In the 2010 memoir “Decision Point,” former U.S. President George W. Bush explained his decision to invade Afghanistan in the following words:
“Afghanistan is the ultimate nation-building mission. We liberated this country from the original dictatorship, and we have a moral obligation to leave something better. We also have a strategic interest in helping the Afghan people build a free society…because of one A democratic Afghanistan will be a promising alternative to the vision of extremists.”
However, after 20 years of occupation by the West, there seems to be no sign of the “promising alternative” Bush predicted, at least judging from the desperate scenario at Kabul Airport, after the Taliban took over very quickly, people have been scrambling. Leaving this country. Although the West has invested a lot of life and wealth in rebuilding Afghanistan’s institutions and economy, and training and equipping the Afghan army and police.
Those involved in the fight against extremist groups in Somalia can learn important lessons from the fate of Afghanistan, where the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is conducting similar nation-building experiments. Over the past 14 years, with the support of the West, African countries have sent troops from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries to fight against the al-Qaeda terrorist organization Al-Shabaab and support Somalia’s weak government. AMISOM also has civilian and police components designed to help rebuild civilian institutions.
However, despite years of hard work and annual expenditures of approximately US$900 million, the Mogadishu government remains weak, divided, and has almost no public legitimacy. Despite being driven out of most urban areas, Islamic insurgents still control most of the rural areas and are able to launch devastating attacks in the capital at will.
Like Afghanistan, the economy of Somalia has grown since Al-Shabaab was driven out of Mogadishu and many towns. The World Bank estimates that the annual GDP growth rate in 2015 and 2016 will be 5-6%. But growth is mainly in cities-based on donor support and remittances from Somali diasporas, and driven by and powered by consumption.
Employment is concentrated in low-productivity agriculture, and the development and diversification of the private sector is constrained by insecurity, political instability, weak institutions, insufficient infrastructure, widespread corruption, and difficult business environments. Last year, the country ranked bottom in the 2020 Doing Business Survey.
The similarities with Afghanistan do not stop there. In December 2006, after unwisely declaring war on Ethiopia, the Union of Islamic Courts was ousted by the US-backed Ethiopian invasion, ending what some called the six-month “golden age.” Somalia caught a glimpse of a brief peace.
UIC is a coalition of Islamic courts backed by the country’s business leaders. It has previously expelled warlords who are notorious for indiscriminate killings and indiscriminately injured warlords. It has formulated a strict interpretation of Islamic law similar to the Taliban, banning music, movies, and sports. They also forced women to wear veils. But they also brought some seemingly normal, with fewer guns on the streets of Mogadishu and relative freedom of movement. The airport reopened and basic needs were basically met.
However, this ended with the Ethiopian invasion. UIC’s armed faction evolved into a Al-Shabaab rebellion. By the time the Ethiopian army withdrew in 2009, the rebellion had swept the country and restricted a few blocks within the capital of the internationally supported Transitional Federal Government. , Protected by thousands of Ugandan and Burundian troops.
In a recent column for the Financial Times, Nigerian President Mohamedu Buhari emphasized that the lesson that Africa has learned from the collapse of Afghanistan is that military power is not enough to defeat extremists or guarantee social transformation. “Although pure force can reduce terror,” he wrote, “its removal will cause the threat to reoccur.”
He believes that in order to eliminate terror, what Africa needs is “not a sword but a plowshare”, that is, an economic partnership that brings real benefits (such as employment) to the masses. “The boots we need on the ground are builders’ boots, not army boots.”
Although what he wrote has profound truths, it is not the whole truth. Economic growth, even broad-based economic growth, and investment in building the security infrastructure of troubled countries may be necessary, but it is not enough. A fundamental component that both Afghanistan and Somalia lack is government legitimacy, which is based on the people’s ability to participate in government creation and decision-making and to take responsibility for its failures — in short, true democracy.
“The Taliban are inheriting a country different from the one they left 20 years ago,” U.S. Congressman Jake Auchincloss said in a recent interview. He is a Marine Corps veteran who once led Past the Afghan patrol. “The literacy rate has doubled, the infant mortality rate has been reduced by half, the electricity supply has tripled or quadrupled, and the number of children in school is ten times that of 20 years ago, and 40% of them are girls. The Taliban are inheriting a real Progressive country.”
The question for Western policymakers shouldn’t just be whether the Taliban will maintain this kind of progress, as Okincross asked, but why the country continues to fall despite this.
People are either intimidated by the prospect of returning to anarchy, or by economic growth and the allegiance purchased through symbolic participation in untrustworthy election voting, which is the main pillar of international intervention and empowers corrupt elites. Little has been done in fulfilling the accountability system. But facts have proved that this is wrong in Afghanistan.
As former journalist Sarah Chayes detailed in a severe reflection on the American occupation, “Afghans cannot be expected to take risks on behalf of a government that is as hostile to their interests as the Taliban… And Washington proved unacceptable to this simple message.” During that time, “Conyism, rampant corruption, [and] She wrote that “Ponzi schemes disguised as the banking system” flourished.
Faust-style transactions exchange actual investment in responsible institutions in exchange for flexible and appropriately Westernized individuals who promise safety and economic gains, but have a short shelf life. When interventions install, tolerate, and protect rulers who manipulate elections and establish superficial regimes characterized by impunity, they consolidate vulnerability rather than stability, and become part of the problem rather than a solution tool.
This is the real lesson of Afghanistan. Those who are committed to helping Somalia should pay attention to this.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.