The Graveyard of Empires; Afghanistan
Why is Afghanistan so difficult to invade? What does the future hold for Afghanistan?
Afghanistan has often been nicknamed the graveyard of empires. A country filled with rich resources (most famous for its rich minerals copper, gold, and oil) was ravaged and pillaged by the western world. A prime example of modern-day colonialism and how western countries exploit countries for their own gain.
Since the days of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, the great rulers of the world have been trying to take over Afghanisation.
Afghanistan has been in the sights of western countries since the birth of colonialism. The country has been thwarted to the point where it has been nicknamed the graveyard of empires.
Afghanistan is “a graveyard for colonialist, or neocolonialist foreign powers that aim to rule”, said Romain Malejacq, a political scientist and author of Warlord Survival, about state-building in Afghanistan.
To truly understand what's happening in Afghanistan and why it's so difficult to invade. Let's go to the beginning of Afghanistan's extensive history of being colonised.
Anglo-Afghan wars 1839–1919
Concerned by Russia’s increasing influence in Afghanistan Britain invaded Afghanistan in 1839. Replacing the ruler. Uprising meant that Britain was forced to flee and abandon Kabul. On retreat, they were ambushed by Afghan soldiers. This resulted in the death of around 18,000 soldiers. Britain's efforts to incorporate Afghanistan into its empire continued but were thwarted.
Soviet invasion 1979–89
In 1979 Afghanistan became a battleground for the cold war after a communist coup by the soviets.
The fierce communist regime started to invoke fierce resistance from within Afghanistan leading to the emergence of the Mujahedeen. (who were being armed by the American CIA)
Afghanistan’s strategic location — it connects Central Asia and the Middle East to South and East Asia — makes it a “kind of a policy way station towards a political agenda,” explains Hanifi. So when large empires go to war in Afghanistan, they come up against other country’s attempts to expert their own influence in the region. (History.com)
In the brutal nine-year conflict, an estimated one million civilians were killed, as well as 90,000 Mujahideen fighters, 18,000 Afghan troops, and 14,500 Soviet soldiers.
Once the Soviets had left a power vacuum remained leading to the civil war and the Mujahideen fighting amongst themselves.
US and NATO invasion 2000–21
The Taliban became ominous throughout the western world for their dogmatic and strict interpretation of Sharia law. 9/11 provoked the US to take action against Afghanistan and hunt out Al-Qaeda. President George W Bush subsequently announced plans to reconstruct the country, while in 2003 his defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that “major combat” was over. (FT.com)
Despite the efforts from the US government to suppress the Taliban it continued to boil. Later Presidents like Obama, increased military presence to around 100,000.
After fierce violence, President Donald Trump agreed to a peace deal in February 2020.
President Joe Biden had declared that the US would retreat from Afghanistan but before they could retreat properly the Taliban overran all remaining resistance.
Some would that US efforts were fruitless. That Afghanistan could never be forced into submission. I would argue what were the US intentions in Afghanistan in the first place. There have been no improvements to the well-being quality of life, the infrastructure of Afghanistan, or the Afghan people as far as I am aware.
All factors suggest that the US and any colonial powers try that have tried to invade Afghanistan have done so for their own greedy and selfish intention without any actual care for the Afghan people. (I mean not surprising at all) The people who have suffered the most as a result.
We forget that the Pashtun are tough people.. with strong tribal loyalties and roots. A people not prone to change or accepting western ways. Probably another factor that has made it so difficult for any country to gain a foothold.
The re-emergence of the Taliban and America’s retreat from Afghanistan has left the future of Afghanistan in the air. What does the future hold for Afghanistan and its people? Have they changed?
We all have questions at the moment but only time will tell. Maybe history will repeat itself. Maybe the Taliban have changed?
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