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DATE=12/28/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=AFGHANISTAN: A CENTENIAL REVIEW NUMBER=5-45134 BYLINE=ALI JALALI DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The end of the century finds Afghanistan in the grips of a devastating civil war. The country, which served as a security cushion between its neighbors at the turn of the century, slipped into violence at the end of the century. V-O-A's Ali Jalali reviews the major events that shaped the turbulent history of Afghanistan during the 20th century. TEXT: Reaction to foreign security threats and a struggle for development have been the hallmark of Afghan history in the 20th Century. The country that long-blocked military clashes between imperial Russia and British India, was forced to fight both powers as the century wore on. Mostly untouched by the two world wars, Afghanistan became the last battlefield of the Cold War in 1980's with intense superpower involvement. The country also faced security challenges at home during the uneasy peace between wars. Seven out of a dozen Afghan rulers during the century were murdered and two forced into exile. The Director of the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, Barnett Rubin, an author of several books on Afghanistan, says the situation stems from the country's limited resources and underdevelopment. // Rubin Act // Afghanistan is a very hard country to conquer by foreigners, but for the same reason it is very hard country to rule by its own people. It has few resources, it is very large. Peoples are scattered around and often in mountains and deserts, so it is difficult to have access to them and it is very expensive to administer that territory and you do not get many resources to pay for the administration. // End Act // King Amanullah's intensive reform program in the 1920's failed to create a major pro-reform constituency. The shock therapy for modernization cost him his throne and plunged the country into civil war. Restoration of peace in 1929 ushered in a period of tight government control and a strictly measured modernization process. // OPT // Professor Ludwig Adamac of Tucson University says the governments had to rely on foreign aid to finance the modernization program. // ADAMAC ACT // Most of the income and support for development came from the outside. Afghanistan was still largely an agricultural country with many areas of subsistence agriculture; and there was little to tax. Very little for the government other than the customs and industries to tax to derive adequate funds for modern development; and so, yes, the good and the bad things of foreign assistance were that a lot of money was wasted and the country became dependent on foreign assistance. // END ACT // END OPT// At the beginning of the second half of the century, Afghanistan became a peaceful battlefield of the Cold War, with both superpowers vying for influence through economic assistance. But a political dispute with the newly created state of Pakistan, an ally of the West, forced the Afghan government to turn to the Soviet Union for military assistance - a move that had a major impact on the country's future. This coincided with democratic changes from 1963 to 1973, during which a new urban-based educated elite emerged as the core of political opposition to the government. The new elite included a pro-Soviet communist block and a revolutionary Islamist movement. But the rise to power of the new elites brought enormous violence and destruction to the nation. The fall of the old regime by a pro-Moscow communist coup in 1978 opened a long period of violence that turned Afghanistan into a hotspot of the Cold War competition. The Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan became Moscow's longest foreign war of the century. On the other hand, assistance to the Islamic-led Afghan resistance (Mujahedin) turned into the United States' largest covert operation after World War Two. But neither the end of more than nine-years of Soviet military occupation in 1989, nor the collapse of the Communist regime in 1992 brought peace to the country. Once the Mujahedin forces drove out the common enemy they turned their guns against each other in a power struggle that fragmented the multi-ethnic country. Meanwhile, the power of traditional anti-modernist clerical circles grew. These rural-based forces - currently embodied by the Taleban movement - consisted of elements that Afghan governments tried to weaken during the past 100-years. Schooled in religious institutions (madrasas), thousands of Afghan refugee students in Pakistan, mullahs, and their supporters coalesced in 1994 into a major political movement known as the Taleban. The Taleban movement has been a popular reaction to prevailing chaos in a broken state. Its commitment to fighting corruption and lawlessness won the movement massive popular support. But its radical Islamic militia, that established control over 90-percent of the country in less than five years, failed to stabilize the country or create an effective government. The Taleban's imposition of far-reaching social restrictions, their poor human-rights record and economic failure, have discredited the militia as a reactionary force incapable of meeting the challenges of modern life. As the century draws to a close the warring factions, backed by their foreign supporters, are locked in military conflict. The country is economically bankrupt and suffers from U-N sanctions caused by the Taleban's' refusal to extradite suspected terrorist Usama Bin Laden. And Afghanistan has become the largest producer of opium in the world. Dr. Rubin says given the complexity of the situation a comprehensive solution should be sought through wider international involvement. // RUBIN ACT // Afghanistan would require a lot of care and attention from the international community. In today's world where things are perceived on the basis of single issues whether it is Usama bin Laden, or oil pipelines, or women's rights. And the U-S government does not tend to take a really comprehensive view of these problems, it will be difficult to mobilize that kind of attention. // END ACT // Writing 70-years ago, renowned Urdu poet Eqbal Lahori hailed Afghanistan for its historical drive and vitality. He called it the heart of Asia and said the continent will suffer when the heart is in pain. Asia is different today, but still the pain caused by instability in Afghanistan is being felt far beyond the Afghan borders. Analysts say the return of peace to Afghanistan will contribute to stability in the entire region. (SIGNED) NEB/AJ/RAE 28-Dec-1999 10:44 AM EDT (28-Dec-1999 1544 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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