To Thwart The Jihadist Insurgents

I would love to see Sufism in Afghanistan & Hinduism in India get a choke hold on the Wahhabi Movement in Pakistan & kill it.  Peace would be more likely in the region.  This is what I would most cherish after researching, reporting on, and poetically allying myself with Afghanistan for about a year now.

Most of the Christians out of the United States & Europe are getting out of the way & going home.  The Afghan National Army & Police & citizens of Afghanistan stay.  They stay & fight for their freedom & fledgling democracy.  They fight the Wahhabi-tainted & intolerant Taliban.  What’s going to take place in Afghanistan now will be, to say the very least, interesting ~ and, alas, bloody.

The religious connotations of the ongoing Afghanistan War, I believe, cannot be denied.  I believe matters of spirituality cannot be denied anywhere.  But I’ve never been to war as an individual, just a citizen of a nation gone to war.  Being an American, this is a common thing for my countrymen & me.

It will be nice ~ when the Taliban succumb to the efforts for peace & become monks somewhat like they were originally.  I’m sure most people don’t believe this will happen.  But I pray.

Old Timer Chronicle II, this blog, has been covering the Afghanistan War for a wee bit more than a year, from September, 2013, to October, 2014. Some research of the war’s earlier years has been included.  Sufism, a version of Islam popular amongst Afghans, is explored & Hinduism, out of India, is touched upon.  Some of St. Paul’s work represents Christianity on this blog.  Wahhabism, a blood-thirsty perversion of Islam,  can be explored on a link or two.  My favorite TV news commentators, Alex Wagner & Harris Faulkner, dropped by a few times via my shenanigans.

Today Old Timer Chronicle II has 90 subscribers.  It was removed from the wordpress.com forum some time ago.  By whom?  Why?  Maybe the NSA is doing its job protecting U.S. citizens, like myself, from blood-letting Jihadists.

Also, I wrote a narrative verse that consists of forty episodes entitled “Afghaneeland” in this issue of the Old Timer.  I’ve promoted it as Afghanistan’s new Iliad.  That makes me the Homer of Afghanistan.  Ain’t that somethin’?  I’ve never been there.

Among the characters that evolved out of my poetical efforts on this blog, thrives the young Afghan woman, Mamoodia.  She’s an idealistic, unrealistic, but promising, beautiful character, evolved out of Nuristan province.  Now she endures in the world of literature ~ to thwart unscrupulous Taliban ~ forever!

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Young Afghan Mamoodia pulls an arrow out of her quiver

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https://oldtimerchronicle2.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/a-new-breed-in-the-village

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Yours truly

Rawclyde

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Afghans Clear Sangin Valley

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Story by Cpl. Joshua Young

1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade

Regional Command Southwest

February 8, 2014

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CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers with 2nd and 3rd Brigades, 215th Corps, teamed with the Afghan Uniform Police and other Afghan National Security Forces to conduct a completely Afghan-led operation called Oqab 144, with only advisor-related help from coalition forces.

The operation, which took place Jan. 27 – Feb. 4, means “Eagle 144,” in English. It is a process to eliminate hostile threats from the Sangin Valley, Helmand province, Afghanistan, prior to the upcoming national election in order to offer a better environment for potential voters and the local populace.

The operation was conducted weeks before the Afghan presidential elections, which are scheduled to take place April 5. The current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is not eligible to run for re-election due to term limits, making this the first transfer of the presidency since his inauguration in 2004 and the first democratic transition of power in the history of Afghanistan.

“They’re sharing stories about the election and belief in their government,” said Col. Christopher Douglas, the team leader of Security Force Assistance Advisor Team 2-215. “I believe this gives people the opportunity to see that the future is bright because these operations are being executed for Afghans by Afghans with no coalition presence visible to them during the operation.”

The ANSF partners are working together to build trust within the local populace to achieve a more stable and secure environment for the election as well as the future of Afghanistan, Helmand province, and Sangin Valley.

“This shows that it’s an Afghan election process,” said Douglas, whose team is stationed out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. “We’re not driving it. It shows faith in the system, now they’re gaining more of that confidence. We can’t force them to do something, so it comes down to inspiring them.”

