Afghanistan has been back in the news since U.S. President Joe Biden declared a permanent withdrawal of troops by September 11. This was expected. What has surprised most commentators, who have been following this 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 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, after 20 years of American, NATO, UN and war presence, “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.
As a result, the humanitarian situation will certainly deteriorate in this country of 40 million people, 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 warring parties 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, yet not a day has gone by for months without border skirmishes. 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 rose 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 following the situation closely as well as the European Union.
On Thursday 29 July, after the death of 3 Armenian soldiers near the village of Sotk, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian said he would ask for the deployment of “Russian border guards” along the border with Azerbaijan and the deployment of an observer mission of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (Russia and five other former Soviet republics, including Armenia).
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, demining and reconstruction in particular.
The month of August with Humanitarian Challenges.
In this edition, I offer you three articles selected for their great interest among those we have already published. There is an article by Pierre Brunet, writer and humanitarian, “Is humanitarianism still on a mission?” which I recommend to you and which distinguishes between humanitarianism and 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.
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The next edition will be published on Tuesday, August 31.
To go further, you can listen to the RFI program on Afghanistan.