Explained: Why Afghanistan is Influenced By Its Neighbours

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It’s very enlightening fact that the only road of Afghanistan called Ring Road goes mainly through Pashtun territory. All ethnic groups are cross-border except the Hazara; this fact gives us an idea of the influence that the neighbour countries have in the different zones of Afghanistan.

New Delhi (ABC Live India): The current turmoil in Afghanistan, after the withdrawal of United States army has urgently forced geopolitical researchers to know the short and long-term effects of this emergent global crisis.

The ABC Geopolitical research team working on the fallout of United States in Afghanistan has referred a research report prepared by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies (IEEE) published in the month of April, 2011 on Geopolitical Analysis of Afghanistan to its readers under its mission titled “Information For All”.

For many centuries, Afghanistan has been a natural corridor for conquerors and traders that moved troops or goods from West to East, between Middle East and India, and the other way around. This was the path chosen by Alexander the Great, 328 years before Christ. Nowadays, Afghanistan is more than a corridor; it’s a crossroad of routes in Asia.

The political, economic, social and military life of the Afghan State, of 652.000 square km of surface,  is  conditioned  by  the  Hindu  Kush  mountainous  massif  which  has  600  km  in  length and  ranges  the  whole  country  from  northeast  to  southwest.  These mountains part a great amount of territory and hinder communications between the various provinces; in addition, the harsh continental climate during winter favours the tribe’s importance over the central government and frequently constrains the state action to the capital and its whereabouts.

Traditionally, the terrain has helped the asymmetrical strategies, particularly the use of the guerrilla.  In the depth of the valleys, it’s easy to find refuge among a population that must manage  autonomously  the  services  which,  like  security,  should  be  provided  by  the  State itself.  The communication problem is worse in the North.  Until the opening of the Salang tunnel by the Soviets in 1964, the pass between Kabul and the north of the country was very precarious. This tunnel is an important step and has been under attack many times. 

The external borders aren’t natural and lack any type of control; that’s why they are prone to illegal traffic of weapons, drugs and human beings. Its length is directly proportional to its interrelationships with its neighbours.

Afghanistan has nearly 29 millions of inhabitants that have lived during 31 years in wartime; this has caused one million of Afghans to live as refugees in Iran and 2.5 million in Pakistan.

These  figures  give  us  an  idea  of  the  importance  and  influence  that  both  neighbours  have  in the conflict’s resolution. Living conditions are really hard, with a life expectancy of only 44.5 years,  20 %  of  the  population  live  in  extreme  poverty,  1  out  of  4  children  dies  before reaching 5 years, and more than 40 % of the population hasn’t got a job. More than the 75 ?n’t access basic services.  In this human environment, the social structure is build around the ethnic group and tribe.  There  are  four  that  are  very  important  (Pashtun,  Tajik,  Uzbek  and  Hazara);  and  21  minor (Aimaq, Turkmen, Baluchis), etc.

The Pashtun are the founders of the independent Afghanistan, the main group and the ethnic group that identifies more with the Afghan nationalism. They are Sunni and constitute the 42 % of the population.

The  Tajik,  that  form  the  27 %  of  the  population,  have  a  Persian  origin  and  are  also  Sunnis. They  speak  Dari  or  Persian  which  was  considered  an  educated  language;  this  made  easier their  access  to  the  administration  and  clergy  of  a  country  controlled  by  Pashtun  people.

Their presence at the capital and other cities as well as in the wide northwestern area, near the  Republic  of  Tajikistan  make  this  ethnic  group  the  most  important  one  in  the  country after the Pashtun; and they don’t hide their aspirations of taking part in the political power. 

The Hazara are considered as Afghanistan’s pariah by other ethnic groups; they are originally nomad people and probably Mongolian descent, who have been relegated to the poorer and more mountainous areas in the centre of the country.

They are Shia people and so they have a certain bound with Iran; however, they were also greatly repudiated by the Taliban people who don’t consider them Muslim. They speak a variant of Persian and they constitute 9 % of the country’s population.

The  Uzbeks  and  Turkmen  of  Turkish  origin  are  the  9 %  and  the  3 %,  respectively,  of  the population. They live in the north, in regions near the Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan’s republics. 

If we sum the ethnic distribution and the language, we can see that the Pashtun are cohesive with both aspects. Nevertheless, it’s important to highlight that this group feels more nationalist  despite  their  internal  divisions  caused  by  tribal  fights  for  the  power.

It’s very enlightening  the  fact  that  the  layout  of  the  main  and  nearly  the  only  road  of  Afghanistan called Ring Road goes mainly through Pashtun territory.  All  ethnic  groups  are  cross-border  except  the  Hazara;  this  fact  gives  us  an  idea  of  the influence that the neighbour countries have in the different zones of Afghanistan.

The ethnic differences  propitiate  continued  frictions  which  are  the  breeding  ground  for  civil  conflicts, typical in Afghanistan’s history, and that shouldn’t be overlooked at this moment.  In Badghis province, 63 % are Tajik; however, in the Gormach and Murghab districts, the majority of the population is of Pashtun origin, while in the Muqur districts this ethnic group is an important minority (44 %)In Qala and Naw, 72 % are Tajik and 28 % Pashtun.

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