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Neglecting Afghanistan could Have Global Repercussions

What is Afghanistan’s purpose in this world? Why are we here? Where are we headed? When it comes to such questions, these and many more remain unanswered because our sociopolitical elites are fixated exclusively with their tactical and myopic goals

I have been in Washington since 2021 and during this time, I have interacted with a wide variety of stakeholders involved in Afghan matters.
Common among these people are feelings of frustration and disappointment, as well as the tendency to blame the current or previous United States administrations and, particularly, Afghans for today’s disastrous situation.
Everyone appears helpless and wonders what is going to happen next. Afghans, my people, are equally disheartened about upheavals in our recent history, and exhausted by the repeating cycle of collapse and conflict. Today, most of us are ready to abandon our homes and migrate abroad, worried, as we are, about our children’s future. Optimism about the arrival of better times is a rare thing among Afghans these days.
In a way, the situation in Afghanistan serves as a microcosm of the status of the wider world. If we look closely, we notice strong similarities between the country’s situation and that of global society in areas such as gender, governance, the economy, conflict, identity and visions for the future.
For example, the international status of women’s rights is far from ideal. This is obviously true in Afghanistan, where, in fact, conditions are worse than in most other places. Afghanistan’s situation could serve as a warning signal that if the world doesn’t act collectively to address gender inequality what is happening there could take shape elsewhere.
I have noticed that some regional policymakers in countries like Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan as well as the Arab world avoid discussing women’s rights and girls’ education in Afghanistan, as if the country were on another planet. It is not. Let us imagine for a second that all those girls who are unable to go to school or women who can’t work are our daughters. How could we expect our children to lead peaceful and successful lives while more than 20 million of them — Afghanistan’s female population — are not allowed to go to school or work? These are 20 million women and girls whose potential has been taken hostage.
Furthermore, in the area of gender and beyond, our world doesn’t have a functional governance structure. We have global institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, World Trade Organization, etc. but these are weak and, overall, dysfunctional as they all operate unilaterally in their own spheres of influence. They are collectively failing to tackle the world’s basic problems, such as inequality, conflict, poverty and preventable disease.
Similarly, since the Taliban returned to the helm in August 2021, the country has suffered from the lack of a legitimate and functioning authority. In this sense, Afghanistan reflects the shortcomings of humanity in its failure to agree on and establish an international governance structure that is legitimate, democratic and effectively serving every country.
What is more, “The global economy is limping along,” according to the International Monetary Fund. There is significant disparity between different countries’ incomes and expenditures. People in certain nations are doing better while others are doing much worse. Overall growth is declining. Poverty and unemployment are rampant, and countries, even rich ones, are struggling to control inflation and avoid recession.
Similarly, Afghanistan’s economy is in survival mode. And if minimal assistance were not being provided by the international community, it would have already imploded. If serious and sincere efforts are not made to put both the Afghan and global economies on the right track, then both are liable to collapse at any time.
When it comes to even broader questions, such as understanding our place in the world, are we human first and then other things — such as Afghan, American or Japanese, or Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist — or are those other identities more important than the very fact of being human? Where is humanity headed? What is our end goal? Aside from spiritual people, philosophers

and individual authors, there is no single country or group of countries contemplating these issues deeply.
Everyone is focused on their own national interests and cooperating only with a few other countries, while competing, even fighting, with others. Almost all nations appear to have a short-term and tactical approach toward engaging with their counterparts.
Similarly, there are individuals and groups in Afghanistan whose identities, such as ethnic ones, are subnational, and who engage with others only through this lens, vying for power. Afghanistan has suffered because of this jostling for influence, which has prevented us from developing a common vision for the future. What is Afghanistan’s purpose in this world? Why are we here? Where are we headed? When it comes to such questions, these and many more remain unanswered because our sociopolitical elites are fixated exclusively with their tactical and myopic goals.
As a result of all the above, the world is a chaotic place. There are animosities, conflicts and clashes all around us. Some of them have been going on for decades and humanity has failed to resolve them. Others are new and are occurring due to feelings of insecurity on the part of some, or thirst for power on the part of others. Palestine-Israel, Russia-Ukraine, Afghanistan-Pakistan, China-Taiwan, South Korea-North Korea and U.S.-Iran are just a few of these animosities.
There is significant potential for more conflicts to emerge in the future. Similarly, Afghanistan is suffering from decades of attrition, insurgency and terrorist attacks, with the potential for even more aggression moving forward.
“Asia is a body of water and clay, / Of which the Afghan nation forms the heart,” says a famous poem by the South Asian poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, who lived between the late 19th and early 20th century. What the verses mean, basically, is that when the heart isn’t in good shape, the body can’t be either.
Afghans often believe that our disunity and suffering is a direct result of competition, rivalry and conflict between regional and global powers. There may be some truth to that, but Afghanistan is an integral and important part of this world, and as such requires immediate attention from all nations — for the betterment of global society as a whole.
“Adam’s children are limbs of one body / That in creation are made of one gem. / When life and time hurt a limb, / Other limbs will not be at ease. / You who are not sad for the suffering of others, / Do not deserve to be called human.”
This poem, “Bani Adam,” by 13th century Persian poet Saadi Shirazi still has strong resonance today. If the nations of the world (“Adam’s children”) work together to find a solution to Afghanistan’s crisis, this might help them build unity, and seize the opportunity to tackle other existing and future problems. Or they will never be at ease.


Sadiq Amini

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