What Will It Take to Rebuild Afghanistan?

This reading list assesses the possible course ahead for Afghanistan after the United States' withdrawal from the region. 

Since the United States has decided it won’t be playing the “world’s policeman” anymore, it may leave Afghanistan in a mess. By acceding to the Taliban’s demand for direct negotiation, it has destabilised the legitimacy of the elected Afghani government, which  the Taliban refuses to recognise. 

Will this negotiated peace process result in a democratically elected Afghani government, or will Afghanistan be under the Taliban rule once more? 

This reading list explores the possible paths that Afghanistan can follow to rebuild itself.

1) Will Afghanistan Evade Fanaticism?

Can a rebuilt Afghanistan resist coming under the influence of Saudi Arabia—financially the most generous proponent of Wahhabism, an ultraconservative form of Islam? Or, will Afghanistan come under the control of the Taliban, who ruled the country before with theological fanaticism? For Afghanistan to form its own path, Ranjit Sau suggests following Bangladesh’s democratic model, where education focuses on both, secular studies and a non-fundamental version of Islam.

The Bonn agreement envisages a society that abides by “the principles of Islam, democracy, pluralism and social justice” … Bangladesh actively promotes tolerance. Rather than repressing Islamists it allows religious parties to take part in political system. This makes them all subject to open critique and assessment by the people; and so they in turn temper their extremism in order to form political coalitions.

2) What Kind of Deal Will the Taliban Accept?

Ambrish Dhaka writes that Osama bin Laden had identified two primary targets for the Taliban jihadists—American troops, for being opposed to Islam, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan for comprising of groups opposed to Pashtun dominance. Given the Taliban’s strict demands, a peace deal with the Taliban is circumstantial.

The Taliban has been clear on two fronts; first, they would not accept any authority talking superior to them, not even the Constitution of Afghanistan. Islam is the only superior authority to whom they would listen to. Second, they believe it is the natural right of the Pashtuns to govern the country. Hence, any non-Pashtun leadership is to be seen as an adversary by them and they have repeatedly gone after their lives by deploying suicide bombers. 

3) Can the Taliban Be Effective Administrators?

It was easy to dismiss Afghanistan as a “failed state” and demonise the Taliban when they were in power, writes Adam Pain, as the West did not favour the regime. However, Pain argues that Afghanistan could be better described as a complex, multi-tier system in which the Taliban wielded power, and where security was provided but accompanied by the loss of liberties.

This is a regime that effectively implemented an unprecedented and almost complete ban on opium cultivation during this last year, which had started reconstruction of the road from Kabul to Kandahar and which was in the process of putting together its first five year plan … Central authority has had little legitimacy at the rural level and attempts to strongly impose actions that run counter to rural power relations, beliefs and sensibilities have always been resisted.

4) What About Displaced Afghans?

Afghanistan's transition to democracy has been plagued by poor governance, low economic growth, rising unemployment and a worsening security situation, with the Taliban controlling a little under half of the country’s territory. Meena Menon writes that the forced eviction of Afghan refugees from Pakistan may not ease the strain on resources or better the country’s security situation, but it will send Afghanis back to a country that is not a safe place to live.

Some 2.6 million Afghan refugees live in more than 70 countries around the world. An overwhelming majority, around 95% are hosted by just two countries— the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan … Many of the refugees have returned to an uncertain future in Afghanistan. Returning refugees have to rebuild their lives amidst increasing levels of internal displacement, insecurity and levels of violence not seen since the fall of the Taliban in 2002 (UNHCR 2017).

Read More:

  1. India-Afghan Strategic Pact: More Than a Flash in the Pan | M K Bhadrakumar, 2011
  2. Afghanistan: 'Geoeconomic Watershed' of South and Central Asia | Ambrish Dhaka, 2004
  3. Unheard Melodies from Afghanistan | Sumanta Banerjee, 2002
  4. Afghanistan, Islam and the Left | Sumanta Banerjee, 2001


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