ANALYSIS: Civil war and the partition of Afghanistan —Musa Khan Jalalzai - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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ANALYSIS: Civil war and the partition of Afghanistan —Musa Khan Jalalzai

Western analysts believe that since Afghanistan has not been stable after nine years of NATO presence, therefore, what is needed is the partitioning of Afghanistan. However, Robert Blackwill proposes the implementation of an old solution, the creation of a new state, Pashtunistan

The debate about the dismemberment or de facto partition of Afghanistan has intensified in intellectual and media forums in both Asia and Europe. During the past two decades, ethnic cleansing and sectarian terrorism has prepared the ground for a future civil war in the country. Ethnic clashes between Kochis and Hazaras, among Uzbeks, Pashtuns and Tajiks still continued while sexual harassment, abduction, land-grabbing and mental torture of Pashtuns is on the rise in the northern provinces of Afghanistan. National unity and national integration has become an old story. Based on these facts, Afghanistan is a failed state, a state without political control and economic progress.

The present state structure that cannot protect the weak and vulnerable citizens in Afghanistan needs to be either reorganised or entirely changed to create ethnic, political and religious concordance. All ethnic minorities have complaints against the present structure of the state, which cannot meet their needs and cannot protect them from violence. As there is no legitimate functioning state in the country, non-state actors have become a dominant power that run illegal trade in all provinces. The last two decades of civil war entirely destroyed Afghanistan as a functioning state. In the 1980s, mujahideen groups destroyed infrastructure. In the 1990s, the Taliban made their way to power and destroyed all institutions. Now warlords in northern Afghanistan are deeply involved in ethnic cleansing.

The power of the warlords, their private military networks and their private security firms present the biggest challenge to the country’s rehabilitation as a functioning state. War criminals are trying to maintain their criminal militias and keep the state weak. They and their western partners have bypassed the Afghan state. Brutalities against Pashtuns in the north and the targeting of Hazaras in the south are a greater challenge for both the Afghan government and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Over the last 10 years, the Hazarajat region saw a series of reprisal killings. In 1997 alone, the Taliban killed over 6,000 Hazara Muslims in retaliation for the execution of thousands of Taliban prisoners in northern Afghanistan.

However, warlords belonging to the Hazara and Uzbek communities attack the houses of Pashtuns at night, and humiliate their women and elders. These war criminals looted, raped and killed over 60,000 innocent men and women in Kabul in the 1990s. With the coming of ISAF led by the US, warlords got the license of more killings across the country. Kochis kill Hazaras in the south, Hazara and Uzbek are killing Pashtuns in the north, and Taliban have been killing all ethnic groups across Afghanistan for the last 10 years.

Consequently, thousands of Hazaras from the Hazarajat region and thousands of Pashtuns from Balkh, Faryab and Kunduz provinces fled their villages. Armed political groups in the north are subjecting Pashtuns to murder, rape, beating, abduction and extortion. The state is not able to rehabilitate the internally displaced refugees returned from Pakistan and Iran. If we go into the last five decades’ internal displacement history of the country, we will find more stories about different displacements having occurred at different times. At present, more than 500,000 Afghans are internally displaced and one million are still living in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran. They lost their houses and there is no housing industry in the country to help re-house the returnees. From 2005-2010, thousands of refugees returned from Pakistan, but war, torture, severity of drought and harassment forced them to go back. As they are illiterate and unskilled, they can make no contribution to Pakistan’s institutions.

At present, there is no national concord, no critical infrastructure — water, health, education, employment, security, food, housing, etc. They see no change in their life after the Soviet withdrawal and US invasion. The Afghan nation is scattered into pieces. The Hazaras of Bamyan, Wardak and Daykundi are different from the Pashtuns of the south in culture, language and religious orientation. They can be compared to the Kurds in Iraq. The same can be seen in the Tajiks of Badakhshan and the Pashtuns of Kandahar. The Tajiks are spread from the border of Tajikistan to Kabul and from Badakhshan to Herat. They believe that all their problems are due to the Pashtun misgovernance and their past 350-year brutal rule. Nationalistic notions are stronger among the Tajiks today. As we have experienced in the case of the education ministry in 2007, Persian-speaking communities are more attached to Iran and Tajikistan culturally and linguistically. Their political and sectarian affiliations to these states caused more problems in the country.

The last two decades of civil war have accumulated all the elements of ethnicity and religious extremism. This war encompasses two rival groups and their struggles: one is the Taliban and their resolve for dominance; and the other is the Hazaras, Tajiks and Uzbeks who seek identity and equal representation. They say they are not Afghan, but Tajik, Uzbek and Turkmen. The word Afghan, they say, means Pashtun. Moreover, major ethnic groups in Afghanistan are competing for power. As there is no national concord in the country, in the words of former US Deputy National Security Advisor Robert Blackwill, Afghanistan should be allowed to partition along ethnic lines.

Western analysts believe that since Afghanistan has not been stable after nine years of NATO presence, therefore, what is needed is the partitioning of Afghanistan. However, Robert Blackwill proposes the implementation of an old solution, the creation of a new state, Pashtunistan. “This solution would prevent civil war in Pakistan and solidify the government’s authority and in Afghanistan the loss of the eastern part of the nation would allow for real reconstruction to begin,” he said. Political analysts believe that, being already divided on linguistic lines, Afghanistan appears to be moving towards a permanent dismemberment.

They believe that the process of partition began before the arrival of Taliban on the political scene. Afghan ethnic minorities apparently have no fear of their fellow Tajiks and Uzbeks living across the border. Minorities who dominate the northern provinces opened routes towards Central Asia, imported electricity and gas and created political links with the states of Central Asia and Iran. But they will not be allowed to settle there. Over 90 percent of young people in northern Afghanistan are illiterate, suffering from HIV/AIDS or drug addiction. The Taliban infiltration into Central Asia and their operations in Chechnya and Ingushetia can divert the attention of Russia towards a new buffer state that will divide Afghanistan on ethnic lines.

The writer, author of Britain’s National Security Challenges, is based in London and can be reached at

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