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IU Scholar Unsure About Afghanistan's Future Following Taliban Takeover

Nazif Shahrani

Nazif Shahrani is a professor of anthropology, Central Eurasian studies, and near eastern languages and cultures at Indiana University Bloomington. (Zoom)

President Biden said in July the United States achieved its objectives in Afghanistan: capture the terrorists who caused 9/11 and keep the country from becoming a place where attacks could continue against the U.S.

However, on Sunday, Taliban forces quickly took control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, just two weeks before the United States’ removal of all military personnel by August 31.

Nazif Shahrani is an anthropology professor at Indiana University, who was born and raised in Afghanistan. He said more than 60 percent of the Afghan population is younger than 25 years old and does not remember Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.

“These young people are extremely fearful, especially women and young girls who have had education, skills and liberties,” he said. “And they think they are going to be lost.”

Shahrani said Afghanistan’s government is in limbo, yet financially dependent on international assistance. 

“No government in Afghanistan can survive for any length of time without international assistance, and that’s something the Taliban understand and know,” he said. 

He said other nations can help by refusing to acknowledge the Taliban government unless it abides by human rights and is inclusive of the new generation of Afghan youth. 

Kirk White served in the Indiana National Guard for 30 years and deployed to Afghanistan twice. He says there are thousands of Afghan allies stranded in the country, many of whom assisted U.S. forces for almost 20 years.

“Their lives are in peril, and we owe them more than that,” White said. “It is a very sad commentary that the United States government did not have a well-executed plan to get these Afghan allies out of the country before the government fell.”

Shahrani said much of the outside world is encouraging evacuations, some even promised to take in refugees. However, mass evacuations contribute to national brain drain.

“This is presented as a big favor that they are doing,” Shahrani said. “Yes, they are doing favors to individuals who find themselves desperate, but they are also robbing a country, essentially, the possibility of having reconstruction of their own country and becoming self-sufficient." 

He said it will take almost 20 years for the new government, whether it is Taliban-lead or not, to retrain another generation. He claims this is one of the many effects of ‘forever wars,’ or ongoing tension with no end in sight.

“Afghanistan has been the victim of this for 43 years now,” Shahrani said. “Other people have come and fought their wars in the backyard of the Afghans and destroyed their country in more ways than one.”

He said Afghanistan has had a centralized government for more than 140 years, and as a result, the United States should encourage principles of local, self-governance. Americans should contact their elected officials and encourage them to not abandon the people of Afghanistan.

“The government that you have abandoned is fine, because you should have abandoned them a long time ago,” Shahrani said. “But we should have a say in what kind of government is formed in Afghanistan.”

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