Afghanistan Table of Contents

THE HOPE AND EXHILARATION felt among Afghans as the last Soviet troops retreated from their country in early 1989 gave way to frustration within months. Disparate Afghan groups had struggled valiantly against a common enemy, but the extent of the discord and rivalries which characterized their efforts became ominously evident.

Many of those who marveled at the determined and tenacious Afghan response to the invasion of their country have questioned why these same people have turned upon themselves with equal ferocity. Numbers of answers lie in the impact of the Soviet-Afghan War upon Afghan society.

The regional and internal conflicts that erupted after the end of the war are the effects of that war. Islam as a measure of national identity is challenging a century of inroads by secular institutions. Traditional Afghan methods of conflict resolution guided by the spirit of egalitarianism and respect for others are being severely thwarted in an environment surfeited with modern weaponry supplied by outsiders pursuing a multiplicity of regional agendas centered on Afghanistan. Massive drug trafficking created during the war exacerbates the conflict. The persistent rise and fall of individuals forging power from these weapons and drugs fuel self-interests, preclude peace and stretch taut the fabric of the society.

Society in predominately Islamic Afghanistan is defined by a rich melange of variety reflecting its position at the hub of four great cultural zones. Central Asia, China, the Indian subcontinent and the Iranian plateau extend to its borders. Builders of empires, traders and pilgrims as well as those seeking haven from upheavals in their own societies have come to this land throughout the centuries. Some merely passed through; others settled to make it their homeland. Whatever the manner of their arrival, each impressed their own cultural mores on the society.

The Afghan area thus evolved as a zone of cultural transition with a complex ethnolinguistic population as varied as its geography which encompasses fertile mountain valleys in the east, plains and grasslands in the north, a central mountain core, and deserts and semideserts in the west and southwest. The inhabitants of these different areas take pride in these cultural differentiations and follow their own customs, distinct tribal norms, religious variations, divergent attitudes toward family and gender, and contrasting subsistence life-styles.

As the twenty-first century approaches, all Afghans face the challenge of rebuilding their civic society -- a struggle as daunting as their struggle was against the Soviet Union.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress