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.
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