Thursday October 9, 2014
Afghanistan has witnessed two major events in the most recent weeks. One is the assumption of office by Ashraf Ghani as the next president of the country, succeeding Hamid Karzai. The second has been the signing of the two “back-to-back” security pacts between Afghanistan on the one hand and the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] on the other.
Both developments are of historical importance in their own ways. Ghani’s presidency signifies a rare peaceful transition of power in the ebb and flow of Afghan history.
As for the second, Afghanistan has been invaded and occupied before in its tumultuous history dating back to Alexander the Great – the last famous occupation followed the British invasion in the 19th century – but never before has that country had to agree to foreign military presence on its soil in such an open-ended fashion.
Equally, for the first time in its history, Afghanistan is taking help from a foreign military alliance. Indeed, the subplot here is also that the foreign military presence is not of a regional character, but is “extra-regional” drawn from countries from a faraway region which is tens of thousands miles away from South or Central Asia and have had no shared history or culture with Afghanistan.