Taliban, the history of Afghanistan and its people, read a book extract from my novel Silent Heroes, FREE to download from Amazon on the 19th and 20th of August, today and tomorrow.
Silent Heroes extract:
‘Maybe this story will help us better understand what the Afghan people went through.
‘Alexander the Great, the Muslim Arabs in the 12th century, the Mongols in the 13th century and then the British and the Russians who had a century-long dispute, ‘The Great Game’, over this territory, they all came here to lose battles and their soldiers’ lives. ‘The Great Game’ was a century-old political and diplomatic confrontation between two Empires, the British and the Russian. They fought over this area of land we stand on, Afghanistan, and its neighbouring territories in Central Asia, the Middle East, and South-East Asia. Russia was scared that Britain will gain power over Asia, while Britain was scared that Russia had its eye set on India, ‘the jewel of the crown’, to say the least. And all of this happened because of Afghanistan’s geo-political location at the gateway between Asia and Europe.’
A chair’s scraping against the floor sounded like a bird’s distant cry. ‘Geez, Geography lesson!, someone said, followed closely by a thud.
‘The tug of war between the British and Russian Empires over dominance in Asia was marked by three Anglo-Afghan wars. During this century of fighting Afghanistan’s borders were adjusted and readjusted by the two empires with little or no consultation with Afghan rulers. Yet the British forces were not able to conquer Afghanistan. So after the 3rd Anglo-Afghan War, in 1921, Afghanistan finally gained its independence and became a monarchy for about fifty years… Although Afghanistan had had its first taste of a totalitarian ruler during the 18th century when Ahmand Shah, a Durrani chieftain, established the Afghan state. By clever use of diplomacy and violence, managing and manipulating a web of powerful tribal fractions, Ahmand Shah brought together territories previously divided among autonomous provinces. But his system was not self-sustaining and after his death the tribal fractions he reunited fought for power in what was to become a centuries-long kaleidoscope of betrayal.’
A whisper at the back, ‘it’s History,’ was quickly hushed by another thud.
‘More Afghan leaders came and went. Some managed to do more for the country than the others. Take ‘The Iron Amir’, Abdurrahman Khan, who ruled through intimidation and repression and relied on an intricate network of spies. During his time the army evolved from an amalgam of tribal militias to a reliable, permanent fighting force. The Iron Amir also improved the educational system; he introduced a basic communication system and a single currency. Three generations of his family followed him to the throne of Afghanistan. His son even kept the country neutral during World War I, demanding international recognition of Afghanistan’s full independence. This stirred the British interest again but it was the Iron Amir’s grandson, Amanullah Khan, who had to deal with the third British-Afghan War. Surprisingly a treaty was signed, Britain recognising Afghanistan’s independence. Amanullah had big plans of turning Afghanistan into a modern state, making education a top priority and planning major reforms. He even drew the country’s first national budget in 1922 but did so at the expense of its army. It was the first time an Afghan leader tried to change the traditional values and practices. Amanullah made decrees in respect to women’s rights and he abolished slavery and child labour. But the very thing that defined him soon turned against him. The tribal and religious forces wanted to maintain the traditions as it helped them dominate the political landscape.
‘This is the thorn in the road that was often overlooked by Afghan leaders and even by outside political forces: the unique relationship between the country’s fourteen recognized ethnic groups and its various tribes. During Amanullah’s reign, the various tribes eventually joined forces to oppose his line of reforms and since he had neglected his army he could not ensure order and stability inside his new independent state and so he was soon forced to abdicate.’
‘You say that no army, but good progress is worse than having a well-trained army and little progress?’ said Kent.
‘In this case, yes. The local traditional powers are ruled by what they call ‘strongmen’, leaders who rule by force and abuse, often showing little regard to human rights and are set in their traditions.
‘More kings came and went while other things brewed in the background of this political turmoil and by 1973 the Afghan Communist Party had emerged and, through a communist coup, Daoud came to power. Again, at odds with the Afghan tribal and cultural traditions. The PDPA, People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, had plans of ambitious reforms, modern ones. They had foreseen dramatic changes to marriage rights and agricultural practices and planned a system of universal education and even a change in the role of women. This was perceived as ‘atheistic meddling in key Islam rituals’ and led to localized protests and then a national uprising.
‘The PDPA had ascended through army power, but it disintegrated through insubordination, desertion, and purges. The rejection of the communist regime by the Afghan people was universal and one of the most truly popular revolts of the 20th century. The Afghans perceived the Soviets who took over as a force that systematically planned to alienate every segment of their lives.
‘Similar to the British before them, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 planning to remain there for only six months, enough to take control of major centres and appoint a ruler. They stayed for ten years. This is why the CIA had time to plan its support and fund the Muhajideen rebels (or strugglers, or those engaged in Jihad) and armed them to fight against the Russians.’
‘So we had another situation of tug of war between two empires? Kind of not matter which large empire you are, as soon as you approach Afghanistan you are bound to bump into another country’s attempts to expert their own influence in the region?’ said Dunn.
