For what accounted for a majority of the 20th century, Afghanistan experienced some of its most peaceful and thriving times. It would be a coup in 1973 when King Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin, General Daoud Khan, which would create an inflection point in Afghanistan’s history.
Once referred to as “the Switzerland of Asia,” the Afghanistan I grew up loving is not the same Afghanistan that many see today. It was prosperous, a place for seeing the East by many Westerners willing to explore the diverse landscapes. Years later my family would be forced to leave their home country and my grandfather, a military general, would retell stories of Soviet tanks rolling down the middle of the street.
Today, Afghanistan has become a country that has been plagued by war, drugs, and lack of healthcare. People are suffering as the Taliban continue to be a constant threat. Instability on all fronts of Afghanistan’s borders does not help the current situation in the country.
Worst of all, the majority of the population under the age of 21 faces future problems with post-traumatic stress disorder being among the top of many health challenges. The issues of mental health, tuberculosis, and polio all contribute to the reason why nearly 1 in 4 children do not make it past the age of five.
With the recent elections in Afghanistan, many of my friends have come and asked me about my thoughts on the matter. These elections were the second elections since the US and international forces entered Afghanistan. There are two top candidates- the current incumbent President Hamid Karzi and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. Both come from unique backgrounds with popular support. There is also Ashraf Ghani, former Finance Ministry who warned Afghanistan would become a “narco-mafia state”, and is using social media to push his campaign forward and who was also a speaker at TED. At the end of the day, it is difficult to comprehend whom to support when your country has gone through so much turmoil.
The Bonn Agreement of December 2001 set the transition phase for Afghanistan and was directly followed up with the Afghanistan Compact set at the 2006 London Conference. Among many of the important issues, the development of the Afghan state and civil society, the direction and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance, and the impact of such assistance on repatriation and resettlement ranked highest on the agenda. The topics of security, women in the peace and development process, counter narcotics, and human rights were also highlighted. Now, as the five-year agenda begins to slowly become a reality, these are guidelines that are important for Afghanistan’s leadership to take into their agendas as they become involved in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. However, through this process one of the greatest things necessary for any future leader is transparency and accountability in ensuring that corruption is minimized.
Whoever is fortunate enough to lead the country as the next president, their responsibility will be to work with global leaders to bring an end to the suffering as quickly as possible. The goal for the country is to not just end a war, but to use the Afghan people’s pride and channel it into creating an environment for compassion and mutual understanding that existed during many years of the country’s growth.
The focus in rebuilding Afghanistan after the elections will need to be on improving education and making it a priority for all children under 18. There needs to be an improvement in the economy and utilizing the country’s resources such as natural gas. Corruption stemming from political leaders, drug trade and contracts for aid money has slowed the development of Afghanistan. Stronger security is certainly a must and a key variable for perpetuating Afghanistan’s modernization.
I was once told that in peace the sons bury their fathers, and in war the fathers bury their sons. Yet, in Afghanistan, too many wives have buried their sons and husbands. Afghanistan’s history would begin early with the defeat of Alexander the Great, to Genghis Khan, multiple British invasions, the Soviet Red Army, and the Taliban. And, yet, after a long history of peace and war, more than many other Asian countries, Afghanistan’s key to converting a dream back into reality is through reunifying the Afghan people.
| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |