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Afghanistan or Patriotism Defined Exclusively as Resistance to Foreigners

Afghanistan or Patriotism Defined Exclusively as Resistance to Foreigners

Wednesday, 21 April, 2021 - 11:15

No country in the whole world can compete with Afghanistan’s patriotism when the concept is defined by the expulsion of invaders and occupiers. It is among a small minority of the world’s countries that have never known colonialism. It managed to do so because of the ferocity of its resistance, though its geographic location tempted many to annex and subdue it.

The so-called ‘Great Game’ of the nineteenth century was a Russian- British contest over it. The British, who seemed very keen on preventing the Russians from approaching India, had invaded it in 1839. In the end, the two competing empires, through several wars, paid a hefty price before agreeing, in 1907, not to colonize Afghanistan. The country established a buffer between Russia and India, but the strong coveters had to stay far away.

The Soviets invaded in 1979, and their occupation went on for ten years. It was “a bear raiding a beehive,” as Western journalists better acquainted with Afghan resistance than the Russians put it. As for the Americans in particular, when relishing in the troubles of their opponents, who had rubbed it in during the Vietnam War, they called Afghanistan “the Russians’ Vietnam.” And because the Soviets, when they pulled out, left behind a weak communist regime with rival factions and wings, the Mujahideen swiftly overthrew it in 1992.

The Taliban, which came to light after the Soviets’ withdrawal and the communists’ downfall, overthrew the Mujahideen and established a horrific regime that governed from 1996 to 2001. The US invasion in response to Al-Qaeda’s attack on September 11, 2001, toppled the Taliban and then established a transitional regime that remained transitional to this day, with American soldiers providing protection and support for it. The recent US announcement of an imminent withdrawal was seen as a victory by the Taliban, and it is right to see it that way.

We are, then, facing a patriotic tenacity embedded in the country’s history, an unparalleled willingness to sacrifice, give martyrs and endure hardship. Let us imagine, for example, an Afghan man or woman born in 1979: Afghanistan has granted them the opportunity to live through 42 consecutive years of war, violence, and calamities crowned with victories, something no other country in the world can offer. The Arabs who often extol the “million martyrs” in Algeria inevitably feel envious and jealous of Afghanistan’s history.

However, Afghan's patriotism in its outward steadfastness and ferocity is not patriotic at all in its internal content: The capital, Kabul, is destroyed. The economy has collapsed. The percentage of refugees and displaced people, whether at home or in Pakistan and Iran, is among the world’s highest. More importantly, violence, a state of war, and civil strife have made the Afghans feel less Afghani and more Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara...

For this reason, as soon as the Taliban’s latest victory against the US occupiers was announced, terror struck the hearts of more than a few Afghans, especially women and the educated, some of whom are making arrangements to leave their country. The national victory against the US left them face to face with a calamity. They have not forgotten the Taliban’s rule and its implementation of shariah law. Some of them remembered that the US withdrawal from Iraq was accompanied by ISIS’ expansion. Others went further back: The US withdrawal from Vietnam laid the groundwork for the emergence of the “boat people;” that is, thousands who had fled the bliss of astounding national victory.

Therefore, the statements issued by US officials before their imminent withdrawal did not reassure those Afghans, who alone have the merit required for building their country: For example, those officials said that they had guaranteed that Al-Qaeda would not return, but what about the capital Kabul falling into the Taliban’s hands again? They also said that they had trained 300,000 Afghan soldiers and security forces to defend the country, but what if they fail to defend the country in the face of the Taliban and split up ethnically and regionally.

The Afghan portrait, then, leaves us facing a burning question whose answer isn’t the US invaders’ job to provide: How can liberation from the occupier be coupled with decent conditions for the residents being liberated, especially women, but also those striving for freedom, equality, and progress? How, on the other hand, have others come to possess the ability to defend themselves against the Taliban and groups that resemble the Taliban without help from foreigners?

When this doesn’t happen and patriotism does not contain such a concern, then resistance and its victories lose their significance. Marxists, because of their ideas’ Western background, were aware of this dilemma and discussed the “social dimension of the national question” profusely, but they did not provide convincing models. Later, when they were engulfed by populism, they joined the representatives of the national question without any social dimension.

In general, unfortunately, the history of patriotism that was deeply rooted in resistance does not inspire hope that it will stand for values that deserve to be defended and devoted for. Its cost on people has become far higher than that of invasion and occupation.

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