Afghans responsible for Afghanistan’s failure

Afghans responsible for Afghanistan’s failure

Afghans responsible for Afghanistan’s failure
In this Aug. 15, 2021, file photo, Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP)
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On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Afghan government’s collapse on Aug. 15, 2021, as the Taliban and their supporters celebrate their takeover, millions of Afghans both inside the country and abroad are shocked and dismayed as they reflect upon what happened that fateful day. Afghans would have been happier with a political settlement and orderly transfer of power to an inclusive interim government as a transitional mechanism.
Since the government’s collapse last August, life has fundamentally changed for millions of Afghans. Hundreds of thousands have left for neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Iran and thousands have been flown out to safer locations by the US and some European nations. The level of despair was so high on the day of the collapse that virtually everyone rushed to Kabul Airport in the hope that they might be taken on board a flight destined for the US or another Western nation. It is important to mention that not everyone was running out of fear for their life; for a majority, the coming to power of the Taliban looked as if it would cause life to come to a complete stop, with no hope for the future.
For some, probably many, making it to the airport meant a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reach the US. However, there were thousands of others who faced a genuine threat to their life because of their current job or an employment history with the US government as locally hired staff. Other vulnerable Afghans included former high-level government officials and those who were prominent advocates of human rights, women’s empowerment and democracy, including large numbers of journalists. Among those who had worked with the US government were those already on a list of targets and who had received death threats.
The US government later disclosed that it undertook one of the largest evacuations in its history in Afghanistan, with the effort concluding on Aug. 31. While thousands of Afghans have already been relocated to the US, thousands more remain in camps in Qatar and the UAE as their paperwork is reviewed by the State Department. There is another challenge as a large number of the evacuees are unable to present proper evidence of employment with the US government. And some lack the required duration of employment, as set by the rules for Special Immigrant Visas.
However, regardless of all the difficulties, the US has been generous in welcoming eligible Afghans in the aftermath of the events of Aug. 15 last year. On the political side, such activism by the US was important in order to show it was a trustworthy and committed partner.

The common narrative is very typical of the traditional mindset in the country to blame others for our own mistakes.

Ajmal Shams

Meanwhile, many political analysts, commentators, journalists and former Afghan government officials have been speaking their minds as to why and how the country’s entire security forces crumbled in little more than a week after the first province fell to the Taliban in early August 2021. Many blame it on the international community’s lack of commitment to Afghan security.
The common Afghan narrative of the fall of the government is very typical of the traditional mindset in the country to blame others for our own mistakes. Afghans have never learnt from history, despite the turbulent events of the past 40-plus years. The last two decades offered Afghanistan a golden opportunity to build its state and the nation with the international community offering all-out support, yet we failed. Whose fault was this? Certainly, ours first and ours last.
Our leaders, instead of building institutions, focused more on building their own political careers. The victims are the silent majority of Afghans. Those in the upper echelons of power in Afghanistan over the past 20 years have betrayed not only their own people but also those nations that generously supported our development and reconstruction efforts.
With the new rulers in Kabul, the country remains in significant economic trouble, as the banking system has virtually collapsed and most economic activities have stopped. Thousands working in the public sector have either been fired or quit, as their salaries were not paid. In the wake of all these developments, aid agencies have started to pour millions of dollars into the economy to help those in need. In the months and years ahead, it will be extremely important for donor nations to ensure their aid money reaches the most vulnerable segments of the population in a more efficient manner.
As a resilient nation, Afghans have a long and tough road ahead to retake their freedoms, including the right to education for both boys and girls.

Ajmal Shams is vice president of the Afghanistan Social Democratic Party. He served as a deputy minister in the former Government of Afghanistan.
Twitter: @ajmshams

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