Why is Afghanistan still at war?


Regional studies

Afghanistan is twice the size of Germany in terms of area, but only an estimated 35 million people live there. Three quarters of the population live in rural areas, only 25 percent in cities.

There are only a few big cities: the capital Kabul has over four million inhabitants, Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Kunduz more than 100,000.

Around three quarters of the country consist of mountains, some of which are very difficult to access. The climatic zones correspond to those from cold Scandinavia to the scorching heat of the Sahara. There is constant water shortage and flooding at the same time.

Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic state with four dominant tribes. The Pashtuns (translated as "Afghans", giving the country its name) are the largest ethnic group with 42 percent. They live in the south, west and east. The Tajiks (around 27 percent), the Turkic Uzbeks (nine percent) and the Turkmens live in the north, while the Shiite Hazara (nine percent) have settled in the center of Afghanistan.

Magnet for invaders

Afghanistan is enclosed by six countries and has no access to the sea, but its geographical location makes the region strategically interesting. From here the fragile and nuclear armed neighbor Pakistan and its extremist groups can be observed.

In the west is the oil-rich mullah state of Iran, which is in the process of becoming a nuclear power. In the east, the nuclear giant China. To the north are the Central Asian republics with their gigantic gas and oil reserves, which could be channeled through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Without Afghanistan you can do very little in this area - you could achieve a lot with the country.

An old Asian saying goes: "If God wants to punish a nation, he will invade Afghanistan." And indeed: Afghanistan has seen invasions time and again in the course of its history.

In 1838 the Russian and British colonial powers were already fighting over the strategically important country through which they wanted to gain access to the Indian Ocean - an important trade route.

Three bloody Anglo-Afghan wars followed, ending with defeat for the British and independence for Afghanistan in 1919. Since the first Anglo-Afghan war, the area has been called the "Graveyard of the Empires" - the cemetery of the great powers.

Failure of the Soviet Union and the consequences

The Soviet Union also felt this. At the end of 1979 they supported the Afghan communists, who had been in power rather badly than rightly since 1978.

By sending Soviet troops to Afghanistan, the conflict became international. It turned into a war between the Soviets and their Afghan allies, on the one hand, and mujahideen groups - who were militarily and financially supported by the US - on the other.

The Soviet troops, up to 100,000 strong, failed after ten years in Afghanistan. In 1989 the last Soviet soldiers withdrew.

But no peace would return to the Hindu Kush. In April 1992, with the overthrow of the communist government under President Najibullah, the mujahideen also eliminated the last of Soviet influence. The Americans also suspended their intelligence activities and funds for Afghanistan were halted.

The withdrawal of the Soviet Union and the end of American engagement left a power vacuum. After Najibullah was overthrown, the power struggle between the now divided mujahideen groups of the former Afghan resistance spiraled out of control.

Many areas of the country fell into anarchy and came under the control of so-called warlords. Looting, rape and other acts of violence were the order of the day. What followed were years of ethnic conflict among the various mujahideen. The conditions were terrible, hardly anyone dared to leave the house - for years.

Taliban rule

During this time, the radical Islamic Taliban under Mullah Omar was founded in the south of the country, near Kandahar. Its establishment was financially and materially supported by Pakistan and the USA. Strictly interpreting the Sharia, they brought order where there had been none for a long time.

They also took in jihadists from around the world in Afghanistan. Initially, the Taliban were welcomed by the majority of the Afghan population. They marched on quickly and took the capital Kabul as early as 1996.

But when the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, a regime of terror began for the population that almost threw them back into the Middle Ages. The country was sidelined internationally, trade and economics stalled, and the population suffered from hunger and disease.

In addition, the internationally sought-after top terrorist Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist organization Al Qaeda found refuge in Afghanistan. After the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the country was ordered to extradite Osama bin Laden. The Taliban government refused, however, and Afghanistan became a theater of war again.

The US declared war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban and sent its army to Afghanistan. A short time later, the US soldiers were followed by NATO to fight international terrorism and liberate Afghanistan from the rule of the Taliban.

The NATO combat mission in Afghanistan ended in December 2014. At the beginning of 2015, the NATO training mission Resolute Support Mission (RSM) replaced the previous mission ISAF (International Security Support Force) - Germany is also involved in RSM.

But after troops had withdrawn and a government of national unity was formed, the Taliban used force to ensure that Afghanistan remained unstable in many provinces. Especially young people and those with school education saw no future in their homeland and fled abroad.

As long as there is no peace agreement between the government and the Taliban, there will be neither security nor an improvement in the economically desolate situation in Afghanistan.