During May 2012, the Afghan and U.S. governments agreed a contract needed to be created to establish how many, if any, American forces would remain in Afghanistan following the end of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission in 2014. Without such a contract, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement, the U.S. must pull all forces out of the country by the end of the year.

The two governments began working on the agreement Nov. 15, 2012, which would allow a contingent of U.S. troops to stay in the country in an advisory role.

Despite the approval of the Loya Jirga, or “grand council” on Nov. 24, 2013, and increasing support from Afghanistan and the international community, President Karzai has yet to sign the agreement.

Due to the hesitation from President Karzai, the next president of Afghanistan may be responsible for signing the agreement. This places the fate of the BSA in the hands of the voters —the people of Afghanistan — as they choose their next leader.

“It’s a very exciting time,” said Maj. Paul D. Tremblay, deputy team leader, SFAAT 2-215. “It’s an election where the people can choose a leader who’s going to take them the rest of the way.”

The operation to clear the Sangin Valley of hostile threats was met with resistance and casualties, but also several milestones of success.

Seeing only Afghan uniforms during the operation helped build the locals’ confidence in the ANSF. In turn, some locals provided the forces with information on insurgent movements and known locations, as well as locations of improvised explosive devices and explosives labs.

“As (the operation) went on through the Sangin area with 2nd and 3rd Brigades, they were approached by some locals who advised them they missed some IEDs during the clear,” Douglas said. “That was a great surprise. It showed confidence in the ANA’s ability to work with the locals and them feeling comfortable enough to come up to members of the ANA or the police and work with them to create a more secure environment in their community.”

When they first entered the Sangin Valley in 2006 after the resurgence of the Taliban, the coalition forces had the lead role in all combat operations. During the course of the campaign, the lead has steadily been turned over to Afghan forces as the coalition took on an advisory role.

Oqab 144 marks one of the first operations in the region during which the populace hasn’t seen a coalition force presence. Security Force Assistance Advisor Team 2-215 played a silent role in the operation, offering only advisory assistance and minimal relief in casualty evacuations.

“They’re in the lead,” Douglas said. “We’re here and able to watch through some of our assets, but the big thing is seeing their excitement for how well things are going for them and hearing their stories of sharing a big success together. Now they’re out there doing it.”

“We’re kind of like father figures, and we’re watching our children grow and flourish,” Tremblay said. “They have it, you can see it in their eyes. They just need to continue to grow and mature. Once they get in the highest leadership positions, they’ll be unstoppable.”

“They have an incredibly capable staff,” Tremblay said. “They have all the enablers and they’re learning each and every day. This operation is certainly demonstrating their capacity to take independent action and learn and grow as they progress.”

“It’s one of the most complex problems I’ve ever seen in my 18 years in the Marine Corps,” Tremblay said. “It’s fascinating to study and the more you do, the more you learn about the intricacies at play here and what can potentially be done in the future.”

The SFAAT considered the operation to be a success and is dedicated to helping the ANA in the region become completely sustainable and self-sufficient.

One of the obstacles the SFAAT and the ANA face in the region is the annual fighting season, tied to the weather and poppy harvest.

The Sangin Valley is known by many as a hotbed for nefarious and illegal activities. It’s strategic in its relevance to major corridors such as Route 1 and Route 611.

Drug runners and insurgents often use Route 1, which runs all the way through Afghanistan from Pakistan to Iran. The two routes are a crossroads for both trade and drug trafficking. Much of the Taliban’s funding comes from the profits of the poppy harvests. Black-tar heroine is extracted from the poppy plants and the drugs are shipped all over the world.

The Taliban control much of the heroine trade and are dependent on the industry. When the weather cools off, the insurgency turns toward facilitating the poppy planting. When planting begins, fighting almost instantly ceases.

“It’s a constant disruption mentality,” Tremblay said. “Whether it’s Marines, British or Afghans, their ability to consistently disrupt the activity of the insurgents by projecting combat power prevents the insurgent from feeling comfortable enough to go in and interact with the populace, plant an IED or set up a firing position.”

The progress that has been made since the coalition first entered the Sangin Valley can be measured by the success of Oqab 144 and the relationship building between the ANSF and the local populace.

“Without this group we would not have reached this stage,” said Col. Abdul Hai Neshat, executive officer, ANA 2nd Brigade. “Due to the Marines’ hard work along side us, we can lead our units. They’re very helpful and useful.”

Success in the region did not come easily. Many service members from coalition forces and the ANSF have paid the ultimate price to bring stability to the war-torn area.

“I don’t think we could ever put a number on the blood, treasure and heartache that has been poured into this area,” Tremblay said. “The blood, sweat and tears, the brothers we’ve lost, the horrific injuries sustained and the invisible ones that keep you up at night are beyond description. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to capture what has been sacrificed to get us to this point. Especially when you read in the media what’s going on in certain areas in Iraq, it’s hard not to question: ‘Has it been worth it?’ In my opinion, the answer is absolutely, ‘Yes.’ All of that sacrifice has led to an opportunity we’re seeing start to grow and gain momentum today.”

With all the progress that has been made in the past eight years, there is still more to be done.

“I’d like to say, on behalf of my personnel and soldiers, thank you to the Marines and the U.S. in a common (effort) for helping Afghanistan,” Neshat said. “Without U.S. support, we would not be able to stand as a country. Hopefully in the future the U.S. will continue the support and help Afghanistan and not leave. All people in Afghanistan want peace in this country and to live a normal life. It’s very important to help us. These are the wishes of all of Afghanistan.”

Following the operation, Maj. Gen. Sayed Malook, commanding general, 215th Corps, traveled to Camp Leatherneck via Route 611 to show his confidence that the Sangin Valley had been cleared, said Maj. Gen. W. Lee Miller, commanding general, RC(SW). “Every day is a step in the right direction.”

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Afghans Gathering

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by Rod Nordland

New York Times

November 21, 2013

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The loya jirga is a venerable Afghan institution in which representatives of Afghan tribes are summoned, in the absence of formal government, to discuss issues of concern. Afghan rulers used them to ratify their rule whenever they seized power or expanded territory, because if there is one defining characteristic of a loya jirga, it is that it rarely says no…

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That has certainly been the case of the five loya jirgas summoned in the past decade. The first of those, an emergency jirga in 2002, elected Hamid Karzai as president. He was also the choice of the international community, which supported him for interim leadership and had effectively convened that loya jirga…

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Another loya jirga that began in 2003 ratified the present Afghan Constitution  — and also set out the terms of what in the future would constitute a loya jirga, or grand assembly, specifying that it included all members of Parliament, as well as district and provincial council chairmen…

US soldier in Afghanistan

Mr. Karzai, who has openly expressed his longing to be seen as a champion of Afghan tradition, has been particularly fond of loya jirgas, convening four of them, including the present one. This one was billed as a “consultative loya jirga,” because it did not actually fulfill the strict constitutional requirements of a loya jirga, since the delegates, all chosen either directly or indirectly by the president and his aides, were a more numerous and diverse group than specified in the Constitution, including tribal elders, civic groups, and many other nongovernmental figures…

Afghan Warriors

Two of Mr. Karzai’s previous jirgas discussed peace, and the most recent one, in 2011, affirmed the government’s support for a strategic agreement with the United States — the precursor to the present security agreement being discussed this week…

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Critics of loya jirgas say the one now underway, expected to conclude on Sunday, is doubly undemocratic. First: as a consultative loya jirga it is chosen by the government outside of constitutional rules. And second: why have a loya jirga in a country that now has an elected Parliament?

Samiullah Sameem, a member of Parliament from Farah Province, supports the security agreement. But he refused his invitation to the jirga. “It is undemocratic and symbolic,” he said. “With democratic institutions like Parliament, there is no need for jirgas.”

