Camelia Entekhabifard
Editor-in-chief of the Independent Persian.

Afghanistan, Once More a Center for Terrorism and Drug Trade

Karte Parwan is a neighborhood in northwestern Kabul, on a considerable height compared to the other quarters of the city. Its houses, right next to the lush heights of Pakhman, give the residents the benefit of being away from urban mayhem. On Saturday morning, the people of Karte Parwan woke up not to the pleasant breeze of Pakhman but to smoke, explosions, death and the smell of gunpowder. Gangs of death, or the suicidal terrorists, had targeted the temple of Afghan Sikhs.

The news about explosions and killing of citizens, ranging from attacks on school pupils to suicide attackers entering Shiite mosques and places of worship for Afghanistan’s ethnic and religious minorities, have become so common that they appear to form part of the ordinary daily life of people and media. It is Taliban’s presence that forces this situation on the people of Afghanistan. Terrorism is in the integral nature of terrorist groups; it doesn’t stop when they come to power.

Taliban seized power ten months ago. Now, it has been almost a year since they are in power. There is a very real worry that Afghanistan will be, once more, a center for international terrorist activities.

Developments in Afghanistan’s northern neighbor, Pakistan, a major supporter of Taliban which has played a key role in creating Taliban and supporting it with funds and weapons, shows the reasons for prolonging of terrorist activities in Afghanistan.

In its conflict with India over the region of Kashmir, Pakistan perennially needs to keep the practice of Jihad alive for the religious extremists that follow it. Pakistan’s ISI, working with fundamentalist Pakistani mullahs, has been the main actor designing and executing religious extremism and agitating the public opinion in favor of Jihad in the Kashmir region. These Mullahs are still controlled by the ISI.

Pakistan sees the keeping up of Jihad in the fundamentalist section of its society as crucial in its confrontation with India over Kashmir. But now that there is no war with India, people who have been brainwashed for this purpose must be kept busy so as to not threaten Pakistan’s security.

Pakistan’s strategic depth necessitates insecurity for Afghanistan. Keeping alive the element of Jihad for confrontation with India means the need for recruitment of suicidal and extremist forces who must be kept busy in a nearby region. All the elements that could once more help turn Afghanistan into a center for international terrorism are there.

First, it is the Jihadist ideology. Of the 150,000 soldiers of Taliban, more than 50 percent (i.e. around 75,000) harbor a Jihadist ideology. This means a belief in suicide operations, creation of an Islamist caliphate and idea of Islam dominating the globe. (This is not counting the foreign forces in Afghanistan who are members of Al Qaeda, ISIS-Khorasan, Central Asian terrorists and other foreign militants with similar ideas to Taliban.)

Ideology is thus the strongest motive. Then there is the question of Afghanistan’s geography which gives help for strengthening and promotion of terrorist groups.

This country consists of mountains, many valleys and forests. It thus gives a great opportunity for hiding and refuge for these groups.

The third factor is access to funding for terrorist groups based on drug trade and excavation and illegal smuggling from mines of gold, precious stones and coal. Based on reports by international organizations, since Taliban came to power, production of drugs has accelerated. The annual volume of drug trade in Afghanistan is estimated at more than 33 billion dollars which is the main source of funding for terrorist groups and Taliban. The areas for cultivation of drug and routes of smuggling are controlled by terrorist groups; this was true under the previous government and it is true now.

To justify terrorist actions and massacring of innocent people, the propaganda machinery of Taliban issues fatwas and offers false interpretations and fake versions of Quranic verses and the Hadith. It thus gives religious approval to brainwashed extremist groups.

Ideology, appropriate geography and ample financial resources are there. All that is needed to turn the country into a center for international terrorism is weaponry which was provided gratis by the US.

Sadly, the US left seven billion dollars worth of weaponry and military equipment in Afghanistan as it rapidly left the country. In the absence of a responsible and accountable government, and given the terrorist groups that boast financial resources, ideology and a suitable geography, the weapons are being used for massacre, terrorism as well as sales and exchange with other terrorist groups.

Given such volumes of weapons, financial resources and extremist motives, these groups can easily threaten the world with their extraterritorial forces.

The world and the West want to close their eyes to the current catastrophes in Afghanistan. Killing Sikh citizens in a Sikh Dharamshala (as Sikh and Hindu places of worship are called in Dari) in the faraway Karte Parwan might only lead to a bit of sadness as they ignore the massacre of people in Panjshir and killing of Shiite worshippers. They ignore Afghanistan and all the people being killed there. But history is full of lessons. In the 1990s, too, the world abandoned Afghanistan and closed its eyes on the brutality of Taliban and massacring of its people. It was the attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York that awakened them.

Today, things are not like the late 1990s. They are more serious and dangerous.

The world must provide for the formation of an inclusive and elected government with representation from all minorities. Terrorists must be contained in their roots.

Ignoring the events in Afghanistan and the killings that are going on there as well as the growth in production and export of drugs to the world will help turn the country into a center for international terrorism. There should be a government in Afghanistan that’s responsible, in contact with the international community and able to represent the people of the country with credibility, respect and calm.

In 1933, the great poet of Indian subcontinent, later known as the spiritual father of Pakistan (which was founded almost a decade after his death) visited Afghanistan on the invitation of Kabul. Following his trip, he wrote a poem called “Passenger.” Few of its verses are quite telling:

“Asia is a united body,
The Afghan nation is its heart.

When Afghanistan goes bad, so will Asia.
When Afghanistan does well, so will Asia.”