The gate of the ‘graveyard of empires’ Asad Khan Betini

The gate of the ‘graveyard of empires’

Asad Khan Betini

Fifteen years of US invasion will soon be completed and soon become the stuff of the history of this region. In Afghanistan, ‘lost and gained’ will be assessed later but the insurgency is indeed still in question. Yet another suicide attack in central Logar province killed 12 security personnel and wounded eight others, a sure sign of the dreadful hold of the insurgents. The Taliban still claim to have control of over 40 percent of the areas in Afghanistan, excluding the capital and other major cities in Afghanistan. Territories under the grip of the Taliban are declared as no go areas, leaving the whole world wondering whether the war on terror has achieved victory or a fiasco. Many observers are now vocal as to who will be up next for the ‘graveyard of empires’. 
aria09040220090401085210Hamid Karzai declined to sign any security deal with the US and left it to his successor to decide. The newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), which will allow 9,800 US troops and at least 2,000 NATO troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Generally, mindsets with two opinions have lingered on in Afghanistan: one supported the invasion while the other defied it. In fact, we observe that Afghans failed to get what they expected from the US intervention since 2001. Rather, this invasion put the land in turmoil just like the former Soviet Union did. Our controversial ally, the US, and its war against the former jihadists who were once called ‘soldiers of God’, declared them terrorists following the 9/11 incident. Indeed, the ashes of war brought catastrophe to Pakistan too.
Pakistan has suffered over $ 107 billion in economic setbacks since the war broke out, leaving a bad impression on the international community. Apart from that, thousands of people have been killed due to the ‘do more’ mantra. Yet, hoping for development for Afghanistan, the Chinese government has pledged 1.5 billion Yuan ($ 245 million) in aid to Afghanistan over the next three years, as well as greater support for Kabul in the struggle against terrorism. Ghani, while bewildering his neighbours, warned all not to interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan. This statement was released as soon as this aid was received in Afghanistan. 
But what plagues the mind is the fact that the warmongers are still in position. The withdrawal of US and NATO forces will leave the Afghan National Army to its own fate. 
Throughout the entire 13 years of war in Afghanistan, corruption and opium production remained a worrying issue. Observers believe that poppy cultivation has become a lucrative business for international dealers, as it was not brought to an end despite the US spending $ 7.6 billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The UN’s office on drugs and crime reports: “Afghan farmers grew 209,000 hectares of opium in 2013, surpassing the previous record of 193,000 hectares in 2007.” Poppy production is a major source of revenue in Afghanistan, which produces an estimated 90 percent of the world’s opium. At the start of 2018, it is expected to double. 
This is a problem that all the stakeholders avoided discussing throughout the entire Afghan war. The value of poppy cultivation and opium products produced in the country in 2013 was about three billion dollars, a 50 percent increase over the two billion dollars estimated in 2012. Reports now indicate that farmers grew 210,200 hectares of opium in 2014. 
Let us pretend Afghans will decide their own fate post-withdrawal but staggering questions of poppy cultivation and the presence of the former soldiers of God are being left unresolved. To date, $ 753.3 billion have been spent on the war in Afghanistan, including $ 89.1 billion in fiscal year 2014. Despite spending billions of dollars and the sacrifices of thousands of US and NATO soldiers, who spewed blood into the water and soil, the results are by no means comforting. The Afghans have now opened their gates for China, which has already stepped up its support to India and Pakistan. The recent Beijing Declaration has been signed between Afghanistan and China, agreeing to start 64 programmes covering issues such as trade, investment, infrastructure, disaster management and education. These projects will help Afghanistan develop and keep the peace without outside assistance. The corridor of South Asia, Afghanistan, is now in the arms of China, so the future of South Asia is now going to be in the hands of China, leading the US out the door in disgrace. 

 
 
(Asad Khan Betini is a Balochistan Based Journalist and Currently Chief Editor of Monthly Nawa-e-Qaisa Political Magazine)

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