Caution: This blog was written in 2015 and therefore is not upto date with the current developments. It is however useful for developing an understanding of the present situation.
Finally I finished reading another good book, The Wrong Enemy by Carlotta Gall (a British journalist). The book is about American presence in Afghanistan from 2001 – 2014 and the inception of Taliban. My driving force for reading this book was sheer ignorance related to Taliban, Afghanistan or the United States retreating its armies.
The Wrong Enemy covers the timeline from Taliban surrender in 2001, its reappearance and finally it becoming dormant. Before I started reading this book, the first few questions in my head were, what is Taliban? Is it a place or a group, where is its base? What is their agenda? And why are they doing what they are doing?
So here it goes…
Taliban is not a place, it’s an organised militant group. Talib literally means religious students or seekers of knowledge. Taliban is the plural of Talib. Assuming that you do not know about the war between Soviet Union and The United States which ultimately led to the birth of Taliban, the following is an oversimplified version of the above timeline.
The United States and the Soviet Union were at war and it was decided that whoever can show dominance in Afghanistan, wins the war. Fast forward, the Soviet Union retreats its forces from Afghanistan and the United States assumed victory. The USA, blinded by its triumph hardly paid any attention to the Afghan situation which was created by the war between the two, wherein both the Soviet Union and the USA supplied weapons to Afghans and were encouraging them to fight against the other as their allies.
Once the Soviet Union left Afghanistan and USA “won”, it created a power lacuna; which was instantaneously filled by local warlords with an abundant leftover weaponry, eager to take control of the situation. These local warlords along with their groups in their respective regions would block the highways and rob the travellers. Therefore, any man with a gun was creating a situation of anarchy.
While anarchy was brewing in Afghanistan, the United States in its arrogance overlooked the ground reality and was instead helping Afghan leaders such as Hamid Karzai (former President) to come to power. But now, forming a new government was not a problem, erasing a pre-exisitng Taliban government was.
Concurrently, one of Afghanistan’s neighbour Pakistan saw this as a great opportunity to increase its dominance over its adversary and another neighbour, India. Pakistan adopted Taliban. And that is when the nature of Taliban changed from Afghanistan warlord to Pakistan’s military to increate its power against India.
This Pakistan backed Taliban was even more destructive than the Afghan Taliban. While the world was progressing to electric cars and gender equality, Taliban was banning women’s right to work, show their faces, or have nay control over their own lives. Not only did they kill their human capital, they took control of Afghanistan’s revenue generating industries. It literally pushed the country a century backwards.
Caution: What not to conclude
As much as I was angered by this new information, what I realized while reading this book was that it is wrong to label any country as good or bad. It is not that all the people of Pakistan are terrorists and neither is it true that all Afghans are Taliban. It is essential that we steer clear from stereotypes; specially since such matters originate from multiple factors making it very hard to determine the culpability.
Attention must also be paid to the language we use when talking about such sensitive matters. We have often heard, “it’s the government’s fault”, but ask yourself ‘what constitutes government?’ ‘Is each and every person who is a part of the government responsible?’ Not necessarily! It could be one political party with certain key leaders who may have certain problematic ideologies, who make destructive decisions are often responsible. That’s exactly what we need to identify before pointing a finger any any country or its citizens or even the government.
About the Book
This book is a shocking and scandalous reality of Pakistan’s secret policies, including harboring some of the world most notorious terrorists and terrorists organizations for its own benefit.
This book also covers political situation in Afghanistan, which made me feel that perhaps we are living under an illusion that there is something called law and order and there is the legitimate elected head of the state who will protect us. Perhaps most of the time they are only doing things to protect their seat which is forever in danger. Perhaps more attention is being paid to politics and less to administration.
Most interesting chapter of the book
One of the last chapters in this book is called ‘Osama’s Safe Haven’. I read this chapter at the speed of light, eating my fingernails, because it covers some really shocking facts about Osama Bin Laden’s safe haven.
Another interesting section was reading about Mullah Omar; one of the most terrifying terrorist I have read about. I used to fear him until I read about him. That simply changed my perspective, as I realized that I was afraid of the wrong person. Mullah Omar is just an unintelligent poster boy behind which the real enemy is hiding.
I’m sure there are good leaders in Pakistan and in Afghanistan who must come to power so that they can bring peace. But perhaps there is some bigger political backing which doesn’t want it to happen. It’s all politics. (these things are of course not written in the book, but it’s quite obvious for the reader to understand).
In the end I just pray for the Afghan and Pakistan people for so may of innocent people were caught in the cross fire of power struggle and foreign intervention and died. Brilliant leaders who couldn’t survive the immediate physical danger and stronger adverse political force were manipulated. I just hope peace prevails in Afghanistan and Pakistan. May all those souls rest in peace.
And for all the people like you and me who are watching all this from a distance, I’d request you to try to really find the reality (try reading this book) and not be judgmental about any country or person.