month when the Taliban effortlessly
retook control of Afghanistan. Ever
since a great deal of ink has been
spilled trying to explain why. Some
hold this to be a direct result of the
manner in which the USA withdrew from the country. Some
argue it is due to longstanding issues with political corruption
in the halls of power which sapped the country's strength.
Still others argue this result was inevitable as the Taliban
were freedom fighters seeking to overthrow a puppet regime.
All of these explanations have a bit of truth to them but I
consider them to be symptoms of a larger problem. A problem
stemming from the events of one day when Afghanistan had
the potential to avoid its current fate; June 10th, 2002.
On that day the Loya Jirga met to decide how the new Afghan
government would be organized. There were to be 1450
delegates to the meeting from all walks of life. In the end
2000 delegates were given permission to participate. This
included 50 added at the request of various warlords. But a
funny thing happened. A petition started circulating that
called for Zahir Shah, former King of Afghanistan, to retake
his throne, even if only in a ceremonial role. It had 800
signatures when the USA and UN got wind of it. This would
have been a majority of the original number of delegates and
it is likely it would have reached a majority of the enlarged
delegation. In a move that was largely seen as an attempt to
buy time the meeting of the Loya Jirga was pushed back by
No one knows what went on during that time but when the
day came Zahir Shah announced he was not a candidate for
any position in the government. The former king had been
preparing for a return for some time so it is odd that he
would step aside so easily. Odd and unfortunate.
What Western powers had not understood about Afghanistan
was that there was very little sense of national identity on
which to draw. Indeed, one of the pressing issues for the
monarchy during its time had been instilling a common
identity. They were never completely successful and when the
monarchy fell only two institutions held the loyalty of the
Afghan people; the monarchy and Islam. Having banished
one the communists made an enemy of the other. And when
the communists were sent running Afghanistan was left a
patchwork of ethnic factions and a new religious faction; the
Taliban. The Americans kicked out the Taliban and sought to
build an Afghan government. But the rules persisted from
before and there were still only two institutions that held the
people's common loyalty; the monarchy and Islam. And if the
Kingdom of Afghanistan had barely managed to create the
start of a national identity then the chances of the Americans
succeeding were slim.
So it is no accident the government gave Zahir Shah a place of
honour in the country but in failing to restore the monarchy
they made themselves vulnerable. The Taliban, on the run but
not destroyed denounced the republic as a puppet regime.
The Afghan government, lacking a strong national identity nor a figure of respect to lead them, took to spreading the
country's wealth among their own supporters.
June 10th, 2002 was an opportunity for the new government
to put at its head a man whom all Afghans respected. It was a
chance to set Afghanistan on the right footing for the future.
And the failure to see this doomed America to a humiliating
defeat and Afghanistan to the tender care of monsters.
A Kisaragi Colour