The wagons are circling in Kabul
So how long will the current President of Afghanistan last? How did Afghan Hazaras change Adelaide for the better & more
Welcome to “What's Up Afghanistan?” by me, Arash Azizzada. Thank you for reading! My goal here is to try to make the news from Afghanistan digestible and understandable. I will try my best to center Afghans and Afghan voices. This edition of the newsletter is free but to keep this little venture going, I am asking folks to subscribe! For the cost of one oat milk latte per month, you will get multiple newsletters a month delivered right in your inbox. Check out previous work here.
What you need to know: the latest
Judging by this past week’s catalog of news reports coming out of Afghanistan, one thing seems to be certain for the current President of Afghanistan: the end of his 2nd term is near.
Ashraf Ghani’s foes and those dissatisfied with his rule are too many to count. There’s the Taliban, who considers him and the current government illegitimate and a puppet of the West. Then there’s the U.S., who seems to have lost patience with him because he’s not willing to abide by what it is urging him to do to make a U.S. exit as smooth as possible. Then there are his political opponents, who are looking to consolidate power. Last but not least there’s a disgruntled population, for whom he has not been able to secure the improbable: safety, stability, and prosperity.
Here’s how the Washington Post describes possible peace plans that involve a host of political players and factions, most of which would certainly see Ghani replaced:
The visions are wildly different in substance and depth. But they all show support is building for some form of a transitional government in Kabul, with many of Ghani’s political foes eyeing how to secure more power for themselves amid such a move.
Here’s how the New York Times describes Ghani’s position:
American officials have mostly lost patience with him. Many are fed up with what they see as his obstinacy in refusing to make concessions to adversaries, or his condescending style. “Dead man walking,” is the term some civil society members use to describe his political standing.
Brutal. Considering the dark history of what has happened to Afghanistan’s leaders in the past, that’s not a term to be used lightly. Ghani, formerly a professor of anthropology, himself knows this history and has alluded to this before a Washington D.C.-audience, saying this last year:
“Najibullah made the mistake of his life by announcing that he was going to resign. Please don’t ask us to replay a film that we know well.”
And while he might have not made it easy for himself along the way, it ought to be noted that Ghani also finds himself in an impossible place. On one end, his government is slowly losing a battle against a bitter arch-enemy who is ill-bent on taking over the entire country violently. On the other hand, is a “partner” who is condescendingly instructing him which side of the bed to get out of. Back in 2019, a government official who worked in the presidential palace asked me rhetorically: “Do you know how much energy it takes to resist U.S. pressure?”
So what’s next? Some headline items we should pay attention to in the short term:
the U.S. will more than likely not stick to the May 1st withdrawal deadline as was previously agreed to in the U.S.-Taliban agreement under the Trump administration
a possible but yet-to-be-confirmed meeting of all sides in Istanbul, hosted by the United Nations, on April 16th and beyond to jumpstart a beleaguered peace process
a huge amount of uncertainty about Afghanistan’s political and humanitarian future, with many analysts’ predictions being quite grim
What to read:
The conflict in Afghanistan has spread many of our people to many corners of the world. It’s often exciting to hear and see how our diaspora is thriving in small and consequential ways. Living in a globalized world has allowed us to take a peek at our collective success stories and cool new initiatives that are seeing the light of day. The following is a story from Adelaide, a city in the south of Australia, about how the Afghan Hazara population there has revitalized a part of town and has earned the nickname “Little Afghanistan.”
The transformation fills Mr Rahimi with joy. He said it was a drastic change from the experiences the first Hazara business had in Prospect Road back in 2006.
"His window was broken three times a month so it wasn't so easy to run a shop," he said. He credits the shift to the support the Hazara community has received by the local council and the investment in the area.
It's what's made Prospect Road "quite the destination", which is a departure from those early days of broken windows and empty shop fronts.
How to help:
Afghanistan has many hopeful stories: Charmaghz is one of them. This Kabul-based NGO has turned old public buses into mobile libraries in order to “promote critical thinking, provide a space for children to read, think, and ask questions.” In a country where nothing is guaranteed—certainly not for its very young—Charmaghz (which means “walnut” in Farsi) provides a critical service to those in need. Time and time again, the best initiatives are started by Afghan women. This one is founded by the wonderful Frestha Karim and you can read about her incredible story here.
Just like many other services in Afghanistan, this one is in need of your financial support, partially due to the covid19-pandemic. I encourage you to assist them by clicking here and spreading the word about this marvelous project.
Image courtesy of Charmaghz
Thank you so much for reading! I welcome feedback & tips! Are there folks I should interview? Do you know of a project I should be highlighting? Just want to say hi? You can reach me at: arash.azizzada at gmail dot com.