Summer Blog 6: Afghanistan - Further Thoughts and Statistics
NB For my earlier blog on this subject please just scroll down the blog page.
NB Remember there are 2 pages on my Blog - Home and Blog. The Home Page only shows the last 3 blogs, whereas the Blog Page shows every blog since I began.
Perhaps, like me, you feel swamped by all the media coverage of the Fall of Afghanistan to The Taliban that it has been difficult to absorb it all. This blog hopes to help you through some of the maze.
The word Taliban literally translates as 'Student'. The original Taliban recruits being students who had studied in traditional Islamic schools and who had fought the Soviets between 1979-89.
The Taliban were founded after that war in 1994 in Kandahar.
The Taliban's fundamentalist interpretation of Islam derives from British India where Deobandi Islam originated in 1867 (10 years after The Mutiny). The name Deobandi simply derives from the Indian town of Deoband, where the movement began.
The movement was established in the context of the fight for independence from Britain. But the most interesting part is that from 1919 the political message was that all Indians, regardless of religion, caste, ethnicity, and language were brothers and sisters, with the common enemy being The Raj. The naïve belief being that if the British left the sub continent then all Indians would live in harmony together.
The religious message of the movement was the most strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia Law (still the essence of Taliban beliefs today).
How Taliban rule of Afghanistan will emerge over the coming months we shall see in due course. Yet if their previous rule, 1996-2001, is a guide then it will be a reactionary brutal theocratic fascism. Present signs are not looking good.
Mujahideen literally means 'those engaged in Jihad (Holy War)'.
They fought the Russians as guerrilla fighters and it looked as though, with elements of The Afghan Army joining them, they would continue a civil war in Afghanistan against the Taliban. That may have turned out to be wishful thinking as Taliban sources have in recent days claimed complete victory over them.
PS Whether other 'war lords' will emerge in the north of the country to take over the civil war also remains to be seen. Without Afghans on the ground continuing to fight, The West will have no local allies upon which to build a military and political opposition to Taliban rule.
The three main ethnic groups are Pashtuns (the Pathans of Kipling's India), Tajiks, and Hazara.
The Pashtuns have always been warlike in defence of their mountainous country;
'A scrimmage at a border station -
A canter down some dark defile -
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail -
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!'
Kipling, Arithmetic on the Frontier
3. The Tajiks worry the Russians because their presence could destabilise Tajikistan and thus threaten Russia's southern Asian border. The country also has a smaller Uzbek population, posing the same threats to Putin in Uzbekistan.
4. The third group, the Hazara, lie in the west of the country bordering Iran, whose Shia brand of Islam they share. They speak a dialect of Persian. and have been a target for the Taliban in the past. It is said their origin lies in the troops the Mongols left behind in the Middle Ages.
5. Of the 38m Afghans, 90% are Sunni Moslems,9.7% Shia Moslems (mainly Harara), and 0.3% other groups (which may include 500-1000 secret Jews who were forced to convert during the Taliban's earlier rule).
Anyone's guess is probably as good a one as the experts writing in our papers and appearing on our television screens.
The biggest challenge to Britain and to Europe is how to deal with an isolationist United States. The only beneficiaries here would appear to be Putin and China. Yet Putin has his own worries were China to enter the vacuum of Afghanistan, and if they were to there is no reason to doubt that they will share the same fate as the British, Russians, and Americans before them.
The tectonic plates of global politics are fast shifting and so the future can only be glimpsed through a glass darkly.