November 11, 2023:
Afghanistan is a landlocked country with Iran as its western neighbor and Pakistan in the east. In the north there are two neighboring central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, plus three other “stans” that do not border Afghanistan. Iran is a problem for Afghanistan. With the withdrawal of American troops and financial support in 2021, the Taliban, now called the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan), took it over and had a difficult time running Afghanistan or dealing with Islamic terrorists and local rebel groups. That has sent a growing number of Afghan refugees into Iran. Relations between Iran and the IEA have been tense but, so far, not violent. Pakistan is a different matter, with many groups hostile to Pakistan finding sanctuary in Afghanistan and continuing to make attacks on Pakistan.
Chaos inside Afghanistan is not unusual and can be considered the normal state of a country that never really came together as a unified state. The IEA is discovering that occupying the capital, Kabul, does not produce a lot of benefits for them. When the IEA took control in 2021, the literacy rate began to fall. At that point the adult (all those over 15) literacy rate was 46 percent compared to 31 percent in 2001 and 18 percent in 1979, when the four decades of war began. For school-age Afghans the current literacy is nearly 50 percent because since 2002 over a third of Afghans have received at least a basic education and nearly half of those have been female, despite vigorous Taliban efforts to block that. Since 2014 the Taliban have put a priority on destroying schools, especially those that educate girls. The number of girls getting an education has been declining. The current Afghan literacy rate is 46 percent compared to 72 percent for India, 96 percent in China and 87 percent in Iran. Countries with higher literacy rates tend to have stronger economies and more prosperity in general. The U.S. has a literacy rate of 99 percent, as does Britain and most other Western nations. The more prosperous Arab states, like the UAE (United Arab Emirates) have a 93 percent literacy rate. The higher literacy rate usually leads to a better educated and more productive workforce.
The two decades of IRA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) rule were made possible by $2.3 trillion dollars of American aid. Some of this money also went t0 Pakistan, which turned out to be a mistake. In 2019 Pakistan admitted that for the last fifteen years it had lied about the presence of over 30,000 armed men in Pakistan and Kashmir working for 40 Islamic terror groups. That deception was one of the reasons the U.S. cut off all aid to Pakistan. In addition to halting cash assistance of Afghanistan, the United States pulled the last of its troops in late 2021 and the U.S. backed IRA government collapsed, replaced by the IEA. If the IEA does allow groups based in Afghanistan to make attacks on the United States or American in other countries, the response will be sanctions and air strikes on Afghanistan. Untrustworthy Afghan governments are nothing new, and it is a tradition that is several centuries old. Outsiders are considered fair game for all manner of deceptions and costly mistakes while trying to do business in Afghanistan. The Americans proved to be the most lucrative victim and, after 20 years of persistent corruption, decided the situation was not going to change and left. The U.S. still supplies support for Afghanistan through its donations of UN food programs for Afghanistan.