The Taliban. No truck even with the 10th century and on their way to you.

Taliban destroyed one of the most precious statues of the Bhudda in Bamyan

I was just six years old when the U.S. entered Afghanistan. Now, more than ever, I worry about the fate of the misunderstood country my parents once proudly called home.

As a Brit with Pashtun heritage, I often look back at my childhood and remember the moment when Afghanistan was globally dubbed a global hot bed of Islamist terrorism in order to fight the “war on terror”.

How could this be? It was a beautiful country, closely linked to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border. Afghanistan also happens to be closely linked to the city of Peshawar. They share almost the same culture, traditions and values. This is because they are both Pashtun majority cities. I know this well because the area is where some of my distant family are from, and upon visits to the area I was able to observe this orthodox Muslim, Pashtun society first-hand.

The luscious landscape of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is so beautiful that the environmentalist and philanthropist Ben Goldsmith once tweeted “I’ve never been anywhere more beautiful than Pakistan’s mountainous northern areas. I’ve been three times. With the new British Airways flight to Islamabad, and @ImranKhanPTI  transforming the country, go. Seriously. Best trip you’ll ever do.”

Despite the area’s unprecedented beauty, it is cursed by radical fundamentalism and Islamic extremism, and it has one very dangerous thing in common with Afghanistan; The Taliban. Both areas are governed by Pashtunwali, a way of life which the Taliban abide by. It is a harsh rule of law, dating back to ancient pre-Islamic times. The code of conduct is based upon hospitality, community, mercy and shelter to those who may need it; it’s a code of honour which has been the identity of its natives for centuries. However, the plight of the ruthless Taliban means that some of the culture now found in these mountainous regions is rooted in oppressive derogatory practices.

From women being stoned to death to female-led education being forbidden under this regime, it is without a doubt that universal human rights are likely to not be upheld under this system. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head simply for going to school. There is no doubt that Malala and myself both recognise how evil and inhumane this group can be. Since her near death experience, she has dedicated her life to campaigning against this group, in order to help women and families living under their oppressive system.

Now, with the Taliban back in power, it is clear that young women and Afghan girls are once again finding themselves at the Taliban’s mercy.This strict code of conduct, along with the harshest enforcement of law and order, lies at the heart of Pashtunwali.

“An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” is said to be the infamous code of the Pashtuns, as they are so fiercely in love with the convictions of their beliefs that they will literally accept death to fight for their cause. 

The U.S. never truly understood this mentality of “Pashtunwali”; they naively believed they could impose Western values of democracy and freedom to a society and a group which had a traditionalist, Islamic political culture and worldview. The U.S. also failed to comprehend the tribal divides, tribal loyalties which were present amongst Afghan communities at large.

Afghans wanted to look to figures they could resonate with, which provided them a sense of community and understanding of their culture; Pashtunwali gave them this ancient tribal code of conduct amidst a bloody war; ultimately providing them a greater sense of purpose and community. However, America failed to understand this cultural phenomenon. The belief that liberalism is a universal value, which is adaptable to every culture, tradition and nation state is a naive idea. 

For its many faults, the Taliban was smarter than the U.S. — they understood their country better than anyone else. The group was able to establish deeper roots in local communities and provide excellent local connections within the rural areas of Afghanistan.The rural areas have almost no effective government presence. Ultimately it was the area most vulnerable to the Taliban’s control.What is most shocking is that all this was perfectly obvious to a fairly intelligent politician sitting in Washington D.C. 

There were many political muddles which made it difficult for American foreign policy experts to fully comprehend where they were headed as a nation, hence why we are witnessing the disaster today. 

There are two sides to this: either the withdrawal could have run more strategically, without the loss of innocent Afghans and U.S. soldiers– after all, you cannot aggressively yank out a knife from a person who has been wounded. The other alternative was to stay longer and continue the longest war of US history.

Both options were extremely difficult and promise uncertain outcomes. Sooner rather than later, a decision had to be made.The speed at how fast Afghanistan crumbled displays that Western powers cannot impose democracy externally. There should have been some attempts to try to understand the mentality of Pashtunwali, which is extremely different from what we know and understand in the West.

And yes, it makes sense to consider the fundamental differences between our culture here in the West and the value systems of Muslim majority regions such as Afghanistan.This basic cultural understanding should have been at the heart of America’s foreign policy, yet was nowhere to be found.Instead, the U.S. spent nearly $1 billion on promoting gender equality, and overall, in the past two decades it has been trying to build Afghanistan more than it has ever helped build Europe after World War two.

Fast forward twenty years. We are witnessing a humanitarian disaster after the staggering withdrawal of American and NATO forces. As the world watches over the loss of innocent Afghans and 13 U.S. troops in Kabul, it all finally comes to an end. 

Many of us cannot remember a world when Afghanistan has never been at war; and rather than continuing to impose a Western styled civil society, it is high time that a new strategy to counter the threats from and in Afghanistan is formulated. The truth is not every victory needs to happen through war. In fact, as someone who cares about foreign policy, I believe we should never have engaged for twenty long years in the first place.

