by Simon Schofield – Senior Fellow
11th September 2013. Security and Defence, Issue 3, No. 1.
Don’t let yourself be fooled, a lot of progress has been made in Afghanistan, pulling out would be abandoning the Afghans to the Taliban rule that oppressed them before and will drag them back to the dark ages.
Whenever Afghanistan comes up in conversation, there are nearly always at least one of two myths put forward: firstly, that the only thing being achieved in this war is an increasing death toll of our troops; secondly, that the Afghans do not want us there and they were better off before we invaded. Neither of these preconceptions ring true, as this article aims to demonstrate by laying out the gains made in Afghanistan since 2001 and comparing it to Afghanistan in its four years of Taliban rule.
Firstly, literacy rates, a key educational indicator one can measure societal progress with, have increased very significantly in the years since the toppling of the Taliban, particularly amongst the young, due, no doubt, to the number of children attending school increased more than eightfold since Taliban rule. Should the Taliban return to power, a near certainty if/when we withdraw, this will be one of the first things to be destroyed and the West will have allowed children’s futures to be stolen from them.
Additionally, Afghans treasure their newfound liberties. Rather than plagiarising or repeating what has been said better than I could elsewhere, I would recommend readers to read this list of restrictions Afghans faced under Taliban rule. Some might call these ‘cultural differences’, though such cultural ‘quirks’ as whipping women for daring to expose their private parts in public (their ankles!) are not exactly in line with the notion of universal human rights. Is there any evidence that Afghans treasure their freedoms, beyond the fact that no human being likes being beaten for listening to music or daring to learn? Yes. Women in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan’s most liberal city are literally killing themselves, because they have tasted the sweet freedom we take for granted and are now suffocating in the oppressive miasma of conservative tyranny in which they live. In pulling out of Afghanistan, we abandon these women and their children to their fate, which will now be all the more painful because they are now fully aware of what they are missing out on. Many of them will be left with but one choice.
Finally, we run the risk of returning to square one on the progress made on securing Afghanistan against terrorism. We made the fatal error of setting a specific withdrawal date and Al Qaeda and the Taliban know now that all they must do to sweep back into power is to last until that date and then launch attacks on the fractious and nascent Afghan state apparatus. The Afghan population will once again be beaten into submission and Afghanistan will once again become a haven for those who would seek to destroy us.
Simon Schofield is contactable at:
Please cite this article as:
Schofield, S. (2013). ‘Afghanisham – What We Stand to Lose by Leaving’
Human Security Centre, Defence and Security, Issue 3, No. 1.