Afghanistan A Coun­try on the Mend

As the end game in Afghanistan plays out, con­cerns about women’s rights, trans­fer of re­spon­si­bil­ity and eth­nic cleans­ing have started com­ing to the fore­front.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S. M. Hali

Afghanistan is a coun­try on the mend. It is high time that some light ap­peared at the end of the tun­nel in the war rav­aging a coun­try torn by strife and tur­moil, fol­low­ing the Soviet oc­cu­pa­tion in 1979, tribal wars and its in­va­sion by US led forces in 2001. The Oc­to­ber 2001 as­sault on Afghanistan com­prised of some of the heav­i­est bomb­ings of the coun­try with the US air cam­paign us­ing the dreaded Daisy Cut­ter bombs to mow down Afghan women, chil­dren and men. The Tal­iban, who were de­feated were not down and out. They re­grouped to con­duct a guer­rilla war, forc­ing the NATO and ISAF to de­clare a draw­down of forces com­menc­ing in July 2011, to be com­pleted by 2014. Mean­while, the av­er­age Afghan was caught be­tween the in­ternecine war­fare con­ducted by a resur­gent Tal­iban and the in­ter­na­tional forces. The in­ces­sant use of drone at­tacks by the US also took a heavy toll on the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion. Ef­forts by the al­lies and de­vel­op­ment projects to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans bore lit­tle fruit; nei­ther did much touted mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions to up­root the Tal­iban.

A decade later, the oc­cu­pa­tion forces have come to the con­clu­sion that they can­not de­ploy their forces for an un­lim­ited pe­riod, af­ter sac­ri­fic­ing 2,860 troops and in­cur­ring a cost over $491, 807, 675, 588 in Afghanistan. The US public as well as else­where in Europe, al­lies are call­ing for their troops to re­turn home. Dur­ing the re­cent Bonn Con­fer­ence, there were demon­stra­tions call­ing for the im­me­di­ate with­drawal of troops, forc­ing the hand of the al­lies.

The Bonn Con­fer­ence fo­cused on three is­sues: civil as­pects of the process of trans­fer­ring re­spon­si­bil­ity to the Gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan by 2014; the long-term en­gage­ment of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in Afghanistan af­ter 2014 and the po­lit­i­cal process that is in­tended to lead to the long-term sta­bi­liza­tion of the coun­try. In the run-up to the Bonn Con- fer­ence, a two day sem­i­nar was held at Beethoven Halle, Bonn to bring about de­bates by the Afghan Civil So­ci­ety Forum.

Among the is­sues high­lighted, the plight of women who are in­creas­ingly tar­geted in an un­sta­ble Afghanistan was dis­cussed. Women emerged at the fore­front to talk about their griev­ances and dis­cuss pro­pos­als to ad­dress their con­cerns, once in­ter­na­tional forces with­draw. It was heart­en­ing to ob­serve the en­light­ened and elo­quent Afghan women present their predica­ment. I was in Bonn as an ob­server and at­tended these de­bates and the Bonn Con­fer­ence it­self. Whereas the Afghan women are en­joy­ing greater free­dom to­day, much more needs to be done to im­prove their lot.

The in­ter­na­tional pres­ence of 1100 par­tic­i­pants at the Bonn Con­fer­ence took cog­nizance of the quandary of the Afghan women. De­spite greater eman­ci­pa­tion, Afghan women are a long way from free­dom. The case of Gul­naz came to light while the Bonn

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