By Abdul Matin Bek
26 January, 2012
On the afternoon of Dec. 25, 2011, in the northern Takhar Province of Afghanistan, a funeral procession was gathering in a field on the outskirts of my hometown, the city of Taloqan, when a suicide bomber approached Mutalib Bek, a member of Parliament, and detonated his explosive vest. Mutalib Bek, who was my father, was killed instantly, along with 24 others, including a 12-year-old boy.
My father was a former commander of the Mujahedeen, the anti-Soviet resistance. He later joined the United Front — a coalition of anti-Taliban fighters — and played a key role in the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in northern Afghanistan. As the Taliban regime collapsed, and a new Afghan government was formed after the U.S.-led intervention, my father gladly gave up arms and committed himself to work toward establishing a democratic political system.
My father was a devout Muslim who built many mosques and schools with his own money. Throughout his time as a member of Parliament, he worked within the system to bring about improvements in our country, focusing primarily on promoting education for girls and women.
His death added to a long list of his friends, fellow commanders and government officials who have been assassinated: Ahmed Shah Massoud, former commander of the United Front; Burhanuddin Rabbani, former president of Afghanistan; General Daoud Daoud, police commander of the northern region; Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the Kandahar provincial council; Muhammad Omar, governor of Kunduz; Jan Mohammad Khan, a close adviser to President Hamid Karzai; Khan Mohammed Mujahid, the Kandahar police chief; Maulana Sayed Khel, chief of police of Kunduz Province; Maulana Shah Jahan Noori, chief of police of Takhar Province and many others.
The targeted killings of former Mujahedeen commanders in the north and tribal elders in the south mark a strategic shift in the Taliban’s modus operandi. The Taliban has decided to wait out the U.S. military withdrawal in 2014, and eliminate all major figures who would potentially play a critical role in mobilizing support against them and Al Qaeda. They have now managed to assassinate the main leaders of the Uzbeks (my father), the anti-Taliban Pashtuns (Omar), the Khans, (Ahmed Wali Karzai) and the Tajiks (Daoud and the Maulanas).
While mourning my father’s death, I wish to speak up. I share the belief with my father that America’s Afghan strategy is shortsighted and probably based on domestic rather than strategic considerations. As Afghans, we rarely understand U.S. policy. One day the U.S. military declares the Taliban the enemy, the next day they’re willing to make peace. Does this policy reflect the realities on the ground? Is it a winning strategy?
The line between a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan and absolute chaos is thin. The nature of its political climate will have ramifications for the whole world, as has been shown in the past, yet the multiplicity of Afghan voices has been lost in the fog of this war.
My father believed that four actions were required to end this war and bring peace and stability.
First, as Muslims, we must realize that this is not a religious war. It is not a war between believers and nonbelievers. Instead, we must acknowledge the bitter reality that our religion, like many others, has been hijacked by extremist, terrorist and intelligence organizations. If we Muslims want to live in peace, we have to reclaim our religion.
Since my father’s assassination all religious scholars in my hometown and the northern region have launched a grass-roots campaign to expel extremist organizations from mosques and other religious organizations. We must strengthen and expand this movement.
Second, as Afghans, we need a comprehensive, consistent and long-term bipartisan strategy from America. The United States needs to re-imagine its policy. If America does in fact want to end the reign of the Taliban, U.S. policy makers will need to think beyond the next two years. The 2014 deadline must be reconsidered in light of the dangers it poses to the region and the world. There is need for a consistent strategy with input from Afghans.
Third, America also needs to acknowledge that the root of this problem lies in Pakistan. The war in Afghanistan has become so complex that we often do not know who is behind these shocking killings and suicide bombings. Sometimes the Taliban claim responsibility and sometimes they do not. In my father’s case, they have not, but we do have intelligence pointing to involvement of the Pakistani military.
The American people might have been surprised to find out that Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan, but we were not. We have known for years that the Pakistani government has been supporting the Taliban, harboring terrorists on its soil, and using violent extremism as a foreign policy instrument to intimidate Afghanistan, the region and the world. To end this deadly trend, the United States needs to exert meaningful diplomatic, economic and, if necessary, military pressure on Pakistan, especially on the Pakistani military-intelligence wing.
Fourth, over the last 10 years, Afghanistan has achieved a lot with the support of the international community, particularly the United States. I would like to thank the American people for that. We hope that this support continues and, as per my father’s recommendation, that a greater portion of it be allocated for provision of good quality education for the youth of Afghanistan. The costs versus gains of education are much less than military expenditures. Please continue to invest in the education, not just in the militarization of my country.
Ordinary Afghan people are the real victims of terrorism. We have lost countless lives over the decades. But we are clinging to hope and looking forward to a better future.
Abdul Matin Bek is a tribal leader in Takhar Province who is active in national politics in Kabul.
Source: The New York Times