By Fariba Nawa
May 04, 2011
The San Francisco Chronicle
As an Afghan American who grew up in both Herat, Afghanistan, and Fremont, I have a dual perspective on the death of Osama bin Laden. Most of my Afghan colleagues and friends are delighted that bin Laden is dead. But many, including me, think his death could harm Afghanistan more than help it.
Afghans, as much as Americans, have a right to hate this man, who instigated the U.S.-led war in their country. But while for Americans his death may be a victory, for Afghans it’s a wake-up call. The United States will no longer play their savior: With bin Laden dead, the United States can leave the mess it has created in Afghanistan .
Bin Laden’s timely killing paves the way for American troops to begin pulling out in July. Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai appears to be aligning himself with Pakistan and its Taliban allies. The achievements of the aid community in the last 10 years, from the unprecedented number of girls attending school to falling infant mortality rates and the arrival of basic health-care services in distant villages, will end with the return of the Taliban.
Killing the top al Qaeda leader does little to weaken the Afghan insurgency because the insurgency, heavily supported by Pakistan, has become the enemy of both the American and Afghan peoples. The martyrdom of bin Laden may actually gain the insurgency more recruits among Islamist foreign fighters.
Afghan intelligence officials have been telling their U.S. counterparts for the last 10 years that bin Laden was being protected by Pakistan’s secret service, the Inter-Services Intelligence. The Pakistani spy agency has provided the U.S. intelligence for capturing other al Qaeda operatives, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, when the United States became annoyed with Pakistan’s lack of support for its war on terrorism.
Perhaps bin Laden was the last bargaining chip.
The ISI knows full well that bin Laden’s capture will expedite U.S. withdrawal and Afghanistan will fall easily to the Taliban. Then Pakistan can control Afghanistan, just as it did in the 1990s.
A strong and stable Afghanistan would threaten Pakistan’s fragile hold on its Pashtun population, which wants to reunite with Afghanistan. Pakistan is also threatened by the Afghan government’s close relationship with India. That’s why the Indian Embassy in Kabul has been the target of two deadly explosions in the last few years.
But few Americans care what is happening in Afghanistan, and they will become more apathetic now that their No. 1 enemy has been killed.
For my friends and family in Afghanistan, the return of the Taliban would begin another dark age they hoped had ended in 2001. My female cousins have become doctors, teachers, aid workers. But, with the return of the Taliban, they’ll again be imprisoned in their homes.
The Taliban may bring security but at the cost of taking the country back to the Stone Age. Before 2001, the Taliban lobbied for recognition by the United States. Now, as imminent victors of the war, the Taliban will welcome extremists again, just like they did before 2001, and become a vocal enemy of the United States.
Fariba Nawa is a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area. She worked in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 2000 to 2007. She is the author of “Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords and One Woman’s Journey through Afghanistan” forthcoming from HarperCollins in November.
This article appeared on page A – 12 of the San Francisco Chronicle