Edited by Matthew Clarke
Chapter 32: Where shadows fall patchwork: religion, violence and human security in Afghanistan
There are few places where conflict, violence and human suffering are imagined to cast such long shadows as they do for Afghanistan. Today, 11 years from Operation Enduring Freedom, the country and the international community stand at a crossroads. Pressure for foreign armed forces to withdraw by 2014 comes not only from many Afghanis unhappy with an increasingly heavy-handed military intervention, but also from the electorates of coalition countries, tired of escalating casualties and wary of the mounting costs of building peace and democracy in a country that, it is often perceived, does not desire it. These pressures are exacerbated by a severe global financial crisis and the disquieting recognition that progress towards ‘development’ in Afghanistan, whether in terms of economic growth, improved governance, better security, or a greater equality of rights for women and minorities, has either failed or rests on thin ice. The Taliban regime, all but eliminated in 2001, has achieved resurgence, and poses a direct threat to Karzai’s government (Johnson, 2007). They are not alone. Other groups such as Hezb-e-Islami and al-Qaeda alongside a number of pro-government militias, threaten the well-being of ‘ordinary’ Afghans. The resurgence of the Taliban has led to questions over their support in Afghanistan, and whether progress made shall prove ephemeral.
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