International Order and Taliban: Theory and Practice
Georgi Asatryan, Ph.D.

Afghanistan has historically been on the fringe of global politics while also being unexpectedly and tragically entangled in international processes. It was afflicted throughout the 20th century by linkages to the outside world. The Soviets invasion of Afghanistan took place in 1980s followed by a period of "isolationism". Post-Soviet withdrawal from the country, a bloody civil warfare broke out, which ended in 1996 with the victory of the radical Islamist Taliban. With the support of the Pakistani military, Taliban established the first Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan. Taliban leadership gave refuge to Osama bin Laden, who became the one of the most noxious terrorists. Afghanistan under the Taliban was excluded from global politics until 2001. The events in a terrorist state have been overlooked and ignored by the world community. The Taliban did what they pleased, Pakistan shielded and supported them, and Al-Qaeda operated unhindered while it prepared for more heinous terrorist attacks.

Following the events of 9/11, western intervention in Afghanistan became unavoidable. The presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has been regarded as the longest war in which the US has ever been involved. As indicated by the records and countless speeches and remarks made by the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and NATO, none of the responsible decision-makers contemplated launching Eastern wars. They were required for retaliation and the struggle against terrorism. While describing the western intervention in Afghanistan, military historian Carter Malkasian wrote in his book: "Nor was it the searing national trauma of Vietnam. And it was not the shame of Iraq. The Afghan War's most direct impact was checking the terrorist threat to the United States. Afghanistan was the first front in the "war" on terrorism. Intervention prevented further harm to Americans".

The theory of the international community belongs to the English school and was created in the mid-20th century with the participation of the classics of political theory Hedley Bull, Martin Wight, Charles Manning, and Raymond Vincent. In terms of the most conceptual epistemological idea of international society, it relies on the assumption of the "societal" nature of inter-state relations. The central concept of this theory is the idea that international relations are not only a material construction (army, economy, territory) but also a social one (relations, values, culture).

It is important to understand and discern the international community and community of states concepts. The first one is a wide-ranging and sometimes senseless term. The second one, is much more important. Countries and societies join communities based on their values, cultures, social structures, and functions of institutions. The Middle Ages European Christendom is mentioned as an example of a Community of States in the English School classical research.

The world of international politics in the English school remains anarchic. Apart from within the state, there is no supreme arbiter in international relations. No functional bodies exist in world politics, and all countries are formally equal. Wars, therefore, happen and will continue to happen because the pursuit of power and the paradox of the security dilemma define the behaviour of states.

However, the English school, with its concept of the international community, went further than other IR theories, especially realism, to find a way out of the main dilemma of world politics. To curb and limit anarchy is something that interested the great thinkers of the past and continues to bother the responsible theorists of the present. If realists state that conflicts are a derivative of an anarchic system, and the main task of the state is survival and power, then wars and conflicts become normal and even rational phenomena. For liberal theorists, war is a priori unnatural and immoral. They note the outstanding role of international organizations and economic interdependence.

Representatives of the English school are advanced in attempts to search for formats to combat anarchy theoretically. In the view of this theory, the world is not just Hobbes's state of war but also a place of solidarity, common values, and interests. For example, NATO includes countries that have been fighting against each other for centuries. To date, no one would have thought of starting a war inside Western Europe for Alsace-Lorraine, resources or "national interests".

Returning from the abstract theory to practical politics, the question arises, how can theories about the international community help resolve the Afghan conflict? In order to answer this issue, we need to understand that the international community concept is very amorphous and broad. Each case should be reduced to a Community of Countries where values and interests will be the central issue.

The main task in the Afghan case is to stop the export of the terrorist threat. The second point is to attempt to transform towards a regular political system in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, it must be admitted that it is not imperative to talk about liberalization or in terms of modernization theory here. In this matter, the Community of Countries will include those actors who share the values of countering Islamist terrorism and do not accept the political regime of the Taliban. Here will follow national interests as preserving stability in the region and preventing the growth of the Islamist threat.

Pakistan's destructive and detrimental policy is considered the fundamental obstacle to resolving the situation. Moreover, the policy of strategic depth developed by the Pakistani military and ISI strategists to create full support and advice for the Taliban has proved to be suicidal. Even after the largest terrorist attacks in history and at the beginning of the counterterrorism operation, it was tough for American politicians and the military to get the government of Pakistan to cooperate. The military dictator Pervez Musharraf did not desire and was afraid to go against the Pakistani Islamist circles. As a result, throughout the Afghan war and despite enormous pressure from the United States and the West, the Pakistani military wholeheartedly supported and advised the Taliban covertly. It was on Pakistani territory that they found shelter and returned to power 20 years later.

Summing up, it should be noted that the Community of the States is obliged not to forget about Afghanistan. Earlier the overlooking the Afghan crisis had led to the possibility of a terrorist state. As a result, humanity paid too great a cost on 9/11. Permanent political and economic pressure should be applied on the Taliban, and anti-Taliban forces should exist, if not directly supported, then in a state of direct contact. The funds frozen in Western banks could be returned to the Taliban only in parts and in return for significant steps to normalize the political system and prevent the continued violation of human rights by the Taliban regime.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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