Every year, when the western countries’ parliaments debate about the extension or otherwise of their troops’ mission in Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan get concerned and anxious. The worry is: What will happen if these countries too, like Holland and Canada, decide to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan? Meanwhile, however, the Taliban terrorists strive to execute more suicide attacks, plant more roadside bombs and even conduct massive attacks on soldiers of these countries, in order to forge the public opinion in their home countries in a manner that forces the parliamentarians to accept an exit decision.
On the brink of the German Parliament’s debate about their mission’s extension in Northern Afghanistan, it is important to look at the number of terrorist activities in the North. The increase of attacks in winter - that means, in a season in which the Taliban traditionally carry out fewer attacks - substantiates the assumption that the Taliban are aiming at public opinion in Germany.
The German forces commenced their peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan following the UN-led Bonn Accord, which was hosted by Germany. The peacekeeping forces normally do not indulge in wars. But the situation in Afghanistan compounded by the Taliban reemergence has compelled the peacekeeping missions of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) to enter into direct confrontations and warfare. The expansion of the Taliban activities in Northern Afghanistan is a prime factor to such campaigns.
The attacks on World Trade Center on September 11 that claimed the lives of more than three thousand innocent civilians is the main reason for ISAF’s presence in Afghanistan, of which German forces are part. The U.S invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban supported al-Qaeda, the network that conducted 9/11 attacks, and refused to hand their leaders over to the U.S. The UN, through a resolution supported by many countries, was determined to turn Afghanistan into a democratic, stable and secure country because leaving Afghanistan on its own could facilitate even greater attacks to happen throughout the world, especially in the West.
The raison d’être of ISAF, under whose command thousands of soldiers from various countries and cultures are serving in Afghanistan, is the recognition of terrorism as a global threat. Nonetheless, unfortunately even after nine years, stability, democracy and security are still vague prospects in the country. This is primarily due to wavering policy and action against the sources of terrorists’ funding and supply, a lack of coordination between Afghanistan-based international forces, and the absence of a decisive and healthy Afghan political leadership.
Undoubtedly, there have been considerable developments in various sectors during the past nine years, chiefly due to the presence of international forces and their support. More than 3,000 kilometers of roads have been paved and dozens of media outlets including TV, radio and magazines have been established, creating a media revolution in Afghanistan. This is despite the fact that nine years ago there was only one TV and radio station in Afghanistan, the names of both being Shariat (Islamic Law). But now many private universities offer quality education, millions of Afghans are connected through mobile and telephone and more than four million Afghan children attend schools. Despite the weak status of rule of law, Afghanistan now has a Constitution that ensures the democratic nature of public institutions and the election of statesmen through direct vote of citizens.
However, all these developments are fragile, because during the past nine years, due attention was not paid to the sources of war and terrorism in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been constantly and overtly supporting the Taliban and providing safe havens and training camps for their leaders and those of al-Qaeda. Several international reports indicate that Pakistani intelligence, ISI, has been providing arms and financial support to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani group, while the Pakistani army shows no inclination to conduct military operations in Northern Waziristan. The Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi Shuras, of which top Taliban leaders are member, operate openly.
The return of the Taliban is conceivable any time, because necessary defense infrastructure aimed at defending the territorial integrity of Afghanistan is not yet effectively and potently in place. The Afghan National Army still suffers from a lack of heavy artillery, air force and logistics support. In addition, despite considerable investments in the police sector, many Afghans still consider the Afghan National Police untrustworthy. The Afghan government has not become a transparent, accountable and effective administration and the ever-increasing corruption and inefficiency has provided for the increase of Taliban influence. The neighbors of Afghanistan, particularly Pakistan and Iran, have not been convinced that peace and stability in Afghanistan can benefit them as well, therefore, they keep on supporting various dimensions of Taliban activities including training and providing financial resources to them.
Meanwhile, there has been no considerable change in the attitude and behavior of the Taliban. They are still the same extremist organization that has no respect to international values - including human rights - while adamantly trying to impose their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. They still have strong links with al-Qaeda; murder children, women, other civilians and public servants and set fire to schools and healthcare centers. They are bent on taking the country back to a pre-modern and tribal society, where traditions and strict Islamic codes are prevalent.
The return of the Taliban not only makes Afghanistan the epicenter of insecurity but also make it the source of exporting and propagating terrorism, extremism and violence. If Afghanistan is lost, religious and ethnic hatred will prevail in the Middle East and will affect European countries as well.
The people of Afghanistan are grateful for the presence of international security forces and commend their sacrifices, courage and heroisms. Afghans realize that their presence will prevent the re-dominance of the Taliban. It is adequate to look at the recent polls conducted by The Asia Foundation and BBC to find out that more than 60% of Afghans want the international forces to remain in the country and 88% consider the Taliban and al-Qaeda the perpetrators of violence. These statistics show that Afghans long for a peaceful, tranquil, democratic and dignified life along with the international community and do not support the Taliban and terrorists.
Sanjar Sohail is the owner and publisher of 8 Sobh Daily (Daily 8 am). He was born in Takhar, a northeast province in Afghanistan. He has finished his high school there and holds a bachelor degree from the faculty of Language and Literature of Kabul University. He studied Human Rights at the Danish Institute for Human Rights in Copenhagen and as well attended short term training courses of Human Rights in Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
Besides, Mr. Sanjar attended radio journalism briefing training courses which were conducted by Afghanistan branch of BBC and Inter News.
Mr. Sanjar formerly served as news and current affairs manager at Saba TV station in Kabul and senior advisor and news chief editor in National Radio & Television of Afghanistan (RTA). He also worked as deputy chief editor in many publications (Watandar weekly and Kunduz Magazine) and as chief editor of Cinematic monthly.
He was director of the Afghan Student movement and also one of the active members of the Young Leader Forum at Friedrich Ebert stiftung (FES).
Establishment of 8 Sobh Daily, a unique and leading media organization, is one of his major achievements. He believes that 8 Sobh Daily can play an important role in promoting democracy and educating people about the principles of democracy through publishing democratic ideas in wide range. As well, the paper can be a tribune for people to raise their voices and to exercise and implement the freedom of speech by enhancing public morality to raise their voices against poor performance of the central and local government and councils.
8 Sobh Daily (Daily 8 a.m) was established on May 22, 2007 by a number of well-known and reputed journalists and media activists. This daily, which is owned and published by Mr. Sanjar Sohail, has been established as a tool to address recent political movements in Afghanistan and its intention is to focus on news, analytical political and social reports, and dialogues. It aims at providing fair and sound information and current facts on human rights, democracy, national unity and national interests to its audience and, herewith, to support democratic institutions, human rights - especially the process of transitional justice - and the process of fostering rule of law in the country.
For the first time in Afghanistan, 8 Sobh newspaper raises its voice not only to address the internal issues, but also to cover the regional issues based on an analytical approach, as the democratic development in Afghanistan is not only affected by the internal economy, politics, social and cultural factors, but that it is also drastically affected by regional political and social factors. This newspaper, in its turn, intends to put its efforts in further democratization of the country.
The 8 Sobh Daily is running its operations in 10 provinces of the country, including:
- Kabul (Central Capital Region)
- Balkh (Northern Region)
- Nangarhar (Eastern Region)
- Herat (Western Region)
- Bamyan (Central Highland Region), and
- Ghazni (Southern Region)
- Takhar (Northeast Region)
- Badakhshan (Northeastern Region)
- Baghlan (Northern Region)
- Kunduz (Northeast Region)