Beirut – Forced into exile by the Soviets in 1978, Prince Ali Seraj of Afghanistan has remained instrumental in his country’s affairs, working from afar to reaffirm Afghanistan’s independence, away from the grip of foreign powers.
A member of Afghanistan’s royal family and one of the keepers of Afghan tradition, Prince Ali has been a voice of reason amid much chaos. Unlike many officials currently serving in office, Prince Ali has had the ears of both his people and tribal leaders – a bridge in between the seat of power and the many factions which populate Afghanistan today. At such a time when Afghanistan stands besieged by terror – which terror we were told had been defeated by the NATO, under Washington’s military impetus, Prince Ali has called on the international community to open their eyes on the failure of their respective governments.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with L’Indro, Prince Ali offered a rare insight into Afghanistan, the multifaceted crises it faces and the solutions which so far have eluded officials.
Afghanistan has suffered a tumultuous few decades and is one of the first countries in the region to have witnessed the rise of Wahhabi-sponsored radicalism. How do you understand the threat today and is Terror different than what it was in 2001?
Before I answer your question let me make one thing abundantly clear: this ideology radicals have claimed to follow, this terror which has inspired countless bloody campaigns has absolutely nothing to do with Islam. It is neither Sunni nor Shia Islam … This radicalism you see is rooted in Wahhabism, the faith professed by Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is NOT to be mistaken for Islam. Wahhabism might claim to be Islamic but it is not. Islam does not sanction murder, intolerance and sectarianism. Islam does not call for bloodshed, slavery and oppression.
I don’t think mainstream media grasp the stark differences which exist in between Islam and Wahhabism. And while Wahhabism was somewhat mainstreamed by Saudi Arabia’s billions of dollars, it does not make its ideology more Islamic. Both Sunni and Shia scholars have actually openly denounced radicals as enemies of Islam … in their denunciation it is really Wahhabism which has been branded a heresy. Wahhabism by the way was born in bloodshed at the turn of the 18th century to assert the rise of the House of Saud in the Hejaz (ancient name of Saudi Arabia).
Now in terms of the evolution of radicalism … Yes I would say that the threat we face today, not just in Afghanistan but across the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) is very different than how it started off. If anything things have gotten much worse. You only have to look at Afghanistan and how the country was allowed to completely disintegrate to understand how mismanagement and utter political lunacy have wrecked any chance of a peaceful and fruitful future for my people.
The Afghans were betrayed by foreign powers. We were promised help, but help never ever really came. Sure military troops were deployed and many promises were made … but terror was allowed to strive uncheck, radicals and those powers which feed them were allowed to regroup in the shadows while Afghans grappled with poverty and political instability.
Terror today is more dangerous than ever because it has become a broad movement, an institution if you will. We are not talking a few lunatics band together … thousands and tens of thousands of men and women have been sold to Wahhabism. Such is the threat western powers have failed to address.
About a year ago we discussed the future of Afghanistan and I remember you telling me that your country would fall once again to the hands of the Taliban unless two things happened: first you talked about reconstruction and second addressing the root-cause of terror. Afghanistan is disintegrating before our eyes … what has gone wrong?
Everything has gone wrong! From the organization of the military complex to the state institutions and the country’s financial heart, Afghanistan was left to rot … Help never came! What you see today is the result of a decade of mismanagement and callous policies.
Afghanistan is bursting with natural resources. All the country needs are sound strategies, and investments. It is in the people the state should have invested … This is of course never happened. Instead millions and millions of dollars were wasted in sustaining foreign troops on the ground. Yet Afghanistan was not given the opportunity to replenish its military arsenal to meet the threat of radicalism.
How are Afghans expected to fight terror if all they have at their disposal are slingshots?
Let me tell you something else about terror and radicalism – if you want to free Afghanistan from Wahhabism then we ought to deal with Pakistan! Terror never originated from Afghanistan; it was planted in my land and imposed on my people by nefarious outside forces to ruin a land which holds so many promises. A land of plenty, my country and my people had their future ripped from their hands by an unscrupulous and evil power – Pakistan.
Ever since Afghanistan fell under the influence of the Soviet Union, Pakistan has sought to meddle within Afghanistan’s affairs, as it wants to expand its zone of influence and help create a buffer zone against India, its main challenger in the region.
Much of the instability you see today as well stems from a lack of leadership within Afghanistan’s tribal makeup. The tribes of Afghanistan have historically rallied not around government policies but strong leaders. Tribal leaders seek strong leadership, not so much ideas or policies. … This is something that has eluded Western powers so far.
Today there is no real tribal cohesion, and so Afghanistan has remained fractured along ethnic and tribal lines. This if course has hampered anti-terror efforts and prevented any meaningful efforts against radicalism.
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