Why we lost Afganistan



For once, The New York Times has it right. It has an article revealing that ordinary Afghans avoid their regular civilian courts and go to be judged by Taliban courts.

Frustrated by Western-inspired legal codes and a government court system widely seen as corrupt, many Afghans think that the militants’ quick and tradition-rooted rulings are their best hope for justice. In the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Chaman, havens for exiled Taliban figures, local residents describe long lines of Afghans waiting to see judges.

Western officials have long considered a fair and respected justice system to be central to quelling the insurgency, in an acknowledgment that the Taliban’s appeal had long been rooted in its use of traditional rural justice codes. But after the official end of the international military mission and more than a billion dollars in development aid to build up Afghanistan’s court system, it stands largely discredited and ridiculed by everyday Afghans. A common refrain, even in Kabul, is that to settle a dispute over your farm in court, you must first sell your chickens, your cows and your wife.

Recognizing that informal tribal law would remain the choice for most Afghans, the United States in recent years began spending money to support local councils and connect them more publicly with the government. But a review by an independent monitoring organization found that instead of bolstering the government’s image, the effort mostly reinforced the primacy of the informal courts — of which Taliban justice could be considered a radical extension, wielding a mix of Pashtun tradition and extreme interpretations of Islamic law.

The Taliban have seized on this discontent. In some areas, they have set up mobile courts to reach villages outside their zones of influence. They hold hearings two days a week in the southern borderlands, requiring plaintiffs to produce evidence and witnesses.

Unlike most things I read in the Times, I believe this article. We have poured billions of dollars into building Afghan institutions and many of our soldiers have paid with their lives, and what do we have for it? A government that barely rules outside the capital. A government riddled with corruption and tied to the drug trade. An army and police force that we spent 13 years building up is disintegrating and frequently murders their own American advisors. Everyone expects that once the last American soldier withdraws, the Taliban will take over Afghanistan once again.

The question is why. Did we not send enough soldiers? Did we not spend enough on aid, or in the right way? The answer is a simple one.

Afghans, generally speaking, are part of a brutal, intolerant tribal culture that hasn't changed very much from the 12th century. To be extremely clear, most Afghans actually really like living in the 12th century, and really like being brutal, intolerant, and tribal:

The brutality at the heart of Taliban justice has not been forgotten. Mass public executions were common. Minor offenses, like cutting beards short or listening to music, often brought fierce beatings as punishment. Yet the government system still compares unfavorably in the eyes of many Afghans. “There are no people who think that government justice is better than the Taliban’s,” said Amanullah, a schoolteac

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