A new civil conflict is likely, but the country can be saved. The Taliban will take advantage of the US withdrawal to regain power. The need for a new Afghan political class. Young people can be a force for change. A conversation with a Barnabite priest in Afghanistan for over 30 years.
Rome (AsiaNews) – The drive towards the "resurrection" of Afghanistan could come from women, to date subjected to harsh conditions because of religious or cultural factors. The scenario that lies ahead points to renewed civil conflict, but this does not mean that the country cannot be saved, especially if the West helps the most dynamic forces of Afghan society to emerge.
These are the initial observations of Father Giuseppe Moretti, a Barnabite priest with over 30 years on experience in Afghanistan, shared with AsiaNews following the US decision to withdraw its troops from the country by 11 September, the anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Until 2015, Fr Moretti was chaplain at the Italian embassy and in charge of the Missio sui iuris of Afghanistan.
US President Joe Biden's decision puts an end to 20 years of US presence on Afghan soil. Between the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002, immediately after the attacks of 11 September, Washington and the forces of the Northern Alliance (made up mainly of Tajiks and Uzbeks) overthrew the Taliban government, which for years had given hospitality and protection to the al Qaeda leadership.
Observers believe the Taliban will take advantage of Washington's withdrawal to regain power. The peace talks with the Afghan government, part of the agreement on the demobilization of the US military, have failed to achieve any results.
Now there is the risk of an all-out civil conflict, given the internal division of the executive between the Pashtun faction of President Ashraf Ghani and those that refer to "former warlords" of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras.
Moretti adds that neither are the Taliban themselves a homogenous bloc: "It is not a given that there will be unity within their ranks, or between them and extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and the local branch of Isis".
The Barnabite priest says that after the withdrawal of the troops, the question the United States, NATO and the European Union must ask is what can be done to avoid history repeating: The descent into conflict as was the case after the exit of the Soviets from the country in 1989.
"The alternative - says Fr. Moretti - must be of a social nature. We need to boost and sustain all those initiatives that can benefit the population, such as preparing a new political class, capable of governing the country in the most 'democratic' way possible."
The need is to build more schools, more health facilities and to create conditions that guarantee job opportunities: "Something has been done by us Westerners in the last 20 years, also by Italian soldiers, but a greater commitment is needed in this direction."
One factor that has not contributed to reconstruction efforts is the fact that the US and NATO have concentrated their forces in urban centers: "The heart of the country, the rural areas, have only heard the echo of the foreign presence", explains Fr. Moretti.
The cleric is convinced that Afghanistan can have a future, however: "They are human beings, after more than 40 years of wars, with every family mourning a loved one, they want a change".
According to Fr. Moretti, in addition to women, another substantial force for are young people, especially thanks to the help of modern means of communication.
"The desire for peace prevails among the population - concludes the priest - but also a great fear that the Taliban will return".