Is a Civil War following Afghanistan?

Is a Civil War following Afghanistan?

Rajarsahi Chakraborty, Jawaharlal Nehru University – 6 August 2021

By the first quarter of 2021, Afghanistan has witnessed the resurgent of Taliban which has killed 573 people and left 1210 injured. As of July 2021, out of total districts, 223 districts are captured by the Taliban, 111 districts are contested between the Taliban and the Afghan government and 73 districts are under government control. Is a civil war following again the war torn country like it did in 80s? Although it is too early to predict anything for the future of the country but certain similarities can be seen between Afghanistan during the 80’s civil war and Afghanistan today: a troop’s withdrawal with little support, a flawed peace deal, overdependence on foreign aid, and a presence of a complicated power structure in the country.

Although billions of foreign aid was a channel to the war-torn country little progress was made in the capacity building programme.  The lack of capacity building measures led to an inefficient central government that is incapable of remaining united in an ethnically diverse country like Afghanistan. This also triggered the birth of various power blocks across the country such as ethnic leaders, warlords, local community and other extremist groups. Since 2014, the continuous flow of foreign aid took a serious hit. The lack of capacity building made the country dependant on foreign aid. The channelling of foreign aid could be affected if the centralised government do not hold power in Afghanistan. Amid tensions between the two nations, Afghan president Asraf Ghani met Joe Biden in Washington where the latter pledged his commitment in maintaining Afghan military forces, economic and political support. In the meeting, no military assistance has been promised to the country. Surprisingly, the country has already received two decades of economic aid and political support from the entire international community. If the presence of the international forces in the Afghan soil could not use the support efficiently, how the Afghan government would manage that is highly dubious. Although the international community is pledging their continuous support for the country but in reality the financial commitment is drying up. In 2021, less than 40 percent of total appealed amount was funded by the international community to Afghanistan. The power structure of Afghanistan is very different from that of western countries. In 2003, for the first time in Afghan history, a democratic government came to power. But the introduction of democracy by the international community seemed not to be working and nit being accepted by the Taliban leaders. Nevertheless, democracy and the centralisation of power are foreign concepts for the Afghan people. The country has always been decentralised since the very beginning. The country has so many ethnic groups, marginalised sections, warlords and other local communities. Afghan people have their allegiances towards such ethnic groups and warlords and local communities. It is very difficult for the centralised government to reach people in the hard terrain in every province. The local communities and ethnic groups are quick enough to provide justice through Loya Jirga. The quick delivery of justice has contributed in building legitimacy for those ethnic and local communities. Thus a representative democratic government is not likely to merge the tribal and ethnic society with the central authority. Similar imposition took place following the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan when the Soviet government tried introducing reforms in military, economic and social sectors. During that time the resistant Mujahedeen forces backed by the United States opposed the reforms.

In the 80s civil war, when the Afghan National Liberation Front came to power it followed the Islamic sharia laws but due to weak territorial control could not hold the power for a long time. Just like today, elected Afghan government it had very little control over the countryside areas. Recently, the Taliban government claimed that they hold nearly 85% of Afghanistan. Astonishingly, the Afghan government is accepting the rise of local armed groups in order to fight the Taliban force.

Now the Taliban is demanding that the president along with the elected government must go in order to reach a peace deal. Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen called the Afghan president as war monger and demanded the removal of the representative government without proposing a new system. This reflects that in the country the history repeats itself in the same way when the Mujahedeen group demanded the removal of Najibullah government in the 80s. Najibullah had to step back from power and the entire system collapsed. Now, Ghani has to offer something constructive from descending the country into chaos.   

Mr. Rajarsahi Chakraborty is currently a Ph.D scholar in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is doing his PhD on Afghan migration. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science honours in Kalyani University. After his graduation, he joined Jadavpur University in Kolkata to pursue master degree in International Relations. Following his masters, he joined the School of International Studies in JNU, for MPhil in 2014. He presented a paper in International Security Study Conference organized by the International Studies Association in American University in Washington DC. Currently He is a member of the International Association for Political Science based in Netherlands. He attended few conferences in India and a study trip in Paris. He has also presented his research in Dublin City University, Ireland. He also has few publications related to his research. He is holding a diploma in Public Policy from I-Policy Civil society in New Delhi. He writes political blogs and newspaper columns. 

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