A realistic approach to fix the devastation in Afghanistan should have been more diplomatic, with cultural understanding lying in the heart of U.S.’s foreign policy. Imposing a Western-styled civil society might have been a dream too ambitious for the U.S. as militant groups like the Taliban make it very difficult for any external government to impose their rules, due to their superior knowledge of the area, having run their tribes for millennia.America’s longest war is over. The last US warplane left Afghan airspace today and all US troops are out of Afghanistan.

The long-term effect of the Taliban being back in power is unknown. However, what is certain is that there should now be a collective effort from the international community to uphold the human rights and safety of the innocent people of Afghanistan, whose fate now lies in the jaws of wolves.

Ramsha Afridi is a conservative of British-Afghan heritage

Subscribe to the quarterly print magazine

Subscribe to the quarterly digital magazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

9 Comments on The Taliban. No truck even with the 10th century and on their way to you.

  1. Out of interest was my comment cancelled by SR or was it beyond your control because I posted links to Steve Bannon’s War Room on rumble?

    I’m pretty sure any such comments/links on YouTube get cancelled; I want to know how far Big Tech control extends.

  2. Why admit just a few Afghans? There are millions of refugees, persecuted, sick, hungry and unhappy families all over the world. Why privilege the latest victims seen on TV? Why not bring them all here – at any rate to underpopulated, multiracial and woke “Scot”land? Isn’t it what “Our Lord” (a Black person, according to the Archbishop of York) would have wanted (or still wants, assuming he is up there sitting at the right hand of his Father [aka Morgan Freeman] looking down upon us who have not done the things we ought to have done).

    • I frankly don’t give a tinker’s curse for people who cannot manage their own affairs. Why must Western nations be infested by people who bring their hideous belief systems with them. As long as we are willing to sacrifice our principles to accommodate primitive and violent societies, they will never take the steps and make the sacrifices to help themselves.

  3. ‘there should now be a collective effort from the international community to uphold the human rights and safety of the innocent people of Afghanistan’

    That sounds a lot like what the West has been doing for the last 20 years. And that didn’t work.

  4. A well written piece. As I see it while the US could be accused of not really understanding the Pathans it is on the side of trying to help them that they erred. The US knows the history of Afghanistan, the Taliban and the Pathans well enough but they still thought they could improve their lot, believing a better way of life is good for all people, which is why so many Afghans and Pakistanis etc seem to want to live in America, and England. The real non-understanding seems to come from the other side, the Pathans. If they really think their way of life is better and reject the US than of course they’re welcome to it, but they should stay there and live it and not go to American and England. I’ve worked in that Baluchistan / North West Frontier area of Pakistan and would not have a bar of living there myself. The US didn’t want to stay and live there and completely change their way of life only help them and of course what makes England and the US better places to live, in my eyes anyway, is their very own culture and way of life, which should not change for the worse.

  5. “And yes, it makes sense to consider the fundamental differences between our culture here in the West and the value systems of Muslim majority regions such as Afghanistan.”

    The reason Afghanistan is a “Muslim majority region” is that it was invaded and conquered by devotees of the “Religion of Peace” (but really the Religion of War, Persecution and Rape) during the period circa AD 650 to circa AD 1150. (Note that anybody who hopes to conquer Afghanistan needs to budget for a 500-year campaign.)

    In my opinion, the UK ought to welcome only Christian refugees from Afghanistan. We don’t need 20,000 extra potential Mahometan terrorists. We have plenty already!

    • The USA is currently recruiting interpreters to communicate with Afghan refugees who have visas because they were ‘interpreters’ but somehow can no longer speak English…… I don’t believe the sob stories, we should have no ‘refugees’ from Afghanistan

  6. An interesting article that stimulates several lines of thought for me.

    One, there is no team of journalists, columnists, bloggers, academics, civilian on-lookers which could do a better job dealing with the various Islamist/anti-Westernist groups than those teams currently occupying office in the USA Admin, intel and military system. And certainly there is no such team of media/academic people/civilian amateurs that could a better job than Team Trump.

    Two, to say the obvious: The world is pretty darn complex these days, with vast quantities of uncertainties and unknowns. And the kinds and degrees of conflicts, both within the West (and within the USA very obviously), and between the West and its enemies are far, far greater than the conflicts pertaining to the World Wars of last century.

    Of course, there will be observers who lament this reality and shed tears and call for better people to step forward and fix it all. But there are no better people on offer who could better deal with the Terrible Big Mess that is caused by the many diversities of natural endowments, of beliefs about who owes what to whom, and the differences in the willingness of the various parties to use any means to defeat those they regard as their enemies.

    Three, it is obvious that the West is stymied by the growing proportions of its peoples who do not realise that they are now in a war for Western survival, and those who think that being nice to enemies and trying to get them to be gender-neutral and apply affirmative action for non-competent people will do the trick, and many who do realise the West is under severe threat, and are happy for the West to lose.