Violence in the Provinces

Afghanistan, a country roughly the size of Texas.  This country, has dominated the global news captivating the world with images of horrendous violence, destruction, and war.  The state however, does not experience violence in a uniform way.  Split up into 34 provinces, the two most violent provinces are the southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces containing about two thirds of violent attacks this year.  

 

First, the extreme violence in Afghanistan is concentrated in about nine out of the thirty four provinces.  The violence begins at the Helmand province than snakes alongside the Pakistan border up to the Konar province.  The extreme violence in these regions can be attributed to a variety of reasons.  First, the location of the regions in relation to Afghanistan can explain the violence.  The lawless tribal lands of Afghanistan, which have served as a safe haven to the Taliban, touch the Afghani border.  This therefore allows for the fighters refuged in the tribal lands to swiftly resume the insurgency in violent eastern provinces.  The long war journal states, “With more resources and a safe haven in northwestern Pakistan, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terror groups have launched numerous attacks on US and Afghan outposts in the eastern provinces” (www.longwarjournal.com).  The violence in these regions destabilizes business, destroys infrastructure, and promotes insecurity thus making these regions more prone to fail.  

 

On the other end of the spectrum, the central provinces tend to be much more stable than their Pakistani bordering counterparts. Icasualties reports that 10 provinces have reported less than 25 casualties since the beginning of the war (icasulties.org).  These provinces are located in the geographic middle of the country which can explain why there is less violence.  These provinces are extremely mountainous and isolated from the rest of Afghanistan.  The isolation has not only detracted extremist ideologies but has kept the people in these regions relatively safe from the violence.  The close knit communities in these regions rejected the Taliban, therefore have remained virtually free of violence.  The economic differences between both the violent regions and safer provinces are extremely noticeable.  The poorest regions are the violent eastern provinces (siteresources.worldbank.org).  The Taliban and other terrorist networks provide a answer to the frustrations of the poor.  The poor than join the Taliban, and use violence in order to achieve the riches which the Taliban have promised them.  

 

The state of Afghanistan has been ravaged by a deadly conflict for the last two decades.  Extreme violence, however is not uniformly experienced.  The eastern provinces which border Pakistan attract much of the violence due to the proximity of insurgent safe havens in the tribal lands of Pakistan.  Inversely, the secluded life style and mountainous communities of the central provinces has allowed for a escape from the war thus proving that violence is a result of outside forces rather than Afghanistan’s own fault. 

The Taliban

The Taliban, the most influential group in Afghanistan’s history.  The Taliban are a group of islamic fundamentalists who took control of the Afghani government from the years 1996-2001.  During these years, strict Islamic Law was imposed on the Afghani people, and the state further decayed.  Afghanistan under the Taliban ultimately led failed resulting in the war torn and decimated country seen today.  

The Taliban originated in Pakistan in the early 1990s, yet came to prominence in Afghanistan during the autumn of 1994 (www.bbc.co.uk).  The Taliban preached a very conservative islamic mantra, attracting Afghani’s who wanted to conserve their culture after decades of foreign invasion.  In 1996, the Taliban finally acceded into power instituting a hardline version of Sharia law  Men were forced to grow beards, and women had to cover themselves with a burka at all time.  All western influences were banned including movies, books, and music.  The Taliban’s harsh religious punishments and brutality eventually decimated the countries infrastructure, economy, and progress.  

Afghanistan made it’s absolute decent into state failure when the Taliban came to power.  The Taliban’s implement of Shiara law decimated the economy.  No imports from western nations were allowed, and exporting any goods to western states meant severe punishment.  This therefore detracted any foreign investors from investing into any Afghani business resulting in the abysmal economy seen today.  Similarly, the Taliban’s hardline version of Shiara law created a enormous disparity between men and women.  The lack of support for girls education, and women’s right created a population where only 12% of women can read (cia.gov).  The lack education therefore results in minimal opportunities for women thus hurting the overall functionality of the state.  The Taliban’s ruthlessness and brutality however eventually brought international attention, resulting in the NATO invasion.  

The Taliban were finally removed from power in Afghanistan in 2001, by a American led, NATO force.  Since the Taliban’s rise to power, they allowed for Afghanistan to become a safe haven for Osama-Bin Laden’s terrorist net work Al-Qaeda.  After repeated terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda culminating in the attacks of 9/11, the United States intervened resulting in a full scale invasion of Afghanistan in order to expel Al-Qaeda (berkleycenter.georgetown.edu).   The Taliban’s harboring of this terror network eventually led to their downfall, yet their legacy of failure remains.  Afghanistan is a largely violent state, with pockets of Taliban insurgency plaguing the Kandahar and Helmand provinces.  The Taliban’s removal has allowed for Afghanistan to slowly crawl out of failure, yet the insurgency in support for the Taliban threatens to negate all the progress achieved. 

