Cursed to Be a Battleground
The idea of securing peace in Afghanistan in the foreseeable future might seem to be a pipe dream today. A decade and half after the toppling of the Taliban in late 2001 and many billions of dollars in foreign aid, the country still faces an array of calamitous challenges. From political gridlock and petty competition for power among the country’s small elite, to prevalent corruption, to a widespread sense of hopelessness within the general population, Afghanistan sits in a hard place. In the midst of all its domestic struggles, Afghanistan also needs to contend with the rivaling agendas of foreign powers, including those states—such as the United States—that are still engaged in stabilization efforts in the country, and neighboring states—such as Iran and Pakistan—that continue to view Afghan soil as battleground for geopolitical rivalry through support for local proxies. This state of affairs is hardly a new development. History shows that for decades Afghanistan has been a stage for turf wars among regional actors.