THE SOCIETY AND ITS ENVIRONMENT
Nancy Hatch Dupree and Thomas E. Gouttierre, Authors
THE HOPE AND EXHILARATION felt among Afghans as the last Soviet
troops retreated from their country in early 1989 gave way to
frustration within months. Disparate Afghan groups had struggled
valiantly against a common enemy, but the extent of the discord
and rivalries which characterized their efforts became ominously
Many of those who marveled at the determined and tenacious Afghan
response to the invasion of their country have questioned why
these same people have turned upon themselves with equal ferocity.
Numbers of answers lie in the impact of the Soviet-Afghan War
upon Afghan society.
The regional and internal conflicts that erupted after the end
of the war are the effects of that war. Islam as a measure of
national identity is challenging a century of inroads by secular
institutions. Traditional Afghan methods of conflict resolution
guided by the spirit of egalitarianism and respect for others
are being severely thwarted in an environment surfeited with modern
weaponry supplied by outsiders pursuing a multiplicity of regional
agendas centered on Afghanistan. Massive drug trafficking created
during the war exacerbates the conflict. The persistent rise and
fall of individuals forging power from these weapons and drugs
fuel self-interests, preclude peace and stretch taut the fabric
of the society.
Society in predominately Islamic Afghanistan is defined by a
rich melange of variety reflecting its position at the hub of
four great cultural zones. Central Asia, China, the Indian subcontinent
and the Iranian plateau extend to its borders. Builders of empires,
traders and pilgrims as well as those seeking haven from upheavals
in their own societies have come to this land throughout the centuries.
Some merely passed through; others settled to make it their homeland.
Whatever the manner of their arrival, each impressed their own
cultural mores on the society.
The Afghan area thus evolved as a zone of cultural transition
with a complex ethnolinguistic population as varied as its geography
which encompasses fertile mountain valleys in the east, plains
and grasslands in the north, a central mountain core, and deserts
and semideserts in the west and southwest. The inhabitants of
these different areas take pride in these cultural differentiations
and follow their own customs, distinct tribal norms, religious
variations, divergent attitudes toward family and gender, and
contrasting subsistence life-styles.
As the twenty-first century approaches, all Afghans face the
challenge of rebuilding their civic society -- a struggle as daunting
as their struggle was against the Soviet Union.
Data as of 1997