Afghanistan’s Cash Crop

Opium: Afghanistan’s most important cash crop.  Afghanistan has for almost the entirety of it’s history, been in a state of conflict.  Civil war, colonization, and foreign occupation have all been staples of the Afghani way of life for the last two hundred years.  The cultivation of opium in Afghanistan has flooded international drug markets with heroin, thus making Afghanistan the global producer of the drug.  Afghanistan’s failure has facilitated for the opium market to grow, and consequently further endanger the stability of Afghanistan.  The continued production of Opium in Afghanistan has fueled corruption, insurgency, and a local drug problem which threatens to destroy the state.  

Afghanistan’s state failure has allowed for the creation of a mammoth sized opium producing state.  Afghanistan has been gradually progressing as a opium producing state. In 2013, the country saw an all time high of production with 516,000 acres set aside strictly for the cultivation of opium (www.nytimes.com).  This kind of increase reflects the lucrative business which stems from producing heroin.  According to the NY Times, “Alternative crops cannot command the sort of prices even to farmers that opium does, especially after shortages led to historically high prices in 2012” (www.nytimes.com).  This therefore has prevented for coalition forces to crack down on opium production in order to detract farmers from joining the Taliban.  Opium has proved to be a lucrative crop, yet the Taliban have also noticed it’s potential.  

Opium is a lucrative business in Afghanistan.  The Taliban have been trying to take advantage of the new cash crop which is invading the state.  Rt.com states, “A massive inflow of cash connected to the sale of opium has helped the Taliban insurgency, which imposes a tax on poppy farmers in areas it controls, in addition to the outright participation in the selling and transferring of the crop” (rt.com).  Afghanistan’s lack of laws and out right acceptance for selling and producing opium is directly funding the Taliban thus further threatening the state’s security.  Heroin and it’s production however is not lucrative for everyone, the creation of the drug has lead to an explosion in local addiction.  

Afghanistan has seen an unprecedented growth in heroin addicts.  Addiction to heroin has increased to 225,000 people in 2012 (www.dailymail.co.uk).  Years of conflict have altered the mindset of many Afghani’s. In order to escape the daily struggles of living in a failed state, many Afghani’s have turned to heroin in order to use it as a escape from the tortures of daily life.  This therefore decreases the production and efficiency of Afghani’s setting the state up for greater failure.  The easily available drug is ruining households in Afghanistan thus further prompting for the failure of the Afghanistan. 

Progress?

Afghanistan is at the threshold of complete state failure.  After more then a decade of war with NATO forces, Afghanistan will be left to it’s own people.  The country has evolved with the help of various international organizations, going from a Taliban controlled oppressive state to a country full of hope and optimism.  The Afghani people are ready for change, yet, centrifugal forces remain threatening to negate all the progress which has already been made.  

Afghanistan has completely altered it’s government.  The country two decades ago was lawless, with a weak and ineffective central government.  The Taliban ruled in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.  They instituted a harsh form of Islamic law which punished those who refused to adhere to their own visions of religious devotion (www.cfr.org).  In 2001, the Taliban were ousted from Kabul marking the first step in reclaiming Afghanistan.  Since 2001, the Taliban have scattered.  The Hellmand and Kandahar regions of Afghanistan contain the largest concentrations of Taliban fighters remaining in the country.  Afghan security forces have taken over all security efforts, yet “Green-on-Blue”attacks have increased.  This data portrays that the insurgency has not diminished, but has adapted to the war.  The lack of improvement regarding the security situation of Afghanistan shows that state failure is a serious reality for Afghans.  

Next, the change in government and political institutions demonstrates the healing of Afghanistan.  The current government now is made up of three branches: the executive, the judicial and the legislative branch.  The new legal system mixes civil, customary, and Islamic law in order to promote and enforce governance in Afghanistan (cia.gov).  While the new government and political institutions are still in the early stages, their legitimacy is suspect.  Corruption runs rampant in every aspect of Afghan life.  According to undoc.org,”that for every five Afghan citizens who paid at least one bribe in the 12 months prior to the survey, there was one who refused to do so mainly due to a lack of financial resources” (undoc.org).  Such rampant corruption undermines the legitimacy of the government thus making it impossible to enforce laws an policy.  Similarly fraud and corruption have run rampant in Afghanistan.  The New York Times reports that about 25% of votes are thrown out thus demonstrating further corruption (www.nytimes.com).  The Afghani people have transitioned from a brutal Taliban controlled government to a young democratic government.  The new government however is plagued with corruption thus threatening the progress made by NATO forces.  