“The jirga delegates will endorse what the government tells them to endorse,” said Jawed Kohistani, a political analyst. The jirga’s deliberations are broken down into 50 committees, he said, each headed by a government loyalist. The only way the jirga is likely to say no to a security agreement with the Americans, he said, is if Mr. Karzai wants it to say no…

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Aimal Faizi, Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, disagrees, saying that the jirga organizers cast a wide net, sending out some 3,000 invitations. There are 2,500 attendees. All members of Parliament and local government officials down to the district level were among the invitees, as well as representatives of the Taliban — who did not come — and other opponents of the president, some of whom did. Most mainstream opposition figures, however, either were not invited or boycotted the event…

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In his opening speech, Mr. Karzai encouraged the delegates to vote their consciences. “I want you to make your decision independently,” he said. “Whoever comes to you and claims to be my representative, don’t believe them.”

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Afghan

art and photos gathered by

Rawclyde!

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Loya Jirga Eyeballs Security Agreement

Mr. Eyeballl

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by Hassan Khitab

Pajhwok Afghan News

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KABUL: Some participants of the consultative Loya Jirga on Friday called for changes in parts of the draft Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), warning the deal — if signed without amendments — could damage Afghanistan’s long-term interest.

Around 2,500 people’s representatives, tribal chieftains, religious scholars, lawmakers, women, civil society groups, the nomadic Kuchi tribe, traders and rights activists are attending the four-day grand assembly in Kabul.  

On the second day of proceedings, 50 jirga committees started debating the deal, clause by clause. The discussions will continue tomorrow, according to organizers. On the final day, committee heads will present their recommendations before the assembly takes any decision.

Some participants believed portions of the BSA text needed a careful review to safeguard the country’s future interest. The Badakhshan provincial council head suggested changes to the articles concerning civilian house searches and legal jurisdiction over foreign troops.

Abdul Wahid Tayyebi told Pajhwok Afghan News: “If these parts of the draft aren’t amended, I fear Afghanistan will be placed in harm’s way.” However, he hoped the Americans would continue to extend sincere assistance to the impoverished ally.  

A representative of the disabled from eastern Laghman province, Syed Sharif, also slammed the jurisdiction clause as violative of Islamic teachings. All parts of the draft agreement that were in conflict with the national interest and inconsistent with the religion must be changed, he demanded.

He viewed the draft accord as detrimental to Afghanistan, because it offered no concrete guarantees of the country’s security and prosperity. US leader Barack Obama’s letter to President Hamid Karzai was also devoid of such commitments, he insisted.

Sharif claimed that the two sides had already concluded the agreement, calling the ongoing tribal forum an exercise in absolving President Karzai of blame and shifting the responsibility for future consequences to the nation.

For his part, Karzai has emphasised on participants to study the entire agreement minutely before sharing their opinion with the government.

Haji Mohammad Usman, a tribal elder from eastern Nangarhar province, insisted sovereignty of the country must be respected; otherwise the agreement would be not approved. The jirga was free of foreign pressures, he said, explaining no one wanted to harm the national interest.

“We have thrashed out more than 10 articles of the pact, but did not find a single article that is against Afghanistan,” he continued.

But an attendee from northeastern Badakhshan province, Mufti Abdul Rahman, condemned legal protection of US forces as a clear breach of Islamic values. Another debatable article concerned house searches, he maintained.

A participant from Balkh province, Nazif Qarizada, noted signing the pact was to the advantage of the country. Afghanistan would face serious challenges if the agreement was not signed, she warned, saying she had studied the whole text but there was nothing negative in it.

Ghulam Hussain Hazara, a political expert and participant of the jirga, opined signing the BSA would benefit Afghanistan in terms of equipping, training and strengthening its security forces. Economic development was another benefit that Afghanistan could gain, he concluded

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Pajhwok Afghan News:

http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2013/11/22/some-delegates-seek-changes-bsa

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40 Years Of Hard Lessons

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The fall of modern Afghanistan’s 225 year-old monarchy 40 years ago this week was a watershed moment in the country’s history. It defined, to a large extent, the next four decades and continues, to this day, to haunt Afghans as they struggle to restore stability in their country and normalcy in their lives. There are many lessons learned and parallels that can be drawn from the past as Afghans and the international community grapple with a complex transition that will underscore the end of a long foreign military mission, elections and the probability of reconciliation with brutal armed factions that continue to bleed the country.

