In recent years there has been an increasingly widespread conviction that, to face up to the critical situation in Afghanistan, military intervention alone would not suffice, even if it is essential to maintain security. It seems the problem requires a global approach. It is difficult to find a symbolic image to represent the war in Afghanistan. It could be that of the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers, or a still image from one of Bin Laden’s video messages. Both would immediately suggest the Afghan conflict. Both, however, would be limited and limiting. It is impossible to fully understand the reasons behind such a long-lasting and devastating conflict without taking into account the political-economic motivations. These are often given little emphasis to focus attention on the dangers of religious terrorism and the need to intervene militarily to stop it. This is not to say that there was no – or that now there is no, at least partial – cultural problem. This alone though cannot explain the military intervention or the use of such huge economic resources. In the view of some, in fact, the 1,700 km trans-Afghanistan pipeline, promoted by an American oil company to bring gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, is the real reason why the United States felt it had to intervene militarily in Afghanistan in 2001. Despite the difficulties encountered and the development of an alternative pipeline outside Afghanistan, they have not abandoned the project. It ought to be operational before the end of 2018. It is financed by the Asian Development Bank, whose major shareholders are the USA and Japan. Apart from purely economic reasons, we need to evaluate geographical reasons. Afghanistan occupies a strategic position from a military point of view. Lying at the heart of the Asian continent, it is, according to some analysts, the best location from which to monitor the nuclear powers of the continent (China, India, Pakistan, and Russia). From the USA’s specific point of view, it is geographically the most effective place to contain Iran and to have a useful forward position in containing and monitoring China.
Afghanistan – A Brief History
Since the year 1900, eleven ruling powers have been toppled by undemocratic means. The country’s most recent period of stability was from 1933 to 1973, when King Zahir Shah governed the country. In July 1973, however, his brother-in-law, Mohammed Daoud, launched a peaceful coup following which the King was removed and the republic proclaimed. Daoud and his family were assassinated in 1978 when the communist Popular Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power in a coup (27 April). On 24 December 1979, the Soviet Union launched a military intervention against the government, which it considered too friendly towards the USA. Under mounting international pressure and with 15,000 Soviet soldiers killed by the opposing forces of the American-trained Mujaheddin, the USSR left the country in 1989.
The fighting continued. This time between different Mujaheddin factions. This distributed the control of the nation among warlords, causing the Taliban to emerge. The worst of these conflicts took place in 1994, when 40,000 people were killed in clashes between factions in the Kabul urban area and the city was destroyed by artillery rounds. With Pakistan as their strategic ally, the Taliban developed as a political-religious force and eventually took power in 1996. They were later able to take over 90% of the country with the exception of the Northern Alliance stronghold in the north-east of the country. (M.B.)