Deutsche Welle, 11 September 2020
In this article, various Afghans and Afghan experts were asked about Germany’s role in post-2001 Afghanistan. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig was one of them.
Thomas Ruttig, 63, is an Afghanistan expert and former diplomat. He serves as co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank based in Kabul and Berlin.
When he looks at Afghanistan today, Ruttig sees little light but many shadows. “I am very sad and angry about how it went,” he says. Ruttig lived for many years in Afghanistan and speaks both its official languages, Dari and Pashto. In November 2001 while serving as a UN diplomat, he returned to Kabul after a trip — and entered a new era, the Taliban regime having just been overthrown.
“All of a sudden, music was playing in the bazaars, and the old cassette recorders that the Taliban had banned were playing again,” he recalls. He saw many men happily hurrying to the barber to have their long beards shaved off.
Nearly two decades on, in his view much has gone wrong in the attempt to instill a new order to the country. Outsiders “didn’t listen to the Afghans enough,” he says. “They should have organized an institutional framework in which the unarmed and the armed could negotiate how they wanted to develop their state and their society.”
The conflicts in the country were not properly understood, he explains. “It was not just about the Taliban. A lot has to do with poverty and with competing ideas: Do we want to become a modern society or not? Is democracy compatible with Islam? These things should have been clarified.”
‘The intervention of the West has been totally militarized,’ says Afghanistan expert and former UN diplomat Thomas Ruttig
He considers it a grave mistake that the mujahideen leaders, who had fought against the Soviet occupation and then engaged in a brutal civil war which brought the Taliban to power, were allowed to regain such influence. “They rearmed themselves with the money they were given and took control of the state.”
And Germany? “Diplomatically, Germany initially played a very good role as host of the Bonn Conference at the end of 2001.” But that role later dwindled when the progress that had been hoped for did not materialize. Ruttig is critical of the ongoing Bundeswehr deployment: “Germany has failed militarily in Afghanistan,” he concludes. After the first attacks, the Bundeswehr “only protected itself instead of the Afghans.”
This article was last updated on 11 Sep 2020