A nation towards transformation
Afghanistan of 2001 is not measurable with the Afghanistan of 2015. As a citizen of this country, I have lived my entire life in Afghanistan; I can easily see these rapid development and progress. Still it is far away from western standards and many non-Afghan may don’t see the progress, which I can see. It is because; I have seen devastated Afghanistan that is why I appreciate everything around me.
It is an old country, but with a new generation. A country which has experienced unprecedented fight and war in the region, a country with two decades of war and more than twelve years into the war against terrorism and insurgency. Threat and challenges still remain, but it’s not greater than the determination of a nation. At least 352,000 strong Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), backed by the US and NATO forces, are assurance that Afghanistan will never go back to the dark era.
In the last thirteen years, together with its international partners and coalition forces, Afghanistan has created sufficient political, economic and social forces, which will safeguard this country against the return of Afghanistan to the miseries of the past. Afghans have taken courageous steps in reasserting their, freedom, sovereignty and international recognition. The established institutions, laws and strategies for the present and the future of this country have enabled Afghan citizens to take charge of our own destiny. Assuming the full security responsibility of the country and three presidential elections are the practical examples. December 28 marked an important milestone in the history of Afghanistan, where ANSF assumed full security responsibility across the country from NATO and ISAF forces.
While safeguarding tremendous achievements of last one decade, we will continue to broaden those achievements through the decade of transformation, from 2015 to 2024. This was agreed and supported by the world community in Tokyo Conference in July 2012. Of course, Afghanistan is not a perfect country and still it will require assistance and support of the United States and the International Community. But long term commitments of the United States, NATO and the international community are assurance for the future stability of this country.
Transition of lead security to the ANSF and end of ISAF mission, which was a desire of the Afghan government, has created lots of uncertainty among Afghans. But the announcement of the new NATO mission for post 2014 to train, advise and assist the ANSF, the Resolute Support Mission and Operation Freedom's Sentinel, a US led counterterrorism mission against the remnants of Al-Qaeda. The strategic partnership agreements with the key developed countries and bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the United States have reassured Afghan people that those commitments were not only on the paper and lip services, but practical. Now majority of Afghans and the insurgents have learned that Afghanistan will not be abandoned by the US and the international community. So that period of uncertainty will be completely finished and it can further accelerate the process of development in Afghanistan.
Afghans are hopeful about their future. And there are many reasons for this great nation to be optimistic and hopeful. Against false predictions and struggle of the enemies of Afghanistan to sabotage the security and political transition. But the security and political transition have been completed, the BSA with the United State is signed and the new NATO and US mission has started. These are the key and fundamental steps that make Afghans optimistic about their future and worries their enemies.
At least 70% of the population is under the age of 25. Using very little opportunity Afghan youth has unprecedentedly achieved in the area of sports, education, media business and governance. The Afghan National Football beat India 2-0 and won its first ever south Asia football cup in 2013. This was not only a sport’s cup, but for many Afghans it was a cup of the Afghan unity. For the first time ever in my life I have seen 24 hour nonstop party around Afghanistan, where millions of people came together and celebrated their historic victory. That was a day of hope, solidarity and peace in Afghanistan. This was 11 September 2013, exactly 12 years after the 9/11 Al-Qaida attacks on the US. The attack, which was planned in Afghanistan by Al-Qaida. But only 12 years latter at the same day Afghanistan was no more safe havens of Al-Qaida and terrorists, but instead the nation was celebrating the biggest ever celebration of its victory in the sport. Neither in a war, nor terror.
What a difference? Only 13 years ago, there was only one radio station ran by the Taliban. But today there are 75 TV stations and 180 radio stations throughout this country and 18 million Afghan has access to GSM mobile phone and near one million internet users. Over 10.5 million students enrolled in schools, colleges and universities. This is one third of the entire population of Afghanistan, around 37% or of them, are girls. Over 4,500 school buildings have been constructed over a decade. But a decade ago there were less than one million students, with almost no female participation. This is what I call massive fundamental change and investment.
These gains cost a lot and it has not come for free. We appreciate the sacrifice of our patriot Afghan fellows and our international partners, who made these all possible for us. We still have a long way to go. In the decade of transformation, we are moving towards self-sustainability and a nation building process. So in order to further strengthen the gains of last one decade and widen these gains, we should focus on security sector reform, regional cooperation, economic development and peace talks. These are essential for a secure, prosperous and stable Afghanistan.
Afghan nation has proven that the warlords and extremists cannot rule them ever. This has to be realized by the international community as well and they should not underestimate the power of a young generation of Afghanistan and they should not overestimate the power of warlords. We have a young democracy, young National Security Forces and a young parliament, with more than one quarter of women and young parliamentarians. Afghanistan has a vibrant civil society organizations, free media and growing private sector, mostly led and managed by the young generation of the country. The young Afghan generation has proven that they can do it. This young system and young generation will need sincere assistance and cooperation of its international partners, particularly support of the US and NATO. It is easier to support good people than fighting unknown evils.
Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam is a political analyst and a social activist.
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