcome opinions and submissions to Khaama Press Opinions– Please email them to [email protected].