The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan must give peacebuilders and development workers in Bangsamoro some breathing space. Many people say this moment can inspire and drive the struggles of violent extremists elsewhere, including the Philippines. Others will see it as the defeat of a liberal peace and the waste of billions of dollars in development and security aid. Worse, some will treat it as a slap in the face of those who have invested in the relentless effort to consolidate democracy in a country that does not want to receive it.
Then again, others may see this as the relentless push for self-determination of a people determined to defend their ways and proud to call their country the “graveyard of empires” even as Al-Qaida is in hiding. in the dark. Those familiar with Afghanistan will recognize that this victory dates back to the ancient wars against the Greek and Mongol Empires, to the British Empire and the Soviet Union.
The reasons for the defeat of the Afghan security forces, the subsequent collapse of the government and the country’s fragile democracy are much disputed. The United States and its allies have failed to curb corruption, nepotism and special interests, and have continued to whitewash the weakness of the Afghan state and the void of its legitimacy and authority. More importantly, the departure of the United States was seen as a betrayal of the social and security contract with the Afghan people that allowed countries like Pakistan and Iran to fill the void and fuel the offensive. of the Taliban.
However, there are other plausible reasons which are shared by many. The first concerns how the United States and its allies turned a blind eye to the Taliban and their deeply conservative, undemocratic and fascist ways of justifying their entry into the peace negotiations and of satisfying these countries’ desire to leave the United States. Afghanistan.
The departure of the Western alliance will be safe despite the surprise entry of the Taliban into Kabul, but the same will not be the case for those left behind, including millions of Afghan women, young and old. , who now fear a fate no different from that suffered by Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was shot in the head for daring to go to school.
Second, the United States and its allies hoped that recognition of the Taliban’s belligerence would cause them to break their deep and strong alliances with al-Qaida. But al-Qaida was deeply rooted in Taliban communities through kinship ties in tribal regions where the latter mobilized their own forces, with only the warlord clans standing in the way of their full domination. Warlord clans may be feudal and despotic, but for years they have served as the front line of defense against terrorism and violent extremism.
Third, the Afghan state has been built and strengthened by external groups, including some members of the international development and peacebuilding community, who are likely appalled at how their aid has contributed to the resilience of elites. of the country, but not of its poor citizens. Corruption and corruption within the Afghan government did not allow for polite conversation between diplomats, development agencies and non-governmental organizations, their hosts and partners, and therefore were never seriously prosecuted.
The Afghan narrative contains so many truths about our own march towards a developed and democratic Bangsamoro. The sub-state is young, freedoms are fragile and capacities are weak. Two years after the region’s charter was ratified, democratic momentum is under extreme pressure, violent conflict remains rampant, and extremist violence resurfaces and thrives on the porous alliances and ruins of Marawi.
These pose at least two important questions. First, how can we anchor the democracy that was promised and confirmed in the plebiscite that created the Bangsamoro in 2019? Second, what will the youth of Bangsamoro take away from the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan?
Democracy must progress in a coherent but gradual manner. Many of those who made the Bangsamoro possible hope and expect democracy and development to flourish and peace to reign. Gender rights are adjacent but essential institutions that will define democracy in Bangsamoro.
Indeed, the Bangsamoro elections in 2022, or their absence, are behind the most significant threats to the democratic rights of women posed by violent extremism and the pandemic. Like the Afghan burqa, emerging pressures on women to wear the niqab, relinquish their public roles and space, and focus on fulfilling their reproductive roles. There is also a call for “moral governance” which sounds less to destroy corruption than to impose cultural norms that subjugate women.
Finally, how to prevent the youth from being further radicalized by the Taliban march towards Kabul? Hearing the voices of young people and giving them important governance responsibilities is just about the best foolproof guarantee we can offer young people to stem their radicalization and recruitment. Afghans are proud to call their country the cemetery of empires, but we must prevent the Bangsamoro from turning into a cemetery of democracy.
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Francisco J. Lara Jr., Ph.D., is Professor at the University of the Philippines and Senior Peace and Conflict Advisor with International Alert Philippines.
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