Afghanistan in trouble, Nagorno-Karabakh in danger, and afterwards!

Alain Boinet with the latest editions of Défis Humanitaires.

Afghanistan has returned to the headlines since U.S. President Joe Biden’s declaration to permanently withdraw troops by September 11. This was expected. What has surprised most commentators, who have been covering it from afar but with great confidence, is the Taliban offensive, which has rapidly taken control of many districts and border crossings.

When you look at a map, you see that the areas that have escaped the Talibans are around the city of Herat, the central region of Hazaradjat, the Panshir valley and of course the capital Kabul, with other pockets here and there. In the media, there are many clichés, biases, and lack of knowledge of Afghan realities, but fortunately there is also useful information.

One is tempted to say to oneself, after 20 years of war, American, NATO and UN presence, “it was all for this” with the Taliban now back in power in Kabul. Where are the collective mistakes that have dominated for 20 years?

In the immediate future, what will happen this summer? While the military solution currently seems to outweigh political negotiation, past experience teaches us that a frontal war in Kabul would be devastating for the inhabitants and infrastructure and would cause many casualties on both sides as well as displacement of populations. What will the Taliban do? Will there be talks to avoid the worst and on what political terms? In any case, it is likely that the Taliban will seek to settle this before winter.

Taliban at the gates of Kabul in September 1996, © Robert Nickelsberg

As a result, the humanitarian situation will certainly worsen in this country of 40 million inhabitants, half of whom are affected by food insecurity. Indeed, 80% of the population lives or survives on small-scale farming, which is severely affected by the current drought, resulting in one out of every two 5 year olds suffering from malnutrition! To ensure that relief efforts are not interrupted, humanitarian organizations are asking the belligerents not to hinder access to aid for vulnerable populations and not to threaten the neutrality and impartiality of these organizations.

Nagorno-Karabakh in danger!

The media talk much less about Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, while yet not a single day passed for months without skirmishes on the borders. One of the most important incidents occurred on 12 May when hundreds of Azerbaijani soldiers entered Armenian territory in the Guegharkounik and Siounik regions. Since then, almost every day there have been incidents and injuries.

The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, maintains a permanent threat to push his advantage after his military victory in the 44-day war that ended on November 9 after the defeat of Armenia, which caused a real trauma in its population. What is in question is the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh, also called Artsakh, which is landlocked and populated by more than 100,000 Armenians.

Tensions increased again on July 22 when President Aliyev declared on Azerbaijani television that there was no Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh and no special administrative status for this territory, which he calls the Azeri Eastern Zanguezur. These statements are worrisome in that they could be followed by dangerous military initiatives. Diplomatic activity is equally intense and involves above all Russia, which plays a major role with 2,400 peacekeepers stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh and which has military bases in Armenia within the framework of a defence agreement. France is also very present with the United States which follows the situation closely as well as the European Union.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Aliyev in Azerbaijan, 2020, ©Presidential Press and Information Office of Azerbaijan

On Thursday, July 29, after the death of 3 Armenian soldiers near the village of Sotk, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on Thursday that he would call for the deployment of “Russian border guards” along the border with Azerbaijan and the deployment of a Collective Security Treaty Organization (Russia and five other former Soviet republics, including Armenia) observer mission.

Humanitarian organizations and foundations are active both in Armenia and in Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh to meet the needs of displaced persons, invalids in the fields of health, education, culture, mine clearance and reconstruction in particular.

The month of August with Défis Humanitaires

In this edition, I propose three articles selected for their great interest among those we have already published. There is an article by Pierre Brunet, writer and humanitarian, “Is the humanitarian still on a mission?” which I recommend to you and which distinguishes between the humanitarian and the business in terms of purpose and management. Alicia Piveteau, a young journalist, has published a very interesting article, “The Sahel is a demographic bomb”, which alerts us to the urgent issues to be anticipated regarding the daily increase of a young population in need of education and employment. Finally, Gilles Dorronsoro, an academic and researcher specializing in Afghanistan, paints a picture of the situation in an eye-opening interview on “A so predictable defeat”.

Finally, to conclude.

If these articles interest you and bring you useful information and reflection, I suggest that you share them with your friends, colleagues and relations by sending them the link below each article with a small icon representing a letter.

You can also share these articles on social networks. This will encourage us to continue and improve Humanitarian Challenges for its readers and I thank you in advance warmly.

The next edition will be published on Tuesday, August 31.

To go further, you can listen to the RFI program on Afghanistan.

Alain Boinet.

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