Only Afghans will achieve the Afghanistan they desire

The lessons of history - in Ireland and further afield - show that true self-determination and nation-building is achieved from within but much of the commentary around recent events in Afghanistan indicate many in the West are still unable to grasp that reality, argues Dolan O'Hagan.
Only Afghans will achieve the Afghanistan they desire

U.S. soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Picture: AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani

AN invading force finally succumbs and withdraws its military and economic support.

The departure of its armed forces and the underlying support for existing state infrastructure quickly leave a vacuum.

The vacuum is filled by some well-organised indigenous opposition who were, and are, able to galvanise a disparate and regionalised opposition across the country.

The new indigenous opposition quickly seize control, declare victory and their right to national self-determination.

After a honeymoon period following initial victory the originally galvanised and united opposition split in the face of differing views on the shape of self-determination and how the spoils of victory should be best utilised.  

The resultant in-fighting and strife - which usually takes the form of civil war - ultimately ends with either some form of autocratic and highly centralised rule or some form of 'democratic' arrangement seeing power divided along one of - or a combination of - ideological, regional, religious and / or tribal lines.

Sounds quite familiar, doesn't it?

Pick a country on the map - be it in the west or the near, middle, and far east - and you are most likely able to apply that timeline to some seminal period in its history.

We, here in Ireland, are in the midst of the 100th anniversary of those events.

This underlying reality of ancient and modern history seems, however, to be absent in much of the analysis we read and see on the most recent country to enter this depressingly inevitable geo-political cycle - Afghanistan.

Amidst the maelstrom of analysis and opinion that is to be heard in the face of the Talibans return to power in that ancient and complex nation it would probably do us all good, therefore, to take a breath and put what is happening in its historical context.

Indeed, and primarily, we should probably consider where Afghanistan and its people would be if the nation had been allowed to enter and emerge from this inevitable cycle of self-determination without a continual and violently imposed re-set from outside invaders.

The most recent of many such re-sets came in Afghanistan in 2001 when George Bush Jnr decided that wider Western security and Afghan freedom required the Taliban to be removed from power by force.

He was wrong on both counts - and there is no joy in that for anyone.

One can only hope, however, that as more and more commentators concentrate on the potential horrors of Taliban rule and call again for some form of 'western oversight' in Afghan affairs that we, at last, listen to what is a very clear lesson from history - the problems of Afghanistan will only be solved by the people of Afghanistan.

We can only hope that journey - on behalf of the innocent - is not a bloody and painful one but it is, nevertheless, a journey they must travel themselves.

If we in the West have a role to play it is to perhaps, and at long last, face up to our own selfish strategic and often hypocritical interests and positions in the region and truly reflect on what support can be given from without as Afghanistan - and other nations - travel through and hopefully emerge from their own cycle of self-determination with as little bloodshed as possible.

The West must, of course, give succor to those who wish to leave Afghanistan and we must continue to treat the assurances made by the Taliban in recent days with scepticism and via a free and impartial press and NGO sector continue to monitor and highlight any human rights violations.

In short, we must try and ensure that our elected governments engage with all groups in Afghanistan and use all their political influence from without to ensure its people are able to map out their own nation's future.

The West can no longer, however, directly interfere from within with the Afghan people's right to self-determination.

It may appear to some as a naive analysis in today's globalised geo-political world but surely our own history is showing that fact to be a plain, simple and irrefutable truth.

* Dolan O'Hagan is the Irish Examiner's digital product and projects editor. The views expressed are his own.


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