Afghanistan: Afghanistan March 2024


March 15, 2024: Afghanistan is still trying to recover from the violence created in 2021 when the elected Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, or IRA, collapsed and was replaced by the IEA or Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The defeat of the IRA was accomplished via corruption, intimidation, disruption of the Afghan economy and a bungled U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The original withdrawal plan was for a thousand or more U.S. and NATO troops to remain to advise and train the IRA security forces and monitor the corruption. The IRA wanted to survive but to do that they had to keep receiving billions a year from foreign donors, mainly the United States. Refusal to cooperate meant termination of aid and nearly all the foreigners would leave. The Americans got a new government in early 2021 and that led to fatal changes to the withdrawal plan. Everyone was ordered out but were given three additional months to do it. That gave Pakistan and the Taliban an opportunity to increase their pressure on the IRA, which now believed the Americans were going to abandon them.

The new IEA declared a great victory but found that few people in Afghanistan saw this as a win. Foreign aid ceased. About $9 billion of IRA cash is held in foreign banks. In an effort to reduce corruption, the cash was frozen because no one would recognize the IEA as the successor to the IRA.

The IEA was self-destructive in the extreme. This included banning women from appearing on visual media or working for any media operation unless they wear a full burqa in which only the eyes are visible. The IEA expects these dress rules to be observed by all women. If visual media are interviewing a woman, she must be wearing the full burqa. Banning women from working in the media who do not adhere to the new rules will eventually mean no women will be seen in Afghan media.

The IEA also banned television dramas that include female performers. Then there are the education restrictions. The IEA does not allow teenage girls from receiving an education beyond the sixth grade. Women working for foreign aid organizations have lost their jobs because the IEA does not want women to work for foreign Non-Government-Organization or NGO aid groups, except those that provide health care. Afghan women are now longer allowed to visit public parks, gymnasiums, or bathhouses. The IEA bans mean women and even adolescent girls can no longer move about openly or work outside the home. The new government wants women to stay from home and only go out in public with a male escort they are related to. That means women cannot disagree with these measures and certainly not do it in public. The government morality police will physically attack any woman who is out in public, whether she is protesting or just shopping for groceries. These prohibitions mean girls can only get a few years of education and perhaps achieve minimal literacy. This is why television is such a big problem for the government. You don’t have to be literate to get news or bad ideas from a TV show. The IEA would like to ban television but there are too many men who are regular viewers, and many households have a satellite dish that enables video from all over the world to be obtained. Little of this foreign media is acceptable to the IEA censors.

There is not much entertainment outside the homes with TV, unless you consider public executions and floggings of men and women as entertainment. Some Afghans do. The IEA responds to all this criticism by insisting its practices are consistent with Islamic, or Sharia, law, and Afghan customs. Not all Afghans approve of the new government definitions of Afghan customs and interpretations of Sharia law. For most Afghans women moving about in public is not unusual and certainly not criminal. The new government is receiving a lot of push back from Afghans who say the old ways are the best ways and that the IEA is out of touch with Afghans. Some of the resistance is violent and the IEA does not control all of Afghanistan and a growing number of areas offer armed resistance to IEA rule.

Countries in the region expect the IEA to collapse in a few years, which will leave the country a narco-state without any central government. Drug production in Afghanistan depends on the Pakistan military for support. The drugs are winning as they usually do wherever they get established. There are not too many narco-states because they all follow the same script. Eventually locals get fed up with the local violence and the growing number of addicts. That leads to more violence and the drug gangs are crushed although usually not completely eliminated. Eventually can take a long time and such is the case with Afghanistan. Compare that to how it worked in Colombia from 2000 on, and Burma after World War II and Iran in the 1950s. The only thing that nearly everyone in Afghanistan can agree on is that opium and heroin are bad. Nearly ten percent of the population is addicted to drugs, mostly opiates and another ten percent, there is some overlap to make a better living or get rich from the drug trade.

Most Afghans consider drug gangs a major threat. The drug gangs and the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan or Islamic Emirate are both largely run and staffed by Pushtun tribesmen from four southern provinces. Pushtuns comprise about 40 percent of Afghanistan’s population. The Pakistan-backed Afghan Taliban want to create a heroin-producing Islamic terrorist and gangster sanctuary in Afghanistan. If you want to know how that works, look at Chechnya in the late 1990s and Somalia or Yemen in the early 21st century. No one has come up with any cheap, fast, or easy solution for that. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's core problem is that there is no Afghanistan, merely a collection of tribes more concerned with tribal issues than anything else. The IEA runs Kabul, the largest city in Afghanistan, but not much outside Kabul and Afghanistan’s four southern provinces.

Centuries ago, life was a lot more violent, and we have long known that life spans were much shorter. This is still the case with surviving tribal and Stone Age cultures as well as what we have come to call failed states like Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan. While there are still a few stone-age cultures left on the planet, there are also several more advanced ones that are cursed with a culture of medieval mayhem. These are the failed states, and the most active ones, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan are often in the news. There are still a few imperial powers making headlines as they try to rebuild lost empires. Most empires disappeared over the last two centuries, but several have survived and are trying to bring back the good old days, for the emperor and his cronies, of power and glory. Empires are dictatorships because democracy and imperial behavior do not mix.

The troublesome empires currently in the news include China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the Islamic Caliphate. Turkey, Russia, and Iran are technically democracies but for the moment the imperial spirit is ascendant, and the main cause of problems is aggression towards neighbors who were once part of their empire. The most active current example is Russia, which is actively seeking to reclaim Ukraine, Belarus, and the three Baltic States. All of these were part of the Soviet Union until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, with the loss of half its population and some of the most productive territories. None of these former Soviet territories have asked to rejoin the empire and many have joined NATO in an effort to keep the Russians out. Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022 and that turned into a disaster for Russia, which is reluctant to completely give back the Ukrainian terrain it still occupies.

Islamic terrorism no longer dominates the news now that ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has been crushed but not destroyed. Global Islamic terrorism related deaths have fallen by over 50 percent since 2014, when there were 35,000. Global deaths hit 45,000 in 2014 but declined to 21,943 in 2022. The downward trend continued into 2023. This activity is most visible in the GTI (Global Terrorism Index), which counts all forms of terrorism. In 2018 Egypt dropped out of the top ten as they suppressed most of the Islamic terrorist activity in Sinai. In 2017 Egypt was number three but for 2019 it was at fourteen. The 2023 top ten consists of Burkina Faso, Israel, Mali. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Myanmar, and Niger

With a few exceptions, all of the top ten countries have Islamic terrorism accounting for a minority of the deaths. This decline is, so far, a four-year trend and Syria is one of the areas where there have been fewer deaths in the last few years. Egypt saw an even more dramatic 90 percent decline. This decline has continued for 2020 but the headline news does not cover trends like that. The old news adage if it bleeds it leads is as true as ever.

From 2014 to 2019 five nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, and Pakistan) accounted for most of these deaths. The largest source of Islamic terror deaths during that period was ISIL, a more radical faction of al Qaeda that currently is where the most radical practitioners of Islamic terrorism are found. Islamic terrorists continue to be, as it has been since the 1990s, the main source of terrorism related deaths, accounting for about 90 percent of the fatalities. The remainder of the terrorist related deaths are ethnic, often tribal conflicts in Africa and Asia. Purely political terrorism accounts for a fraction of one percent of all terrorist related deaths and are outnumbered by terrorism deaths inflicted by common, often organized, criminals.




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