Although the July 17, 1973 coup d’état headed by prince Mohamad Daoud that toppled his cousin King Zahir Shah was bloodless and welcomed across society because he was a known entity, the political consequences over the years, nonetheless, have been dramatic, and the human and economic costs expanded considerably after the bloody 1978 communist coup that overthrew the Daoud republic.

As a result of extreme upheavals, the country, more recently besieged by poor governance, weak institutions and capacities and, above all, a nagging insurgency with cross-border sanctuaries, has had a difficult time recovering despite a massive international intervention.

Although Afghans are naturally divided over the interpretation of segments of their past four decades of history, as most versions encompass some level of bias, there is, however, no one single person or entity to blame for this bleak outcome. The blame is shared among many actors. After all, Afghanistan underwent the most turbulent period of its history, with different internal and external players involved at different intervals. In relative terms, some tried to play a constructive role whereas others are seen as spoilers.

The country was – and still is – victimized by unwanted regional meddling, brutalized by pre-2002 undemocratic regimes, and held back by repressive and regressive ideological movements. Despite tremendous pressure, Afghans have shown great tenacity and faith when the odds were stacked against them.

Along the way, many opportunities have also been squandered. Although, the current window of opportunity that opened up after the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 is still open to try and fix the country and smooth over the damage of 30 years of warfare, many Afghans are concerned that it might close prematurely or out of expediency, and a unique opportunity would leave behind a fragile situation.

It is only in the past 12 years that any collective effort has been made – at a high cost to Afghans and donors alike – to correct the negative drift. This is why most Afghans are cautiously optimistic, want to protect their gains and want a comfortable level of certainty about their future. This is why some lessons from the past – granted that it was a different era – in conjunction with current realities can help them and their external backers steer the country toward better prospects, avoiding a repeat of misplaced priorities, miscalculation, and mismanagement, that might lead to a new round of conflict and despondency.

This is also what ordinary Afghans expect from their political leaders and from their friends in the international arena at this historically critical juncture. They see their leaders as excessively infatuated by the lure of power, unable to think and act strategically, and they see the internationals as not enough focused on making sure that the end-game is not lost.

Lessons for domestic consumption

The three mutually inclusive factors essential for political stability in the Afghan context are: Political resolve to defend and assure survival of a legitimate political order; critical-mass inclusivity aiming to strengthen national cohesion; and keeping key domestic and international constituencies engaged constructively.

Furthermore, possessing strategic vision, and leadership and communications skills are tools that can improve the quality of governance, crisis management and foster a healthy political environment to enable social and economic progress.

The constitutional monarchy that gave Afghanistan a taste of democratic rights and reforms from 1964 till 1973, did not crumble because of lack of tools or enablers, but because of a lack of political will to nurture and protect the legitimate democratic process, and keep key domestic constituencies onboard. For example, failing to ratify the crucial political party laws in the 1960s pushed some groups underground, and helped sow the seeds of militancy and military coups soon thereafter.

Even western democracies, including the US government, which showed little interest in Afghanistan during that stage of the Cold War, had no appreciation for the King’s democratic experiment and thought it was too advanced for what British colonial “specialists” have for more than a century wrongly assumed to be a primitive tribal society. Today, the same duplicitous argument is being made by anti-democratic and hegemonic powers in our neighborhood in order to keep the tribal areas underdeveloped and keep the international community at bay.

It is baffling to think that over the past century little effort was made to introduce the tribal regions, inhabited by more than 30 million people, to modern education and economic development. Instead, thousands of religious schools, mostly run by fanatics, were facilitated to radicalize the youth and turn them into Jihadi fodder.

The difference this time around is that on the Afghan side, we have a population that is tired of war, eager for normalcy and economic opportunity, and wanting basic rights and freedoms framed by moderate religious and cultural norms. Demographically, a youthful majority connected to cyber space is not ready to submit to Talibanization or any dictatorial despot.

As some analysts allege, feuds or conspiracies within the ruling clan or family have also contributed to turmoil in the past, as in the case of the 1973 coup. A return to clannish intrigue is not seen as a healthy alternative now or in the future.

