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Nineteen years ago today, the war in Afghanistan began.

by Stefano Galieni Co-coordinator of the EL Migration WG

“The Soviet Union has destroyed, among my people, the value of the term ‘socialism’, the USA has killed the value of the word ‘democracy'”. Months ago, with these words the Afghan activist and former parliamentarian Malalai Joya described, in an interview, the situation in his country. These days, this statement acquires even more relevance, for two reasons at least.

Nineteen years ago today, the war in Afghanistan began.

On 7 October 2001, the Western governments launched massive bombardments to fight the Taliban militias, supporting the resistance of the so-called Northern Alliance. They had the pretext to capture Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks, although it is well documented that the invasion of the country had been planned and plotted well before the attack on the Twin Towers.

The second reason why it is important to talk about it is because negotiations about the future of Afghanistan are continuing on the Doha agreements in Qatar. The proposals, imposed by the US (which since February had made agreements with the Taliban), involve a disengagement of the military presence. On 12 September, in the presence of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the government in office and representatives of the Taliban militias officially gathered to reach an agreement.

The State that is likely to emerge from the negotiations will, according to the first declarations, take the form of a republic that “maintains the role of Islam”. In the coming months it will be possible to understand what is meant by this term but everything suggests that the fundamentalist and patriarchal doctrines will not be disturbed.

Two huge issues are therefore left unresolved. The first is that of refugees and displaced persons. According to UNHCR, there were more than 2.7 million refugees and almost 2 million internally displaced persons by 31 December 2019. In many years – people had already been fleeing before the US attacks – whole generations of children were born in Pakistan, Iran (90%) or Europe and today are stateless.

Then there are the issues related to the reconstruction as well as the reconciliation. The country is now among the poorest on the planet; will refugees be given the opportunity to return to cities and villages whose houses have been destroyed, where the land is still partly full of landmines and the cultivation of opium is expanding? Will the revenges for what happened in the past continue?

The only hope comes from young women and young men who still try to challenge power and corruption and who want a future without conflicts. They are combative, they have nothing to lose and they trust no one who is occupying their land.