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The Taliban Takes Afghanistan

by Enrico Campofreda

by Enrico Campofreda. Journalist and writer

In and around Kandahar, the Taliban persisted for a long time in the long twenty years of “transformation” of the country. They have always had the keys to that province. Not only for the emotional reasons that bind them to Mullah Omar, but for a logistical position that has always seen them come and go along the route to Quetta, the city of their shura [council, assembly] that they love more than Kabul. They had entered the Afghan capital for the conquest of power, in a country freed from Soviet occupation, which had fallen into a lacerating ethnic, tribal, religious, clan and business conflict. It was fought by the worst local warlords, very skilled in resisting a less than motivated Red Army, and in any case brought to their knees by the sagacity of certain guerrillas portrayed as superheroes. Let’s take Aḥmad Masood, called “the lion of Panshir.” He was not Alexander the Macedonian, but he had plenty of tactical ability, intelligence, empathy. He was loved not only by Tajiki followers, the international press caressed him with panegirics, interviews to which he lent himself by unleashing an impeccable French. Glamor was fatal to him. In September 2001, two suicide bombers, pretending to be cameramen of a Moroccan broadcaster, blew him up and immolated themselves. The following year, the commander, considered a national hero, was awarded a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize. Think about it: a step that fits perfectly into the manipulation of the Afghan reality which, if with the intrigues of the nineteenth-century imperialist “Great Game” is an ancient thing, with the recent occupations it has become paroxysmal.

The mujahideen who cleared the homeland of the unwary Russians had the arsenals full of US Stinger missiles with which they shot down Moscow’s assault helicopters, and crates full of Saudi petrodollars. It is well-known history at this point. After the Russian retreat in 1989 for three consecutive years, the tajikis of Masud and Rabbani, the Pashtuns of Hekmatyar and Sayyaf, the Hazaras of Mazari and Mohaqiq, the Uzbeks of Dostum – and then Fahim, Khalili – the list is long – not finding a agreement to lead the country, they thought of resolving the issue by shooting themselves. They forged alliances of convenience that could last for months or the space of a day. And they spewed death. From some heights around Kabul they pounded the plateau below where the population lived with artillery. In four years they killed eighty thousand, perhaps more. And from that 1994 a mullah from Kandahar, named Omar, gathered the Koranic students and turned them into fighters for a battle against other Muslims, the warlords, who continued to keep the nation prostrate at their feet. They massacred their children, filled their daily existence with mourning. Omar and his family brought together a hundred, a thousand, then thousands of young people, and two years later they besieged the capital. They were seen by many, but not by everyone, as the messengers of an imminent stability.

It lasted very little, indeed hardly at all, since the Taliban Shari’a was read with a lens not unlike those of the fundamentalists who ousted them. Omar was no different from Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-i Islami [the Islamic Party] who had won the title of “butcher of Kabul.” The stadium and other esplanades of the capital became the places of public executions; but not to the warlords who in the meantime were sheltered in neighboring countries, of which Pakistan and Iran stand out, always eager to decide to orient Afghanistan towards the own horizons. The shootings hit citizens pinched by the established “religious police” and who were guilty of not following moral guidelines in keeping with the Koranic law. Obviously, women ended up in the front row in the repression: they were forbidden to leave the house without a family man in tow, they were prevented from studying and working. They were stoned on suspicion of presumed adulterers. The shame of public stonings marked the bloody wave of the Taliban regime, inducing widespread disillusionment. Singing, dancing, and celebrations were prevented—even the flight of kites. This continued until the apex of obtuse folly: the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan, dug into the rock for about two millennia, and disintegrated by the Koranics with an iconoclasm not unlike that shown later by ISIS in Palmyra.

With the NATO invasion, with the Karzai and Ghani puppet governments recycling warlords and promoting fanaticism – albeit masked in the Loya Jirga by pro-women laws – the great lie of a transformation of the Afghan nation continued. Those who love that country and its people – former parliamentarian Malalai Joya has been preaching this for at least three decades – swear that this is not the case. The demobilized Western troops, which numbered 100,000 soldiers a decade ago, gave the Taliban, albeit Omar’s orphans, the label of resistant patriots. They pinned it to their chests, because in the eyes of any Afghan not servile to Western interests, those tanks, those airplanes, those drones, those extraordinary renditions, hit ordinary people, killing 250,000 victims, four million refugees, an infinitely internally displaced people, tens of thousands of forced migrants every year. Even if a simulacrum of an alleged nation liquefied overnight, everything had been expected for months. On the other hand, in Doha, the Americans put pen to paper, complete with handwritten signature, that the enemies of twenty years had to rule Afghanistan. The fall of the last puppet executive in Kabul marks an end—even a distressing one—of an overly long bluff, in the context of a geopolitics that does not lack for tragic “waltzes.”

Ph. © Sohaib Ghyasi

Enrico Campofreda

Enrico Campofreda

Journalist and writer

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