Another concern relates to the ruling clique and the quality of a leader’s advisory team, which, in current times, is a question preoccupying many Afghans. While president Daoud is considered by many to have been a patriotic and progressive leader, he is also seen as an authoritarian who put an end to democratic practices, did not tolerate dissention and preferred to be surround by yes-men. Consequently, not only did the quality of governance deteriorate, but his time as a strongman was cut short by turncoats whose loyalties lay elsewhere.

Members of the same pro-Moscow leftist factions that helped him secure power in 1973, played a key role in overthrowing his regime and instigating a blood bath after the April 1978 coup.

One reason for this tragic turn of events has been the Machiavellian nature of zero-sum politics practiced by individuals and groups who are only bent on acquiring and retaining power in a discriminatory manner at any cost. Furthermore, not being able to define friend from foe, and resorting to ethnic-style politics has deteriorated public confidence in political elites and undermined social justice.

In other words, when politics intersects with corruption, as laws and values are trampled, the country inevitably faces instability leading to conflict. These are reason why there is little appetite in the country today for a system that is volatile and that cannot offer some level of predictability and sustainability.

The external context

Given Afghanistan’s precarious geography, this situation has been aggravated over the years by regional interference and manipulation that take advantage of Afghan systemic weaknesses and enable external agendas that manifest themselves in regional rivalries that harm the country.

Afghans have come to realize that their challenge has deep regional roots and are starting to look at longer-term options that would safeguard their interests. While mindful of the pitfalls, they expect their government to act responsibly and address the threats in a rational and realistic fashion, avoiding unnecessary entanglements or a weak disposition that does not reflect a wide consensus.

Over the past 40 years, the country experienced regime change on numerous occasions, ranging from hard left (as in the communist rule from 1978 to 1992 that included the brutal Soviet occupation decade) and hard religious right (under the Taliban/al Qaida from 1996 to 2001). In each case it was not a purely civil strife situation. There were – and continue to be – determined external players involved in support of their perceived interests.

The foreign meddler has tried to define the chaos as revolution, Jihad, civil war and ethnic war, but Afghans have learned to differentiate between home-made chaos, intervention that is welcomed and the kind that is not. That is why most Afghans have a hard time accepting Taliban brutality as Jihad, or even more comically, as “nationalism” versus foreign occupation. They remember that prior to 2001 when there were no Western troops in the country, the Taliban, affiliated to multi-national brigades of terrorists and regional Jihadists, brutalized their own Muslim compatriots.

By the end of his rule in 1978, President Daoud attempted a strategic, yet abrupt, volte-face from Soviet domination to Western rapprochement. He even courted Iran, moderate Arabs and Pakistan. It failed because of domestic intrigue, untimely miscalculation and the level of Soviet penetration in Afghan institutions.

In comparison, as the 2014 transition approaches, Afghans are once again faced with a decision to choose their strategic allies. Public sentiment in this regard seems to reflect a consensus in favor of international engagement, but, once again the ruling clique, dealing with intrigue and inconsistency, is putting the fate of the country in jeopardy.

Making demands that are unrealistic or resorting to conspiracy theories have hurt Afghan governments in the past, and will continue to hurt the country today and squander what is left of its opportunities.

The core of Afghan stability at this stage depends on a hands-off stance by its neighbors, especially Pakistan. This in turn requires a non-provocation stance by Afghans, while seeking a comprehensive regional (with international community assurances) understanding that can benefit all sides, and guarantee Afghan sovereignty and independence.

As we look back, judge past events and make historical analogies, future generations will do the same and will judge today’s developments based on our ability to understand, decide, manage and lead.

Not only should Afghans strive to interpret history with veracity, so that today’s leaders and future generations act responsibly and avoid repeating its cardinal errors, but they should also encourage the political class, which includes women leaders and youth movements in the neighborhood to educate the grassroots, adopt new methods and out-of-the box approaches to address contentious issues and recommend practical solutions.

Failing to do so can have grave consequences beyond Afghan borders, as the country’s turbulent history over the past 40 years has demonstrated.

Omar Samad is Senior Central Asia Fellow at New America Foundation, President of Silkroad Consulting, and former Afghan ambassador to France and Canada.

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