What’s With Afghanistan?

November 12, 2012


English: An MQ-9 Reaper takes off on a mission...

English: An MQ-9 Reaper takes off on a mission in Afghanistan Oct. 1. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 My son is in Afghanistan and I worry about him. Of course lots of people, including mums like me, have family members in Afghanistan and they all worry about them.

Afghanistan puzzles me. Why Afghanistan? Why is my son there? Why are American children dying in and for Afghanistan? Why are Afghan women and children meted out death and destruction by my compatriots? Did they do us anything?

In thinking about my son and Afghanistan, all I could recall about Afghan history was that Alexander the Great “visited” there in BC. What was he doing there? Well, it seems he was trying to conquer India (330 BC) and worked his way up north to Afghanistan. At that time Afghanistan was part of Persia.

….One day, my son called from Afghanistan, and while talking to him on the phone I asked him if he was scared to be there. He said No! He said my name is Khan, I look like the Afghans, I could be their son or brother, but they distrust me, because I am American. On the other side, the Americans look at me and also distrust me because I look like the enemy. So I go about my business knowing everyone, on both sides, distrusts me. No, I’m not scared. I am the enemy of the enemy.

Almost 1,000 years after Alexander the great and several kings and rulers conquered and un-conquered Afghanistan the Muslims arrived in the 7th Century. Under Muslim leadership the Afghans lived in relative peace from the 7th Century to the 19th Century.

….One day I said to my son, why don’t you leave it all and come home? He said that if he leaves and come home he will be unemployed; if he stays there he collects a paycheck. Not much of a choice.

Between the 7th and 19th Centuries, Genghis Khan showed up in the 12th Century. Timur in the 14th Century. The Persians in the 18th Century (defeated in 1709). No one was able to conquer or annihilate the Afghan spirit. Through out history conquerors and empire builders have arrived in, and departed from tempting lands, and the common people, the ravished natives, were left to get on with rebuilding their broken lives and broken countries. Afghanistan was no different. It saw the conquerors and empire builders come and go.

From a geo-political point of view Afghanistan is in a strategically important location in Central Asia. Long ago, as well as today. The Silk Road, the spice trade, the gateway to the Mediterranean. Between the 19th and 20th Centuries Afghanistan became valuable real estate when Britain and Russia wanted to extend their power and domination in Central Asia.

….One day when my son called his speech sounded funny so I asked him why he was going ha, ha, ha, as he sounded as if he was laughing. He said he was in the north and there is no place on earth colder than the north of Afghanistan. I asked about his clothes and he mumbled something about the beach. Anyway, I sent him some warm stuff for which he expressed deep gratitude.

The real trouble for the Afghans started when Britain wanted to add them to the British Empire.

1839 – First Anglo-Afghan War

1879 – Second Anglo-Afghan War

1919 – Third Anglo-Afghan War

In 1893, Britain and the British Raj drew the Durand line giving India (the part that is now Pakistan) half of the Pashtun territory. This “gift” was supposed to be for 100 years.

In 1993, the Durand line expired, but the Pakistanis refused to return the Pashtun territory to the Afghans. Eventually the lowly Afghans drove out the mighty Brits but lost their land anyway.

….One day I asked my son what he thought of the country. What he thought of Afghanistan. He said, is that what you call this place? A country? It might be a country when foreign domination and corruption get out. But they’re never getting out, not now, not ever. Now we have found minerals and some other junk here, we’re never getting out. We’re here for the long haul, until we haul it all out.

For most of the 20th Century Afghanistan has been torn by wars, rebellions, asasisinations, uprisings, revolutions, corruption and power struggles. These were started, encouraged, supported and helped by whoever the Brits or other foreign powers wanted as rulers or kings in the country. Eventually, the Brits retreated and left the country in tatters, on the brink of disaster – perhaps in and beyond disaster.

In 1979, the Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan and in 1989 the Soviet Troops retreated from Afghanistan. Like their British brothers, the Soviets created havoc and ran like a dog with his tail between his legs. The Mujahedeen forced them out, and once again Afghanistan was a mess.

….One day I said to my son that the Afghans must be war mongers. He said, no mum, they’re not. They are just like you and me. They want peace, they want water, they want food, they want to walk without fear, and they want education and health care for their kids. And their kids want new clothes and new toys just like kids in America.

So for two centuries Afghanistan has been battered by the super powers of the world and one after the other the lowly Afghans crushed the mighty powers.

Well, the Soviets retreated and their empire fell, but they left the roaring Mujahedeen. Now, did the Mujahedeen evolve into the Taliban? I’m not sure. Talib is an Arabic word meaning student (singular). The plural of talib is taliban, students.

How did the Taliban (students) become such a military force? Who armed them? Who made them a military force armed to the hilt with guns, tanks and aircrafts that the US military had to become involved and embroiled in Afghan affairs in order to save the country from itself? Is the US winning where Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Timur, Babur, Persia, Britain, Soviets, among others failed, or lost? We should study history before entering wars.

What is this war about? Opium? Territory? Oil? Mineral? Empire building? The silk road? I don’t know, and I don’t care. Too many people have died and many more will die without cause. I care about all those people who died and will continue to die, unless this war and all other wars stop.

So far no country, no empire has triumphed over the Afghans, and perhaps no one ever will. Why do we think we can conquer them and quell their ancient spirit? On the other hand, why should we, a civilized nation, want to oppress another nation?

….One day when my son called I asked him what he liked about Afghanistan. He said when you stand in my shoes and look out what you see is not Afghanistan, what you see is war.

I care about my son, and all those other sons in Afghanistan living under smoke, minute to minute, not knowing …

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