Advocates for Dignity collaborated with the Massoud Foundation Australia to explore the question ‘What’s Really Happening in Afghanistan?” in their live webinar held on Wednesday 8 September 2021.

The webinar was opened by Mr Mehmet Saral, President of the Advocates for Dignity, who thanked the Massoud Foundation Australia for their partnership. The panel guests included  Professor Amin Saikal, Adjunct Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia, and Professor William Maley, Professor of Diplomacy at the Australian National University.

Former ABC Radio National Host John Cleary moderated at the webinar.

International conflict in Afghanistan commenced in 2001, triggered by the 11 September terrorist attacks on US soil and consisted of three phases:

  1. The first phase was focused on toppling the Taliban regime, lasting just two months.
  2. The second phase, from 2002 until 2008, was marked by the US strategy of defeating the Taliban militarily and rebuilding core institutions of the Afghan state.
  3. The third phase began in 2008 and was a turn to the classic pacification doctrine. It was accelerated with U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2009 decision to temporarily increase the US troop presence in Afghanistan.

The US and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan on 28 December 2014, but retained a reduced force of approximately 13,000 troops to support and train Afghan troops until a reduction was implemented in 2020.

A full withdrawal of US troops, initiated in 2020 continued into 2021 anticipating the end of US deployment to Afghanistan, but the resurgence of the Taliban during the withdrawal returned the country back to where it started when the US forces arrived 20 years ago.

“Afghanistan is the only country in the world that has been invaded by the three major powers of the last two centuries; Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States,” said Kabul born Professor Saikal. “This says something very profound about the nation and its society, despite all of their shortcomings, they have been freedom loving people and they’ve not really accepted foreign impositions.”

When asked about the composition of Afghanistan as a country and what that would mean for the Taliban, Professor Maley said, “If Taliban aim for a centralised state, they are going to run into a lot of difficulties because the Afghanistan in which they are operating is very different one to what was the case 20 years ago, it is much more globalised.”

He continued, “support was given to the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets, but they were native Afghans, whereas the Taliban are backed by Pakistan, which is why they are not as accepted today. The Taliban are quite likely to run up against contentious politics, the politics of protests and demonstrations, which can become difficult to manage.”

Afghanistan is central to many South Asian countries, which naturally results in many countries having vested interests in it. Though it has been vehemently denied by their government, one country of particular concern seems to be Pakistan.

On this point, Professor Saikal said, “In many ways, this is a Pakistan backed invasion. For the first time, Pakistan has succeeded more than any other foreign power to have a strong cross border proxy force to control Afghanistan indirectly… hoping that they would be able to rely on Afghanistan as a backup in order to confront the main regioional force – India.’

Professor Maley also touched on the damage the US acquired to its reputation and the damage it has done to its allies as a result of its effectively failed mission, despite US deployment in Afghanistan for 20 years.

“This raised questions of just how reliable the US could be as a partner. Will the US hold the line only until it can no longer be bothered doing so?” he said. “The situation in Afghanistan will likely reduce US partnerships with nations other than those who are locked into alliances with them.”

Finally the program was officially closed with a vote of thanks by Mrs Marina Nawabi, who is an Afghan human rights activist, representing the Massoud Foundation Australia.

The webinar can be viewed on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/c/AdvocatesforDignity