Afghanistan is on the verge of state failure.  Decades of conflict have taken its toll on the country, however NATO has improved the situation exponentially.  NATO forces have removed the Taliban from power, making them hide in the lawless souther provinces of Afghanistan.  Their removal however has not shown any large decrease in violence, thus showing that the Taliban have adapted to their situation.  The government of Afghanistan has also changed greatly with free elections and humane political policies.  The legitimacy of the government however has remained in question due to rampant corruption.  Afghanistan and it’s people must now decide whether Afghanistan will continue on it’s path to prosperity or flounder into failure.  

 

The Media

Death, brutality, and war; all words which are conjured by the mind whenever the country of Afghanistan is mentioned.   Afghanistan has been covered extensively by the media for the last decade and a half.  Images of war are rampant, and the country is portrayed as a war zone lacking human interactions.  While Afghanistan is largely a war torn area, these images only capture the negative aspects of the nation.  The negative bias displayed by the media is also hurting the country culturally by creating a negative image of the ancient traditions of the Afghani people.  

The media has largely portrayed Afghanistan with an extremely negative bias.  Daily coverage of Afghanistan reports military deaths, civilian casualties and the latest onslaught of Taliban attacks.  This article by Foxnews is an example of the negative bias shown by the media.  The article describes how 2,150 U.S. personal have died in the war.  The article is clearly highlighting the large number of deaths in Afghanistan thus, only highlighting the dangerous notion behind the country.  Similarly, the brutality of the Taliban is a focal point of most news sources.  

A simple Google search of “Afghanistan” yielded hundreds of news stories of the Taliban’s horrendous violence on the innocent people of Afghanistan.  Stories like the one reported by NBC news highlights the brutality of the Taliban.  NBC reports, “ Since i was here this spring, there have been six brutal attacks against schoolgirls-assaults ranging from a remote-controlled bomb explosion mass poisonings through gas attacks and drinking water contamination.  One school was burned to the ground” (worldnews.nbcnews.com).  This article largely relies on the terrifying  possibility of violence towards the innocent students in order to get its message across.  Such negative portrayal is not helping better the situation, but is solely hurting the countries culture.  

The media buzz surrounding Afghanistan has created a dire situation for the people of Afghanistan.  Afghanistan has largely been an isolated country in regards to the “Western” tradition of media. The cultural differences are now being captivated by the media and shown back to the people of Afghanistan.  Women in particular are feeling the brunt of such coverage.  Masum Momaya conveys that the media is creating stereotypes regarding women by stating, “ …a media focus on these kinds of provisions ostensibly invites international viewers into the intimate affairs of Afghans, sexualizes Afghan men, and provides support for the argument that Afghan women need to be “saved from their savage, sexually voracious men, such that one form aggression is justified rather in trying to curb another (sexual)” (www.awid.org).  The media coverage regarding the cultural differences promotes the notion that the western world has the culturally righteous path, thus harming the Afghan culture.  

The country of Afghanistan has been attracting global media for the last two decades.  Coverage of Afghanistan primarily focuses in on the violence plaguing the country.  Furthermore, the media buzz in Afghanistan has promoted cultural insensitivity by biasing the coverage on how “western” ideals are morally just in comparison to Afghan customs. 

Afghanistan’s Environmental Issues

Afghanistan, a country which has constantly been ravaged by war has a conglomerate of problems effecting it. The media has portrayed the human rights atrocities and the NATO invasion, yet the enviromental damage done to the country’s eco-system and environment has remained mostly unnoticed.  The country’s lack of financial means prevents it from fixing the nations significant enviromental issues.  Afghanistan suffers from water and resource pollution, and extensive deforestation.  In response to a improving situation, Afghanistan is beginning to become conscious of their enviromental issues thus taking necessary steps to remedy the situation.  

Afghanistan’s climate traditionally has been one of extremes.  Boiling hot summers, and bitter winters have strained the people of the country for thousands of years. The last century however has seen more conflict than ever before thus decimating the already fragile economy.  The afghan people are so poor that they cannot purchase fuel.  Instead according to afghanistans.com, Afghans must resort to rely on burning trees, shrubbery, and burning dung (afghanistans.com).  The extensive use of this source of energy is extremely harmful to the environment.  The carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide created through this method of energy production pollutes the air.  The air quality therefore is severely effected, thus harming the environment.  The deforestation which is necessary for the collection of trees and shrubbery creates soil erosion due to the lack of protection from the vegetation (afghanistans.com).  Much like the enviromental pollution created by the lack of government enforcement, the lack of modern technology has led to rampant desertification.  

