Today is the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks when Al-Qaeda hijackers carried out the worst terrorist attack in recent history killing thousands of innocent people. Afghan and international media outlets have given extensive coverage reporting about the impact of 9/11, particularly focusing the war in Afghanistan. I have had several feature interviews, mostly recalling the personal memories and thoughts about the post-9/11 decade and Afghanistan.
On September 11, 2001, I was in Quetta city of Pakistan, the place which is infamous in the Western media as the hideout of Taliban’s “Quetta Shura”. It seemed like the entire city was talking about that huge attack, albeit in a way that mocked the US supremacy. Most people in that deeply conservative city were saying that it was a reaction to the American imperialist moves and injustices in the world.
We here in Afghanistan had experienced worse than 9/11 attacks in our everyday life during the three decades of war and crisis, particularly in the darkest era of our history under the rule of Taliban regime. For instance, just two days before the incident, a resistance leader was killed by two Al-Qaeda suicide bombers. I remember it was no less than breaking news for Afghan refugee Diaspora as tragic as that of the 9/11 for Americans and the world. Taliban had massacred thousands of people in Mazar-e-Sharif, Bamiyan and other parts of the country. We had seen much horrible scenes during the street battles in Kabul. Thousands of people were killed.
It was very tragic, but personally I have always thought 9/11 was like a blessing for the people in Afghanistan because as a consequence of this attack, the US came here and toppled the forces of evil known as the Taliban regime. I don’t mean to be happy for loss of thousands of lives on 9/11, but in a way it brought attention of the world to the atrocities of Taliban in Afghanistan, only when Americans experienced a day of destruction that we had gone through for years.
We had already lost our twin towers before 9/11. World Trade Center was a symbol of American capitalism. When Taliban destroyed the giant Buddha statues of Bamiyan, we felt like our twin towers, the symbol of past-glory and civilization had been destroyed. Whenever I visit the site of destroyed Buddhas in Bamiyan, I cry for this atrocity of the Taliban. And I dream the day when like Americans, we will be able to rebuild our twin towers of history—the giant Buddha statues.
Today after 10 years, when we recall those days, life in Kabul is more than good. Despite the insecurity threats and militant attacks that keep our daily lives in a constant security fear, millions of Kabulities have a normal life, which is much better than the days of Taliban and prior to that the street battles during the factional war among Mujahideen.
Today after ten years, the worst of our worries are all about security and nation-building in this country. Nowadays with the talk of the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, people have already started fearing about return of the 90s era of civil war. We are still not certain about a genuine peace in this country. However, despite being very uncertain, I hope the international community will not let Afghanistan down once again, as the US left us on the mercy of our neighbors after supporting the Mujahideen during the resistance against Soviet Union. If the United States and the world had supported Afghanistan to get on a track of political stability after the Soviet withdrawal, we would not have seen the nightmares of civil war and dark days of Taliban, who provided safe havens to Al-Qaeda masterminds of 9/11.
We have had great achievements during the last decade in Afghanistan. Ten years ago, the entire infrastructure in Afghanistan was destroyed. But over the last decade we have had the kind of development in our economy, infrastructure and government institutions that we lacked over the last two centuries.
Afghanistan has never experienced a peaceful transition of power in its history, but we have a democratic government selected by the votes of people. We had two presidential and parliamentary elections. We have a strong number of Armed forced to defend our borders and maintain security in parts of the country.
After the Soviet invasion and civil war, all defense forces of Afghanistan had been shattered and destroyed. Today we have an Army of more than 150,000 troops, trained by NATO countries. We have a police force of similar number, trained by the coalition countries. The contribution of NATO and ISAF has been immense and great in rebuilding Afghanistan. If it was not their presence, western countries would not have contributed in the reconstruction of this doomed country.
However, there are failures in the mission which ISAF had been mandated by the UN to fight in Afghanistan. They have not been successful in eliminating terrorism and rooting out the international Jihadi terrorists from Afghanistan. With the military might and advance technology, this should have been possible by now.
As there are talks of ISAF and NATO troops’ withdrawal, with deteriorating situation, rising militancy and political instability, the future looks uncertain. If they withdraw from Afghanistan without leaving behind a management which could defend us from becoming an international terrorist harboring place, the return of 90s era is inevitable.
The situation will get out of control very quickly if there is a complete lack of interest by the international community to stay involved in Afghanistan. The biggest challenge for the future of Afghanistan is not corruption or good governance; it is religious extremism, militancy and the cancer of Jihadi terrorism. We also do not have political stability, something we did not have for the entire history of Afghanistan.