Allied troops in Afghanistan accelerate their exit from the country. Photo: Getty Images
Allied troops in Afghanistan are accelerating their exit from the country. Photo: Getty Images

What Afghanistan teaches us | OP-ED

In 20 years, the U.S. has achieved some armored oases in the capital and an uncontrolled lumpy mess in provinces. Afghanistan also since consolidated as a…


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Enthusiasts forgive me, but I've already lost faith in humanity. Not only were we unable to achieve collective advance as a species, but we lost ourselves in individual fulfillment. Worse still, we continue to believe in "progress," a rising straight line where we can look arrogantly in the rearview mirror.

We give sermons on how we should live, organize ourselves and recently, capitalism plunged us into a scandalous inequality under the pretext of a false freedom. Meanwhile, the experiment of communism that consisted of creating a new human and mechanisms meant to make everyone believe white was black and black was white, if the party demanded it, ended in an unbearable totalizing scheme. Any other option was brutally crushed.

And yet, we are children and grandchildren of these two models. Instead, we end up consumed by a manichaean scheme of good against evil and they invite us — rather, they urge us — into a crusade for their defense. Or is it that what happened in Afghanistan does not summarize the inconvenience of making life unnecessarily complicated?

Should we have backed the Soviet Union when it threw the tanks at the Afghans to fight the defenders of the Koran? Who can put on a brave face and say that the United States, in its "civilizing role," had a heroic occupation in that country?

Sure, it makes sense to raise the flags of fundamental, civil and human rights, but social and individual problems cannot be simplified as we do ad nauseam. Yes, dear reader, the complexity was buried and the thought lost to the propaganda from both sides. Leaders play with truth and lies, and plant a destructive hodgepodge in their followers. The worst thing, my dear ones, is that we teach children to hate and thus remain condemned to a circle of violence.

How they love to say that the Mujahideen, at the time, or the rebels now, some of them Taliban, are the devil! Please don't get me wrong, of course we are talking about assassins, but who pushed them into fanaticism over and over again?

While I was born on Christmas 1979, not without threats from my mother who asked for a tamale in the hospital — otherwise she will not give birth — part of the 105th Airborne Division of the Red Army landed in Afghanistan. The ground troops arrived in Kabul, the country's capital two days later with the aim of supporting the pro-communist government, Sovietizing northern Afghanistan, driving the population out of its eastern provinces, and building military bases to the west and south.

The reaction of the ‘saint’ and subsequent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jimmy Carter, was already underway. The Iranian Islamic revolution drove the Americans out, and the oil hangover it left led the Plains, Georgia native to approach Muhamed Zia Ul-Haq, president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

You can check the details in Mylène Théliol's book on the War in Afghanistan. I recommend it because they are very careful to present facts and not opinions. The fact is that this is how this world received me, in a chess game adjusted to the Cold War, where the two narcissistic superpowers continued to polarize the world.

This one grabs Latin America, Saudi Arabia, southern Africa ... the other grabs North Africa, Mongolia, Laos, Cambodia ... and why Afghanistan? In addition to its ideological hunger, for the U.S. it represented a strategic point of control and destabilization of its enemies and for the USSR it meant access to the Indian Ocean and the oil reserves of the Middle East.

Farmers reacted with fury to the Soviet support for the little influential Afghan Communist Party and its collectivization of land. Yes, dear reader, please read it slowly, at first they were just farmers defending themselves from a foreign occupation.

Do you think the USSR even care that Afghanistan was a collage of very different peoples and ethnic groups — they are Pashtuns and Sunnis, but also Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Baluchis and Nuristanis, as well as Shiites and Sufis among many more — and the only thing that united them, and still does, is Islam.

The conflict, of course, escalated and all ethnic groups were pushed into jihad. But those Muslims had to be attacked with everything — with bombardments, with chemicals, and with the Soviet specialty, the scorched-earth policy. Leaving nothing left to eat, nothing to drink, nor a roof to spend the night under.

Ten years of fight without quarter the Red Army lost and more lost, carrying heavy artillery suitable for the steppe but not for the mountains. Surprise! Afghanistan is the Himalayas.

Of course fundamentalist Islam was armed and trained courtesy of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and… and… America, yes. I bet you didn't know or remember that Reagan gave a blank check to the mujahideen for his war and the CIA took care of the rest. An employee named Osama Bin Laden was in charge of assembling an army of Saudis, Yemenis, Algerians, Egyptians, Tunisians, Iraqis and Libyans. Meanwhile I, a bad student like no other, was failing my entry to high school.

The war ended for the USSR when American anti-aircraft battery dismembered the Russian helicopters. Their withdrawal left the Afghans amid a civil war, and the empire, amid of glasnost and perestroika, in inevitable shipwreck.

Svetlana Aleksievich, in her book Boys in Zinc, collected the crude testimonies of soldiers who returned to their country crazy, disoriented and without a future.

“Afghanistan has cured me. He has freed me from the faith that ours is always correct, that the newspapers and TV tell the truth,” said a soldier from the motorized infantry.

The U.S. occupation, meanwhile, was a backfire, under the pretext of ending the Taliban — beware, no one talked about them before 1994 — and a search-and-destroy order for the former friend Bin Laden. They took Afghanistan over in the process.

In summary, in 20 years, the United States has only achieved some armored oases in the capital and an uncontrolled lumpy mess in the provinces, but instead, Afghanistan has consolidated itself as a major producer of heroin and opium, drug trafficking and corruption are the order of the day.

The Biden administration now asks the Taliban government — the devil, more extreme than in the war against the USSR — for permission to remove its troops and collaborators.

Now with two children, a belly, bald, and with the help of a molecule recently approved by the FDA, I see how the United States are falling, and the new birds of prey are pouncing on the Afghans. It turns out their territory is rich in minerals.

I read a Pentagon document called "Afghanistan the ‘Saudi Arabia of lithium,’" causing China to drool like a little boy. They make the cell phones that you and I have. An aggravating factor, China has less disgust at the current insecurity and the weakness of the Afghan legal framework.

Now do you understand why I lost my faith? Why do I look at the enthusiasts with a tender rejection? Only reflection remains as a safeguard and the only antidote, or not even that, as Rubem Fonseca titled one of his crime novels: And from this vain and prostitute world I only wanted a cigar in my hand.


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