Deadly terror in ‘ungovernable’ Afghanistan

Easy targets: The bomb was detonated at 12:15, when the street was at its most crowded.© Getty

Will Afghanistan ever be peaceful? Over 100 people have died in a bombing in Kabul, the third deadly attack in the country in a week. Why is the “graveyard of empires” so hard to govern?

On Saturday the Taliban drove an ambulance packed with explosives into a crowded shopping street in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The enormous blast killed over 100 people and maimed many more.

Afghanistan is bleeding after a third major terrorist attack in a week. Nine days ago militants attacked a Kabul hotel, killing 40. Then on Tuesday ISIS gunmen attacked a Save The Children office, killing six.

The Taliban seems indestructible. As Seth G. Jones writes in Foreign Affairs, it is “too weak for victory, too strong for defeat”.

But Afghanistan’s problems go much deeper. The story of this country is one of invasion and bloodshed.

As David von Drehle writes in The Washington Post: “Twenty-five centuries of history suggest that Afghanistan is as close to ungovernable, untameable, as any land on Earth.” Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British Empire, the USSR and the United States. All have failed to tame this “graveyard of empires”.

Afghanistan is a complex patchwork of tribes and ethnicities. It is the main source of the global heroin trade, complicating matters further.

Should we accept that there is no end to Afghanistan’s suffering?

Two steps back

Of course not, say optimists. The world must not give up on Afghanistan. It was international apathy that led to the Taliban gaining power. Think of Vietnam in the 1960s or Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Both situations seemed just as insolvable as Afghanistan, but in both peace prevailed. We must keep trying.

Others respond that Afghanistan is fundamentally different. The Vietnam war was a product of a very specific time. Yugoslavia lay next door to stable, rich NATO members. Afghanistan has no such luxuries. Surrounded by instability, the country is a permanent victim of geography. Nothing can change that.

You Decide

  1. Will Afghanistan ever be peaceful?


  1. In July parliamentary elections take place in Afghanistan. Imagine that you are standing. Write down three ways in which you would try to help bring about peace.

Some People Say...

“I don't think the war in Afghanistan was ruthlessly enough waged.”

Christopher Hitchens

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
There have been three major terrorist attacks in Afghanistan in the last ten days. Most recently, the Taliban detonated an ambulance full of explosives in central Kabul, killing over 100 people. It was the deadliest attack in the country for months.
What do we not know?
Whether this war will ever end - and if it does, how it will end.

Word Watch

The Taliban seized power after the civil war of 1992-1996 and was ousted in 2001. In power, it imposed a brutal version of Sharia (Islamic law).
Save The Children
An NGO that promotes children’s rights.
Lasting from 1955 until 1975, the Vietnam war was fought between the communist north and the capitalist south. It became a proxy for the cold war, with the USSR and China supporting the north, and the USA supporting the south.
The break-up of Yugoslavia into seven different countries resulted in a series of deadly conflicts.

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