General Assembly Plenary
The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security
Afghanistan is a small poor backward county in central Asia. It has no natural resources to fight over. The world would like to forget that it even exists. The truth however is that the peace and stability in this county affects the peace and stability of the world. With the proliferation of international terrorism into any and all corners of the globe the world has truly become smaller. It is in the best interest of the world that Afghanistan has a stable government.
Modern war and strife began in Afghanistan in 1838, when the British invaded in order to prevent Russian expansion into the region. Over the next 81 years Britain would fight three wars until it would eventually be permanently ejected in 1919 when Afghanistan gained its independence. Having so gained its independence, Amanollah Khan, the king of Afghanistan, set out to modernize the country. By 1929, however, the religious leaders—the mullahs—had incited a revolt against the modernization; and Amanollah was removed from power. The resistance to change by the mullahs of Afghanistan survives even today, and has been a source of past, present, and future conflict in Afghanistan.
The reforms Amanollah started did a great deal for Afghanistan. In 1964 the country drafted a constitution and gave all citizens the right to vote. In 1965 women voted in Afghani elections and even ran for office. The Afghan government was set up much like the United States government, with separations of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. In 1973, however, a military government took control. This government only ruled till 1978 when a revolutionary communist council took control and signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union. This government oppressed the Islamic majority until it was overthrown in 1979. When this occurred the Soviet Union claimed that western powers had interfered, and soon the Soviets invaded Afghanistan to regain control. There is little evidence that western powers had made significant contributions to the communist government’s overthrow; after the Soviets invaded, however, the United States began funding and supporting the forces fighting the Soviet occupation.
Once the Soviets gained control of the country and set up a puppet communist government, they kept it in power through military force. In 1986, the Soviets changed governments, putting a communist named Najibullah into power. Two years later the Soviets, after suffering heavy losses from American-backed Islamic freedom fighters, left Afghanistan for good. After the Soviet pull-out Najibullah declared marshal law and replaced all non-communists in his government with communists. Najibullah, even without Soviet troops backing his rule, stayed in power till in 1992 when rebels captured Kabul and forced him from power. The Rebels who captured the capital of Kabul promptly cut all ties to the outside world and Afghanistan sank into even greater poverty and internal fighting than ever before.
As the regional warlords and the rebel factions battled for power the people of Afghanistan became more and more desperate, and a powerful new faction arose in the south. They called themselves the Taliban; they were ultra-conservative Islamic fundamentalists, and they took advantage of the internal fighting and appealed to the people who wanted only order. The Taliban appealed to their people by bringing order out of chaos. The Taliban captured 90 percent of Afghanistan and imposed strict Islamic law on the people. The rival factions who had been fighting each other forgot their differences and joined forces forming a new faction know as the Northern Alliance. The Taliban and the northern alliance would fight across a largely stagnant front from 1998 till 2001, when the United States and other western powers intervened on behalf of the Northern Alliance.
On September 11th 2001 commercial airline jets crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centers in New York, a Pennsylvanian field, and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. This event had serious implications on the history of the world and a surprising impact on Afghanistan. The Taliban hosted Osama Bin Ladin, the ringleader of the 9-11attacks, inside their territory. He used this territory to construct training camps in Taliban controlled regions. It is unclear exactly what kind of training took place at these camps, but the United States and its allies are now resolute to fight terrorism wherever it is found. The Northern Alliance was made up of essentially the same groups that the U.S. had armed and trained in the fight against Soviet occupation. The U.S. again supports them not with arms, but by using the massive firepower under the U.S. control to attack the Taliban directly and allow the Northern Alliance to defeat it.
The Taliban’s fate was sealed when the first U.S. bomb hit Afghanistan. They were no match for their determined opponents and the firepower of the United States Armed Forces. The Taliban was not only at odds with the Northern Alliance in religious practices but also had major ethnic differences. The Taliban was mostly Pashtuns while the Northern Alliance is made up of primarily Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Turkmens. When the U.S. began its attack of Taliban positions in the north a large group of Pashtuns in the south revolted against the Taliban. The Pashtuns were led by Hamid Karzai. When the Taliban collapsed Hamid Karzai was named interim leader of Afghanistan, till a Loya Jirga could be held to name a permanent leader.
A Loya Jirga is a traditional Afghan tribal counsel. When the Loya Jirga met on June 11, 2002 it was essentially an electoral collage. It was made up of representatives from all over the country who were elected by the local population. The Loya Jirga elected Hamid Karzai as the new interim leader. He will rule for 18 months. At the end of the 18-month period the country will have to find a new leader, write a new constitution, and decide how to disperse billions of dollars in international aid.
Although Afghanistan now has a leader and a plan for its future, it faces many hurtles that must be overcome before peace and stability can be achieved in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has one of the world’s largest refugee populations an estimated 3.6 million. These refugees have been pouring back into their former homelands faster than anyone predicted. These people are without means of supporting themselves and have no place they can go where they own land or property. Afghanistan does not have the agricultural infrastructure to feed its population or to create goods in order to purchase food. Afghanistan is essentially dependent upon the United States’ and other western powers’ generosity. The Islamic fundamentalists that made up the Taliban and the terrorist groups in Afghanistan are still trying to obtain power. Recent rocket attacks on western installations and an assassination attempt on Hamid Karzia underline the fact that this country could slip back into civil war and unrest.