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Victoria Schofield
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Afghanistan: Holy or Unholy War?

Review article, Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs,  February 2002

Excerpt:

When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, President Jimmy Carter warned that it signified the greatest threat to world peace since the Second World War. What he obviously had in mind was that the invasion might trigger a third world war between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Although his fears did not materialise, twenty years later, unwittingly, perhaps, his assesssment has proved correct. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan set in motion a reaction from amongst the Afghan people and their supporters which turned Afghanistan into an unforgiving war zone and refuge for the propagation of terrorist activity worldwide.   With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the end of the Afghan war, those who had come from countries throughout the Middle East to help their fellow Muslim Afghans in their holy war or jihad, turned their attention to waging their own ‘holy’ wars for politico-religious reasons. At the same time, Afghanistan fell under the control of the Taliban, who instituted a retrogressive regime in the name of Islam, which had scant regard for human rights, especially those of women. The Taliban also permitted Afghanistan to become a base from which terrorists could train and operate, the most renowed of which remains Osama bin Laden. In a supreme irony, the new enemy which they collectively fought was not communism but the capitalist and allegedly ‘ungoldly’ society of the western world, whose assistance had enabled the Afghans to win their fight against the Russians.

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