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The debate over the present and future of Afghanistan has remained centric to notable policy centers across the globe since the country was invaded and later liberated from Taliban in 2001 by US-led coalition. Almost 15 years on, it won't be naive or premature to say that, in comparison to the successes, the losses are immense and grave. Instead of keeping ourselves limited to the corruption, ever-increasing influence of Taliban, the incompetence in governance, failing institutions and drug-fueled insurgency, the case of an 11-year-old child (by some reports 10) will serve as the best reflection of the progress made, or contrary to this the opportunity lost in rebuilding not only Afghanistan, but curtailing what we see today from Syria to Tripoli as the rise of "barbarianism".
Wasil Ahmed, the unfortunate nucleus of this write-up, hailed from Tarinkot city of Urozgan province. Last week, while on his way to school where he was enrolled in 4th grade, the young boy was gunned down in a targeted mission by Taliban fighters. As per reports, he received two bullets in the head, which proved fatal. If you read until this, you would ask yourself what is so different about it? After all from a group of militants who strive through maintaining fear, you do not expect norms of warfare to be followed or maintained, and Wasil will serve as just another case.... Right!
However, this remains the one side of the story. What made Wasil the target of those two brutal bullets was his inclination last year by the Afghan Defense apparatus (ANP, ANSF) as a symbol of resurgence for leading the resistance, and as per the official accounts working in the capacity of the field commander. NY times quoted his uncle saying that Wasil used to fire rockets from roof top on the Taliban and led his men, which is Afghan Local Police militia, for 44 days during the siege by the Taliban. Snaps circulating around social and mainstream media showed Wasil in the regular army gear, receiving award and holding assault rifle.
Converging the two accounts, the time arises to answer what killed Wasil instead of striving around who killed Wasil, the innocent 10-year-old boy. The trail of this tragic incident starts from 2015, which is almost 14 years since international coalition laid its feet on Afghan ground. Urozgan neighbors Kandahar and Helmand, and is geographically seen as situated in the center of Afghanistan. If 14 years on, the US-led coalition could only succeed in inspiring 10-year-old Wasil instead of an established institute of safeguard against Taliban, the failure lies here. Wasil's uncle was himself a commander of Taliban insurgency before he switched sides to support government, almost a decade after the invasion. He along with his 36 men were tasked to spearhead the security of the region, by making Wasil's uncle Mullah Abdul Samad a commander of not only his militia, but 70 Afghan local police too.
The unprofessionalism is reflected from every step in this direction, up to the fact that Wasil was made the top target by rewarding him in public as a figure of defiance and a soldier of Afghanistan. Knowing well that Taliban has from time to time demonstrated that they can make significant inroads into the Afghan security forces, which has caused numerous causalities through its insiders, this was a grave mistake. But one shouldn't limit our words and thoughts to Wasil. As he lay martyred, it's not him but the future of every child in Afghanistan that lay martyred. Coalition approach towards institutional reconstruction in Afghanistan stands on a weak ground, which has fractured the structure built on top of it. The battle in Afghanistan against terrorists and insurgents depended upon the popular support, what we term as winning "hearts & minds". The ordinary Afghanis need a hope, a promising future ahead for which they could strive, fight and devote themselves and in all this equation since 2001, the only factor missing in coalition strategy is this hope to the Afghanis. The responsibility equally lies to all stakeholders, including those in power and those exerting influence from outside of this modern-day tragedy.
As of now, Afghanistan is at ground zero almost 15 years on from where it started. Tragedy like the one of Wasil is just an example of how dire and demanding the situation remains in Afghanistan. If the mistakes are not identified and corrected, this war-torn country will continue to produce Wasil, and loose them.