Afghanistan’s constant state of conflict has interfered with the countries agricultural development. Desertification has been steadily creeping itself onto the countries ecology throughout the last decade.  Unfortunately IRIN News reports, “Neither the government nor impoverished Afghan farmers have the basic technology or required resources to resist widening desertification” (www.irinnews.org ).  This therefore makes it nearly impossible to continue subsistence farming in Afghanistan which makes up about half of the Afghan economy (www.irinnews.org).  The enviromental impact of desertification will therefore devastate the Afghan economy, and create a shortage of food for the ever growing population.  The Afghan government however is responding, in an attempt to fight back.  

The Afghan government is responding to the enormous enviromental issue’s plaguing the country.  Afghanistan has recently created the National Enviromental Agency, which has began to legislate laws in an attempt to regulate pollution. The mission of NEPA is to regulate, coordinate, monitor and enforce enviromental laws (www.afghan-web.com).  The first law passed in 2007 aims at protecting the countries vast enviromental resources marking the first step in improving the enviromental situation.  

Afghanistan’s enviromental issues have been amplified due to the constant conflict.  Deforestation has run rampant in an attempt to create cheap and fast energy.  Similarly, Afghanistan’s lack of agricultural advancement has left it powerless to the forces of desertification, threatening famine.  In response to such issues, the Afghan government has responded by creating NEPA, and taking steps in drafting the first laws which will protect and manage the country’s enviromental issues. 

International Intervention in Afghanistan

The country of Afghanistan is failing.  Massive conflict between security forces and the Taliban, a abysmal economy, and inept government has plunged Afghanistan into state failure.  The countries inability to govern itself however has not just effected its own population.  The countries failure has had global implications.  Terrorists using Afghanistan as a safe haven have attacked global centers of trade and commerce.  The countries instability has flooded drug markets with opium, and the despicable internal conditions have prompted a global response. A U.S. led NATO collation has invaded Afghanistan, the U.N. is providing aid to Afghanistan, and even the private sector have all responded in an attempt to help the country recover from state failure.  

Afghanistan’s lack of internal security has allowed for it to become a breeding ground for terrorism.  Terrorists from Al-Qaeda have used Afghanistan’s mountain to train, and plan attacks for decades, and on September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked.  Recognizing the Afghanistan’s inability to defeat the Al-Qaeda, the United States led a NATO coalition invasion of Afghanistan.  Since 2003, the NATO led ISAF has led the charge against insurgents, and have provided crucial training to the Afghan security forces (www.nato.int 1). According to to the NATO website, NATO’s primary mission is to, “enable the Afghan authorities to provide effective security across the country and ensure that the country can never again be a safe haven for terrorists” (www.nato.int 1).  Through the organizations extensive security operations and training of the Afghan security forces, NATO is slated to leave and hand over all internal security to the Afghans in 2014.  NATO’s response has reduced terrorist cells in Afghanistan into hiding, and internal security and governance has became stronger.  Similarly to NATO’s mission, the United Nations have responded to the crisis in Afghanistan.  

The United Nations have intervened in Afghanistan’s state failure.  The U.N. has provided aid to Afghanistan since the countries induction into the United Nations.  In the post 9-11 era however the U.N.’s efforts have increased.  The U.N. has asked for about 600 million dollars in immediate aid money, in order to help cure the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan (www.un.org 1). The U.N. has also provided about 114, 000 metric tons of food aid to the Afghan people further aiding Afghanistan’s poverty stricken population.  The U.N. continues it’s mission to provide assistance. An expected $10 billion dollars are needed in Afghanistan over a 10 year period of time, and the U.N. is working at finding international donors for this project.  While the U.N. attempts to help Afghanistan on a macro level, private organizations are providing aid to Afghanistan.  

Images of the horrors in Afghanistan have shocked people from all over the world.  Visions of brutality, and cruelty has stunned the globe prompting private groups to intervene.  One such group called Oxfam, is a international confederation of organizations which is providing aid to the Afghan people.  Oxfam provides a variety o services to Afghanistan such as clean water, hygiene kits, food, and provide warning systems for at risk areas (www.oxfam.org).  Oxfam also involves itself highly in local activities.  Through working with native Afghans, Oxfam has supported the creation of rural development, women empowerment projects, and the enforcement of community peace building (www.oxfam.org).  Oxfam, is just one of many private charities which have provided it’s services in an attempt  to heal Afghanistan.