by Enrico Campofreda. Journalist and writer
Between the Afghan generation—which in an October twenty years ago saw the raising of stars and stripes in a rapidly occupied Kabul, and the present generation—under whose eyes those flags were stowed in the luggage to be taken away quickly—remained the devastation. Made even more crude by the advent of the Taliban, which became disruptive overnight. With scenes of panic between the few who managed to escape and the many who wanted to do so, all animated by the same fear. The risk was real for those who can be referred to as a “collaborators,” and the fear is deep for those who knew the exploits of the first Emirate. In between, there is a very visible border that divides those who can get on the plane of salvation, versus those who attack the departing plane and fail. Which then confirms the reality experienced in recent years: the poor, the marginalized are always the most numerous, and for them, doors and hatches remain barred. Forced as they are to face destiny—and new masters—openly if they are men, they momentarily hide themselves if they are women. In the press conference quickly prepared by the Taliban staff, who want to establish cordial public relations, the promises about the status of women are many. Freedom of work and study according to the rules of the Shari’a, says the bearded spokesman for the Taliban. But can it be trusted? Who do you trust? The government in preparation must start functioning; if, as it seems, traits of the recent past persist, the troubles could add up.
A DOUBLE FUNDAMENTALISM
As we write, the Taliban delegation brings together two “big guns” who helped tear the nation apart: Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah. The pillars of the present Afghanistan evoke the former Afghanistan—an Islamic Republic that for twenty years essentialized the West as representing a vacuum of morals—a concentration of immobility, corruption, oppression, death. Thus, the past negotiates survival with the new Taliban course, imprinted in criminals who seem imperishable (because some serve as guarantors for the various lords and bosses who have been drying up the country for forty years). And to make the model more inclusive, various institutions will be peppered with female figures. In the High Council for National Reconciliation, which has been discussing with the Taliban for months, there are female deputies (Najiba Ayubi), exponents of the Ministry of Education (Farida Mohmand) and activists. (Safia Sediqqi). It will be necessary to see if they will not be reduced to Pashtunwali masks, or the unwritten customary and ethical code of the Pashtun people. In short, the growth of their movement is foreseeable, with Taliban fundamentalism allied to the fundamentalism of the Sayyaf, Hekmatyar and other such associates—to whom presidents, and, unfortunately even some deputies, have lent their support during the years of Western occupation.
Who will not attend is the last Chief, Ashraf Ghani. Having disappeared in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, perhaps in the United Arab Emirates (according to Reuters), there are rumors about a following of two hundred loyalists, chests of documents and above all of money. His exit agreed with the Taliban and was preceded by a declaration that seems almost a sermon: “If I stayed, the martyrs would be counted and Kabul would be destroyed.” A full blown drama that Ashraf Ghani didn’t believe in first of all, knowing that the soldiers of the very expensive national army (in which 85 billion dollars are invested) would not fight for him or for the nonexistent state. In fact, for months they had stopped controlling those provinces not yet soundly conquered by the Koranics. It is this lack of interest, of trust, of values that involves the Afghan people – young and old, women and men – and also stands as a measure of the profound torture inflicted by “nation builders” that instead let the nation bleed out, from the inside. Thus, having withdrawn the “donors of peace” in uniform, and the “exporters of democracy” in double-breasted clothing, the architects of many misfortunes repeated for years have been wreaking havoc on the Afghan scorched earth. Which together with the US Air bombing and fundamentalist explosions, together with the misery and unemployment increased by their robberies, have exiled millions of Afghans.
NEW EXODUSES AND FORCED MIGRATIONS
Now a further exodus is ahead, not only for the aforementioned fears, but for the deep-rooted disdain towards everything and everyone. For the debasement of a sense of the people, to try to live a dream that is still subjective, as well as precarious, on the way to the West. In twenty years of escaping, many have confirmed that they prefer the unknown to death at home. But the same “muffled unknown” experienced by the Afghans supporting the Western presence smacks of paradox: employees, translators, people whom the Taliban point to as “collaborators.” Even before the tragic scenes seen at Karzai (sic) airport, stories of their acceptance in extremis on return flights were known. In locations that are not in keeping with the decorum and expectations of those who had done so much for the cause; rather than fulfilling the needs of Afghans (because no NATO mission provided for it), the needs of the envoys from Washington, Berlin, London, Rome were attended to. Behind those military ranks, behind those diplomatic commitments, there was local assistance and dedication—yet Western politics finds it hard to reciprocate. Experts on forced migration from wars predict copious migrant flows to the West due to the advent of the Taliban.
Turkey also fears them against possible new arrivals of refugees. To facilitate push-backs, it is erecting about sixty kilometers of wall on the Van border which, if necessary, could double or triple. The four million refugees in Anatolia create many problems for the balance of internal coexistence and, despite the commercialism implemented by the European Union in terms of reception, the Erdoğanian line does not tend to expand the camps. But everything can fall, especially on the ground of security, if the pacification that the turbans promise finds internal obstacles among business-political or ideological-religious notables. This last front is the most difficult. Faced with the hyper fanaticism of the Khorasan Isis, the Taliban government becomes, it seems absurd to say, an even minor evil. Because the dissident militiamen want to demonstrate to the Orthodox the destructive capacity of their organization – just as under that acronym they gave the opening “to the Olympics of massacres,” launched on newborns, students, Hazara [an Afghan ethnic group], people in the bazaars. This further cumbersome presence is the Afghan variant of the future violent landscape. A variant triggered by historical destabilizations that Pakistani intelligence above all manipulated and used at will, also to resolve internal disputes within his country.
THE CHINESE VARIANT
A variant that worries the new mistress of economic globalization, that China which in Afghanistan for over a decade has been doing mining business with the “rare earths” indispensable for high technology. And that its countless “silk roads” address the energy sector, a thorn in the side of the Asian manufacturing giant. The China National Petroleum Corporation wants to plumb the Afghan underground in search of deposits it has found in the difficult Xinjiang region, but fears that local Uyghurs will establish jihadist relations inside and outside the borders, precisely with the Taliban. For this reason, the policy of Beijing offers Baradar’s men attention and honors to avoid an axis between the latter and the Uighur militiamen. Even Xi Jinping, therefore, is orienting diplomacy towards a Taliban approval: if it guarantees security, China will not have to take the step of a military presence, which is extremely insidious in foreign policy. In short, turbans, which disturb Western thoughts, as well as those who have seen them at work, could become the referents of a stabilization that appeals to the world’s greats. But will women be able to avoid stoning, educate themselves, show themselves in public, dance, listen to music, or laugh? And will kites be able to fly?
Ph. © Sohaib Ghyasi