The United States is leaving Afghanistan after a couple of months in such a condition where crimes against civilians are at all times rising and the country has become the biggest harvester of land, and producer and provider of drugs in the world. The US left its support to Pakistan in the same way at a time when the former USSR was bogged down and Russians left Afghanistan and then instantly the US seized its support to Pakistan—creating a vacuum that was politically responsible for civil war in Afghanistan and then the rise of the Taliban. At that time, Pakistan was in a position to manage the damage of withdrawal of US support, but now the situation is different. The Taliban are stronger than ever financially, strategically, and, of course, their morale is very high. They think that they can defeat the Pakistan Army very easily after defeating the whole world—first the former USSR and now the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Instead of browsing the Pak-Afghan border situation, the strength of the Taliban, the weak position of Pakistan against the Taliban, one can just read certain reports of the United Nations that gives a pulse of situation inside Afghanistan. ISAF and the United States, when they attacked Afghanistan, ensured the whole world that they wished to clear terrorism from Afghanistan and planned to provide security to women, civilians, and the writ of human rights. It was also promised that Afghanistan would be cleared of drugs and extremists. The mission and agenda of ISAF was to facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development in order to provide a secure environment for sustainable stability that is observable to the population. Today’s situation speaks otherwise. Afghanistan is still the biggest country to produce drugs, crimes against civilians are at its highest level, and there are unchecked abuses against women. What has the whole world achieved out of a decade-long war?
Two different reports of the United Nations portray a possible scene of a post withdrawal situation that is very dreadful. This scene is full of blood and smokes of drugs.
Al-Qaeda Chief, Aimen Al Zawari, in one of his messages to the Taliban has demanded a “Safe Place within Pakistan” as a launching pad for Jihad all over the world. The sitting government in Pakistan looks puzzled or defeated, so it is trying to negotiate with the Taliban while they are killing the top leadership of the Pakistan Army. The Taliban has no problem with financial resources, because abduction for ransom and drug trade are providing enough resources to them to fight for years to come. For the third year in a row, opium cultivation has increased across Afghanistan, erasing earlier drops stemming from a decade-long international and Afghan government effort to combat the drug trade.
In one of the United Nations’ reports, it is clearly mentioned that if the trend continued, opium would be the country’s major economic activity after foreign military forces depart in 2014, leading to the specter of what one official referred to as “the world’s first true narco-state.”
Afghanistan is already the world’s largest producer of opium, and last year accounted for 75 percent of the world’s heroin supply. The report, the Afghanistan Opium Risk Assessment 2013, issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and based on extensive surveys, found that opium cultivation had increased in 12 of the country’s 34 provinces. Herat, in western Afghanistan, is the only province in which cultivation is expected to decrease, the report said.
Taliban insurgents took advantage of insecurity in several provinces to assist opium farmers and win popular support, protecting an important form of income for their operations. Opium cultivation has increased the most wherever there has been insecurity.
This year, three provinces — Balkh, Faryab, and Takhar in the north and west — are in danger of losing their poppy-free status, according to the United Nations report. They are among 16 provinces that had been declared poppy-free; such provinces receive $1 million awards from the American Embassy, paid directly to the governor’s office.
According to report, opium production has become particularly high in the Helmand Province in the south, the country’s major opium-producing area, and in Kandahar Province. In both places, the surge of American troops helped to beat back the Taliban influence, but as those troops returned home last year, cultivation increased sharply. More than 70 percent of opium production now takes place in three provinces where the surge occurred.
“This country is on its way to becoming the world’s first true narco-state, and the opium trade is a much bigger part of the economy already than narcotics ever were in Bolivia or Colombia.
Meanwhile according to a report released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the number of civilians killed or injured in the first half of 2013 rose by 23 percent compared to the same period last year, owing mainly to the increased use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by insurgents. The report documented 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 injuries – a total of 3,852 civilian casualties – in the first half of the year.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, during a recent press conference in Kabul, also expressed her grave concerns over the human rights abuse in the country and said that although the vast majority of civilian casualties are caused by anti-government forces, the number of civilian casualties caused by actions of various Afghan security forces including police has also risen, and she stressed the need to try to reduce the numbers of civilians killed and injured during military and police operations.
Violence against women is another pressing issue in the country, Ms. Pillay said, noting that while the passing of the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women was a very significant achievement, its implementation has been slow, especially in rural areas, with police, prosecutors, and courts being reluctant to enforce it.
“Violence against women remains endemic, and I have urged the relevant authorities to do their utmost to speed up and improve the implementation of this important law, which President Karzai passed by decree in 2009,” Ms. Pillay said, adding that she was encouraged by the commitment shown by senior government officials to advance women’s rights and improve the implementation of the law.
During her visit, she met top Afghan officials including President Hamid Karzai. “I urge an extra effort by the President and his government to ensure that the human rights gains of the past 12 years are not sacrificed to political expediency during these last few months before the election,” Ms. Pillay said.
Afghanistan is scheduled to hold presidential and provincial council elections in April next year, and preparations are underway to ensure a smooth transition.
“Circumstances indicate that Afghanistan has become more dangerous for the whole world than it was before the 2001 invasion of United States, and [the] situation also indicates that the world has been defeated by [the] Taliban after almost 12 years [of] war,” claim a majority of political scientists in Pakistan.
Human rights abuse are at a high, and there is no room and no concept for women’s rights. War is spread across the borders, and the Taliban have more resources and are more powerful than they ever were. What has been achieved by ISAF’s action in the last decade in Afghanistan? What will be the future of poor Afghans after the ISAF withdraws? Will the Taliban not strike Central Asia States directly after winning over Pakistan? Will the Pakistan government install an Islamic State in some of its rugged parts of South and North Waziristan bordering the Afghan border? Answers of such questions will come out as part of history in the very near future.
The author, Agha Iqrar Haroon, is the Regional Observer & Political Analyst for Afghanistan and Central Asia for Dispatch News Desk.