Recently, the Afghanistan government was toppled by the Islamic militia, the Taliban, after the country’s president fled the capital, Kabul. The Taliban is consolidating its grip on the state and setting up its governance structures, while the world waits to see what type of administration it would run.
The Taliban’s return to power and prominence in Afghanistan comes 20 years after it was ousted from power by the United States of America and its allies in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon – America’s twin symbols of global economic and military power and control, an attack planned and executed by the late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The Taliban incurred U.S.’ wrath for harbouring, aiding and abetting Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda in their avowed mission to destroy America and the free world.
The Taliban rule had been characterised by an extremist application of the Islamic Sharia law in which women are restricted from schooling, from holding employment positions and from appearing in public unless covered and accompanied by male relative. The U.S. proceeded to install civilian democracy in the country. However, since then, the Afghan military and the U.S. had been in active battle with the deposed Taliban whose members retreated to the mountains while its leaders fled to neighbouring countries from where they coordinated and sustained terror attacks against successive US-backed Afghan governments.
The recent history of Afghanistan holds some similarities with Nigeria. Like the landlocked Asian country, Nigeria has been fighting an Islamic insurgency for over a decade against Boko Haram and its splinter group, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), with the latter affiliated to the ISIS
Both Boko Haram and the Taliban share a similar ideology: both want to impose extremist Islamic rule on the populace irrespective of the people’s different religious affoliations; both discourage western education and democracy; both abridge people’s human rights and freedoms; both want to overthrow governments by the use of terror and military force and both are keen to work with foreign terrorists to destabilise their home government.
One takeaway from the Afghanistan story is that ideology is hard to subdue, or do away with. Those who hold onto an ideology, especially a religious one, are hard to shake off it.
Just like the Taliban that persevered for 20 years against the world’s greatest power, a ‘ragtag’ Boko Haram has sustained its battle against Nigerian troops, with an estimated 30,000 casualties and millions displaced from their homes and livelihoods. It has sustained its campaign against education with attacks on schools and students, slaughtering many students, kidnapping hundreds of them for ransom and burning down schools.
That is why, in the opinion of this newspaper, the government must tread cautiously with the issue of granting amnesty to Boko Haram members. Their indoctrination runs deep and any cosmetic handling of the issue can come back to haunt the society anew. These men have committed atrocities and have blood on their hands; they must pay for their crimes.
Another fallout of the Taliban ascendancy in Afghanistan is that its recent success can embolden other terror organisations like Boko Haram/ISWAP in their bloody campaign with the promise that if it can sustain its war for longer, there is hope of success at the end. Moreover, with an Islamic militant organisation now in government, Boko Haram/ISWAP and other terrorist groups can hope to get institutional support in their quest. Nigeria must watch out for, and ward off, this possible link.
Also instructive is the way corruption contributed in helping the Taliban to topple the Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul. It is inconceivable that after committing over $2 trillion in supporting the Afghan military, that a 300,000-strong military, along with its air power, will collapse like a pack of cards in a matter of hours to about 60,000 to 70,000-strong Islamic militants armed mostly with automatic rifles. There are pointers that a corrupt Afghan ruling elite and their equally corrupt military contractor class on the US side fed fat on the war fund and left the Afghan military shorn of the necessary armament and expertise/training to contend with a determined Mujahideen onslaught.
This should serve as a great warning to the Nigerian top military brass.Corruption destroys troops morale, and trying to profiteer from the war fund will only spell disaster for the country.
Already, a few of their predecessors have faced trial for financial crimes.
Finally, the fact that the Afghan military failed to lift a finger to defend their country suggests insider collusion with the Islamic militants. In Nigeria, there have been allegations of security agents colluding with terrorists and bandits. The military leaders must fish out the bad eggs to win this war.
Finally, the federal government must demonstrate the political will to end this war by treating the terrorists and bandits ‘in the language they understand.’