‘After the Soviets began their interference in Afghanistan things began spinning out of proportion and it all went downhill in a mix of tribal laws and religious fanaticism. The Mujahadeen rebels, in control of rural areas, were united against the Soviet invaders and the USSR-backed Afghan Army that was holding the urban areas. Even after the Soviet withdrawal the Mujahadeen still continued their resistance against the communist regime left behind. And what happens, again? Different warlords emerge again, fighting against each other for supremacy over Afghanistan and carving out their own kingdoms of autonomous ruling waving Islam around as their lethal weapon. Newly formed Islamic militia, the Taliban, rises to power as a social and religious answer promising peace left and right so most Afghans, exhausted by years of war and famine, approve of the Taliban, blinded by its upholding of traditional Islamic values and by its promise to restore security in the country and eradicate corruption. But one step forward sometimes means two steps back. Or more. The Taliban enforces Islamic law through public executions and amputations. Soon after, the United States refuses to recognize the authority of the Taliban. And Afghanistan is faced with yet another internal armed struggle, an even darker one. The Taliban fighting for supremacy, allied with the al-Qaeda movement whose sole purpose was to continue their jihad, or holy war, against all those who oppose their goal of a pure nation governed by Islam.
‘Today, the Afghan army is in a feeble state, a hotchpotch of casualties and desertions. They are bleeding the few men they do have left. Any Afghan capable of holding a weapon, even older boys, are expected to join its ranks, here in Helmand more than in any other province. But they are terrified that they will be killed during the first intense fight or that their families left behind without their protection will be raped and tortured by the Taliban because they have joined the coalition army.
‘We are these villagers’ last hope. We can make a difference in their lives. War doesn’t have to be a reality for them anymore.
‘There are no Christian and Muslims here, but Christian people and Muslim people, real people whose lives are endangered every day. People whose daily life is tinted by the horror of knowing that they, or their loved ones, might be killed at any moment. We, too, can be killed, but this is our job so that our own people, back home, don’t have to go through their lives in fear of being shot at. (…)
Kent’s voice stopped everyone in their tracks.
‘Sources from these villages were saying that there is a body of Talibans who desire to be part of this country’s future. What are the chances that this is that very group and here we are, planning on annihilating them?’
‘Sources, Sergeant Kent?’
‘One of the guides we used the other day,’ said Kent, unfazed.
‘Guides are like a double-edged sword, Kent. And this is the reality about most Afghan soldiers. Yes, we are being communicated that Afghans officials are talking more about peace than they are talking about fighting their way to victory especially since not all the Taliban groups are involved in the fight anymore.
‘It seems that some Taliban groups do talk about peace. I haven’t met any. It is the Coalitions’ job to bridge the gap between the two sides, Taliban and Afghan leaders. But don’t you think, Kent, if the Taliban group who attacked the village yesterday had finished their fight, they wouldn’t have gone about killing innocent women and planting more IEDs?’
‘So what do you say, Captain?’
‘I say that some Talibans might be talking about peace or this may just be a rumour meant to get us to lower our guard. I say that some Afghans do want peace, especially some of the warlords, while other warlords are still thirsty for power and are not done carving themselves a slice of Afghanistan that’s big enough. I say that the CIA has abused the ‘warlord strategy’ and it is now coming back to bite us.
‘It has been part of the CIA’s strategy to portray the Afghanistan warlords as liberators and unifiers. Backed by the CIA, some warlords grew a strong army and challenged their rival tribes taking wrongful control over vast territories, promising that in return for monetary bribes they will help the CIA to locate al-Qaeda leaders. So these warlords’ power grew, their militia was recognised as a pro-U.S. ground force that often substituted the U.S. soldiers and even the ANA, Afghan National Army, in some areas. These warlords became now an integrated part of the country’s security apparatus. But the CIA had not made a distinction between any of the warlords it employed and this strategic mistake is something we pay for nowadays as, although some warlords have proved to be a stabilising power and I have met one once, Commander al Vizer, other warlords have proved able to undermine the Alliance’s security. These are the warlords showing rapacious behaviours. Through their powerful ambitions and selfish actions, through their hunger for power and self-interest foundation of their actions, through their corruption and violent nature, they have managed to strengthen the Taliban-led insurgency and engage themselves in torture and drug production. These warlords rule through force and fear, they are mere gangsters. And many of these undermining warlords have made fraudulent claims regarding the location of many Taliban fighters; many have fed the CIA false information that suited their own ends. Khan Zadran is known to have successfully called in airstrikes on rival tribal authorities and to have terrorized Afghan villages under false pretences that they were Taliban targets. (…)
The men left the briefing room quietly and geared up, only the call to the first daily prayer, the Fajr, echoing from the nearby settlement, at odds with the country’s centuries-old war state.
Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.
A group of U.S. Marines and their MWD, Military Working Dogs, are the last chance of survival for a small group of Afghan people, the survivals of a city of ten thousand inhabitants. The U.S. Marines fight with bravery to protect the civilians of Nauzad and to fend off the Taliban at Qala-e-Bost, thus protecting Bost Airport, a vital strategic point for the Allies. Faced with questions about the necessity of the war, with the trauma of losing their platoon-mates and the emotional scars of battle, the US Marines race against time in one last battle of eradicating the Taliban before it is too late.
Silent Heroes is a work of fiction about everyday people, soldiers and dogs caught in war, a read filled with action, thrill and emotional twists and turns.
More on my blog, on Taliban, the history of Afghanistan and its people, and my book Silent Heroes:
Rafik’s journey in Silent Heroes: the Hindu Kush Mountains, an Oshkosh vehicle, the Afghan Desert, at Camp Bastion, and in n Afghan village.
5 Secrets revealed in Silent Heroes: the humanity of the U.S. Marines, the women’s rights under Taliban, Taliban’s secret lair, the military chain of command, and a mysterious underground fortress.
Have you downloaded Silent Heroes yet? It’s FREE for only two day, the 19th and the 20th of August.
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