More than a century has passed since the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi which, in 1919, sanctioned the independence of Afghanistan from Great Britain. More than thirty years ago the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan after a decade of occupation, and until today the country has known only conflict, terror and instability. For the past three decades the population has endured a long civil war, an oppressive Taliban regime, another conflict in 2001 and heard an endless number of announcements about reconstruction plans, troop surges, exit strategies, peace conferences and political deals which would finally bring peace to the exhausted Asian country.
The latest of such deals was reached in Qatar in February 2020, between the U.S. and the very actors – the Taliban – which the Coalition forces fought 19 years ago. And the agreement was almost immediately followed by a series of deadly strikes which involved U.S. and Afghan forces and Taliban fighters. Meanwhile, the country is facing the same old issues which have plagued it for the past 30 years.
The government is fighting a war with an army that it can’t seem to build fast enough: almost more soldiers are killed every year than new recruits complete training. The enemy is an insurgency that has control over 60 per cent of the territory. And the insurgency is split between groups – several Taliban factions and Daesh – which fight for territory among themselves, and whose weapon of choice is a suicide attack.
Opium production is rampant, and so is drug addiction. Women rights are still a utopia. The economy is choking. Corruption is widespread at all political and society levels, and despite all the efforts to transplant democracy into the country – like an organ into a body without worrying too much about rejection – most of the times power belongs to those who own the largest militia. Not much has changed since that last Soviet soldiers left in 1989. And it is not yet clear whether, and how, anything will change at all in the near future.