A new surge of deadly terrorist attacks in Afghanistan – three during an 11-day span that killed scores of innocent civilians, including women and children – slashed physical and psychological scars onto a citizenry still coping with the trauma of a 40-year war.
The Pakistan-backed Taliban claimed responsibility, which leaves us with a dilemma: what can be done to stop this?
Like so many conflicts, peace will require a new attitude from both sides. Pakistan could heed its populist opposition leader Imran Kahn and focus on free trade instead of terrorism, while Afghanistan could clean its own house of corruption. But neither path can succeed without the other.
The Afghan government reportedly sent a high-ranking delegation to Pakistan with evidence that Pakistani intelligence operatives orchestrated these attacks. US President Donald Trump denounced the “acts of terror against Afghan civilians” and suggested that if the US can no longer talk to the Taliban, it must defeat them.
This new crescendo of attacks comes after the US accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and deceptively taking millions of its dollars to “fight terrorism” while actually harboring terrorists. These remarks led some in the Pakistan military establishment to accuse the US of blaming its own failure in Afghanistan on Pakistan.
Neither the fiery rhetoric nor bombing seem to have an end in sight. The triggers for aggression in this region are many and complex: The US military presence, rampant unemployment, tribal and territorial rivalries, Pakistan’s perceived desire to subjugate Afghanistan, and Afghanistan’s own dysfunctional government.
Pakistan knows that Afghanistan cannot stand on its own feet without financial and military support from outside, and as soon as the US leaves, Afghanistan likely will become fragmented in the manner of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s. It’s been said that the only time Afghans don’t fight each other is when they are invaded by foreign forces.
Afghans have a tremendous responsibility to save themselves, because they cannot rely on foreign support forever. I am not talking about Afghans taking arms against Pakistan or revolting against their own government. I am talking about individual responsibility, which seems to be lacking.
Corruption in government is not unique to Afghanistan – it’s everywhere, from Africa to Russia, from Saudi Arabia to the US. This, of course, needs to be addressed.
The same applies to Afghan citizens – the judge who accepts a secret payoff to let a criminal go, the person who bribes a police officer to get out of a traffic ticket, corruption within our police and security forces that allows terrorists to carry out their attacks.
All the dishonest things we do add up to a crumbling, disrespected culture that eventually leads to instability and a loss of peace.
As one member of the Afghan parliament said to TOLOnews “It’s not always the government’s fault. (Sometimes) it’s the citizens’ fault.”
Pleading for a cultural change in behavior may seem fruitless, but what if Afghanistan could clean up its own corruption? What if Pakistan established better lines of communication with Afghanistan, engaged in free trade that benefitted both countries, and stopped fomenting terrorist attacks?
Pakistan has been unilaterally fencing its 2,600km Afghan border. The populist leader Khan said this will help stop criminal and terrorist infiltration and aid the counterterrorism effort.
What he doesn’t mention is the dispute of that border, known as the Durand Line, which has not been accepted by Afghanistan since it was created in 1894 by British diplomat Sir Mortimer Durand. But Pakistan’s Khan was right when he said the future of relations between the two countries is “open borders” and “free trade.”
If Pakistan would commit to those ideals, and if Afghanistan would clean up its own act and stand on its own two feet, perhaps we could finally end the senseless cycle of terrorism.
Wahab Raofi is a graduate of Kabul Law School and worked at various levels for the Ministry of Justice in Afghanistan. He immigrated to the United States and has a home in Orange County, California, but currently works with the NATO/International Security Assistance Force as an interpreter in Afghanistan. His articles have been published in major U.S. newspapers and media outlets worldwide, including The Washington Times, San Diego Union-Tribute, Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Examiner, The Huffington Post, Stars and Stripes, Global Post and the Orange County Register.