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Afghanistan's Trauma State Fuels Endless War

July 10, 2018 in Economics

By Erik Goepner

Erik Goepner

As the Muslim world celebrated Eid al-Fitr last month to mark
the end of Ramadan, both the Afghan government and the Taliban
announced temporary cease-fires to coincide with the holiday.
Unfortunately, this transitory symbol of hope ignores reality:
Afghans will continue killing one another into the foreseeable

My experience as a military commander in southern Afghanistan
provided more than enough evidence for me to see why Afghanistan’s
endless war will continue.

The first two arguments for civil war are well established:
motivation and opportunity. People rebel when sufficiently
motivated by grievance or greed, and they rebel when the
opportunity presents itself.

The village of Khaki Khel in 2010 brought those arguments to
life. As I sat among the elders, their grievances were obvious. The
Americans, along with the Afghan government, were there to
apologize for the accidental deaths of two children during a
military operation. Not only did the Afghan government normally
fail to offer the residents any protection, but when they tried,
the results were horrific. And beyond their incompetence, the
Afghan government also ranks as the world’s fourth
most corrupt.
Afghans have many reasons to hate their

More war leads to more
trauma, which fuels continued war.

The opportunity for rebellion typically exists when a country
has ineffective security forces, recruiting rebels is easy, and
rebels can readily find sanctuary. The residents of Khaki Khel
rarely saw any Afghan police or soldiers and when they did, things
only seemed to get worse. The fact that the villagers were
subsistence farmers, eking out a living from one harvest to the
next, made any financial offer from the insurgents tempting. And
nearby Pakistan offered sanctuary to the rebels.

My time in Afghanistan and academic research since, however,
suggests a third theory for civil war should be added: Hurt people
go on to hurt people. Simply put, when a population endures epic
levels of trauma like Afghanistan’s 40 years of rampant war,
torture, and rape, violence becomes normalized as a way to resolve
problems and achieve goals. The vicious cyclefeeds off of itself. More war
leads to more trauma, which fuels continued war.

For example, in the midst of an argument between two senior
ranking Afghan security officials, one of them unholstered his
handgun and drew down on his colleague. Apparently he was ready to
end the dispute by killing the fellow colonel bothering him.
Thankfully, an American military commander put himself in front of
the gun and succeeded in getting Col. Habib to reholster his

At that point, Col. Habib had been at war for 32 years. In a
country devoid of proper medical care, he …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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