Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 24th, 2017

Children of War and Nation-Rebuilding in Afghanistan

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Children of War and Nation-Rebuilding in Afghanistan

Although there have been significant works done on nation building in Afghanistan, it’s still a mystery. It should be confessed that the nation building has been a challenge for all the politicians, scholars and even five-star generals in the history. One of the reasons is that there is no agreed-upon conclusion regarding how, when and who would do the nation building. In the other words, are governments, the international community, elites or every single citizen of a nation responsible for nation building? Moreover, the philosophical perspective of nation-building makes it even more complicated: Whether a nation builds a state or the state builds the nation? Does not the state-building process break nations?
It has never been easy to answer these questions as people argue and say “it depends” instead of giving any specific answer. Moreover, there could be many internal and external factors influence and catalyze the process of the nation building. It is clear that situational approaches have resulted in trial and error in the nation-building process. For instance, international community sometimes supported people of a country to build a nation by their own imagination. Sometimes, while scholars were trying to convince politicians to prioritize economic and political reforms to pave the way for nation building, in a military view, generals could convince the international community to send troops to sabotage the dictatorial regimes and spread democracy. Many instruments of power like diplomacy, information, military or economic supports are being used to foster the nation-building process.
The Middle East is one of the regions where nation building has proved to be challenging. For instance, countries like Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have applied different approaches to nation building based on trial and error and the lessons learned. The lessons learned are very useful assets and is much more considerable, but it takes a lot of time, effort, capital, high opportunity cost which is sometimes not even recoverable.
Afghanistan is a unique example where international community consumed time, effort, and capital to build a nation since 2001 until now. But recently, the U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech of U.S. engagement, and “The Path Forward” in Afghanistan and South Asia changed the entire plans. When he said “Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.”
Various reactions emerged to the President Trump’s approach to the nation building process in Afghanistan. Some civil society activists, human rights and women rights activists were shocked. They thought if international community stops supporting the process of the nation building in Afghanistan, achievements of the international community in Afghanistan would be negatively affected. Despite billions of dollars have been spent in Afghanistan and also the nation building process in the last two decades, the war did not end and the nation building process is costing more and more. That’s why President Trump had to change the strategy and thus he clearly said “We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.” Now the question for Afghan citizens is “who will be responsible for the nation building”? Is it the responsibility of Afghan citizens, government, civil society, or international community? To answer this question, Afghanistan should be looked into more deeply.
Afghanistan is a multi-tribal society and nation building process has been internally and externally influenced and realigned but it never worked.
The ethnic groups were more divided when the Soviet Communist Army left Afghanistan in 1989, fighting over which group would control the country. The civil war erupted which not only destroy economic and political infrastructures but also destroyed the long standing attitude of tolerance and nation building process. Moreover, ethnocentric sentiments became the biggest threat to the cohesion of Afghanistan during the civil war and the role of ethnic leaders in a multi-tribal society became eminent during the civil war while they obviously attempted to save their people in the desire for revenge, military victory, and power control.
After 1989, alliances against Soviet army were broken and turned into the internecine civil war. Yesterday’s allies become today’s enemies, breaking Afghan nation into many factions. The different parties involved in the civil war had to find tools and techniques to motivate and inspire their infantry. Ethnicity, religion, cultural and historical values were supposed to be very powerful provokers. Unavoidably, they misused them to win battlefields regardless of how badly they could affect the nation. In addition, ethnic leaders highlighted the differences between Afghan people and feared them from each other. They forced people into a conflict to kill each other to get more power and lands. In the other words, the ethnic leaders killed their nation to build their own states.  
Analysts and observers are of the view that Afghan nation was broken apart during the civil war and need to be rebuilt. Nation rebuilding process should be approached like healing family wounds and pains. On the one hand, addressing old wounds and mistakes in the family can be painful, but on the other hand, letting them go away can result in losing valuable family members. Sometimes we get hurt and sometimes we hurt others in our family, but we can not leave each other and have to rebuild our family again. Now the question is, how to rebuild the Afghan nation? How could we rehabilitate the lost glory that we enjoyed once? The only generation who is able to accomplish the mission of rebuilding this war-torn country is the children of the war, who born in the war, grown up with the violation, discrimination and felt everything by their own heart.  
President Trump recently addressed the nation-building process in Afghanistan as a national responsibility of every Afghan citizen. It’s the time for the young Afghan to think about how to build their nation again. Indeed the civil war was totally wrong, and the responsible persons should be punished, but at this time more important is how to make peace with each other before to make peace with enemies otherwise the nation’s dream will be killed.  

Abdul Basir Azimi is Project Management Instructor at American University of Afghanistan. He can be reached at bazimi.mba@auaf.edu.af

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