Sociocultural and political reasons for migration in Afghanistan

Pre-University Paper, 2016

41 Pages, Grade: 1,3



I. Term paper
1. The definition of a safe home country and de Maizière’s opinion
2. History between 1978 and 1994
2.1 Historical background until the Soviet occupation in 1979
2.2 Increasing problems according to the deputy war: the USA against the Soviet Union
3. The arising of the Taliban and its consequences
3.1 Origin of the Taliban
3.2. Political consequences
3.3. Cultural problems
4. The UN - ISAF mission and RSM in Afghanistan
5. Has the Western intervention succeeded?

II. Bibliography
List of figures
Works cited
Internet sources
Film sources
Email information

I. Term paper

1. The definition of a safe home country and de Maizière’s opinion

Das Ergebnis von Entwicklungshilfe und deutscher Sicherheitspolitik kann ja nicht sein, dass die Menschen dann exakt dieses Land verlassen, sondern Afghanistan braucht dringend, gerade die jungen Menschen, die sich jetzt nach Europa aufmachen. Das ist auch die klare Auffassung der afghanischen Regierung, des afghanischen Präsidenten und deswegen ist es unsere Hauptaufgabe dafür zu sorgen, dass sich nicht noch mehr aus Afghanistan aufmachen.[1]

According to de Maizière, we should not grant asylum to Afghan people because we send German soldiers and policemen to their country to provide safety, in addition to the development aid provided by the German state. At present, 50 German policemen are located in Afghanistan to improve the Afghan policemen’s skills and train them in special fields; for instance, the recognition of imitated papers in connection to human trafficking.[2]

Afghanistan is dangerous, albeit only in some parts of the country, where the status is very different, according to Maizière.[3] For example, a dangerous region is the Hindukush. Having safe regions in the country is the reason for the possibility to escape within the space of the country itself. Thus, Afghanis can be sent back to their home country where they can live in the safe regions such as the North.

Accordingly, the question emerges whether Afghanistan – or indeed parts of it – can be seen as a safe home country.

According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the German constitution’s article 16a.3, a country is a safe home country if there is no political persecution, unhuman conditions or abasing treatment of people. Additionally, the Federal Assembly has to accept the agreement that the country will ultimately be a safe home country.[4]

In the following pages, based on history and culture I aim to show the problems of Afghanistan and whether the UN mission was successful. Accordingly, the question of whether Afghanistan is a safe home country can be answered, as well as why many people have escaped from their country.

2. History between 1978 and 1994

2.1 Historical background until the Soviet occupation in 1979

To gain an initial overview, the war can be divided into eight stages:

The first one was from 1978 to 1979, named the coup and involving a Soviet invasion. Second, the national resistance to Soviet entrenchment followed from 1980 to 1983. Subsequently, there was destabilization in the country and air war until 1986, followed by the mujahedin gains and the Soviet retirement in 1989. Therefore, the highly-intensive war started until 1992 in stage five. From 1992 to 1994, the victory brought more fragmentation. Until 1998, the Taliban further increased their power. The eighth and last stage, had not ended yet, which is the reason, why it is not clear how to name this stage.[5]

Let us start at the beginning. After Britain decolonized Afghanistan, Zahir Schah led Afghanistan as a king and his cousin Daoud Khan as the first president from 1933 to 1978.[6] They were relatively moderate, women could go out without a veil and they had the same rights as men by law. This caused riots among Muslims, whereby the country turned increasingly insecure.

The first stage started in 1978 when the Soviet presence in the country increased after most of the royal family was killed by the left wing of the army, who were part of the PDPA (people’s democratic party of Afghanistan). This military coup on April 27, 1978 was named the Saur revolution. The PDPA took over control and tried to reform the country along communist lines under their military regime. This also meant equal rights for men and women,[7] including women’s education and their work. Girls could go to school where they were not allowed to wear a veil, if their father agreed. These were the “golden ages” for the female population because many of them worked in good jobs, like teachers, nurses, etc. However, the PDPA acted against the proposal of Moscow by reforming the country according to communism. They created a new flag and reformed the credit and land laws. Moscow feared a backlash from the Muslims, who actually declared the jihad against the “godless regime” in March 1979[8] and hunted down 3,000-5,000 Soviets and communists in Herat. This cruel act should have opened the eyes of the government, although they did not show any reaction. Hence, 100,000 Soviet soldiers invaded Kabul in December 1979 to protect communism. However, in contrast to Moscow’s fear, communism was the most silent time in Afghanistan, with a minimum of violence and independent-minded Afghanis. Islam was “only” their silent religion, which everyone could practice how they wanted.[9]

Non-communist ministers were killed and subsequently Moscow put their puppet rulers as the president in Kabul, although it was impossible to rule Afghanistan due to the increasing guerilla war, involving Soviet troops against the Muslim mujahedin, supported by the USA. The terms mujahedin and jihad are Arabic and both mean “struggle”. They were fighters who wanted to “protect” their country from the Soviets and communism.[10]

2.2 Increasing problems according to the deputy war: the USA against the Soviet Union

The deputy war between the two global powers intensified. The Soviets also fought with weapons, but in contrast to the mujahedin they used poisonous gas and air force. Furthermore, the Soviets perfected their tactic of destroying the villages and basic infrastructure to weaken the country and consequently the mujahedin.

The USA supplied the mujahedin with weapons. Many of the mujahedin came over from the CIA camp in Pakistan and they were trained by this US secret service or the Pakistan Intelligent Service (ISI).[11] Another significant percentage defected from the Afghan army, which decreased from 80,000 soldiers to 30,000, whereby they also took their weapons with them. Many Saudis or Emiratis followed the call to join the “holy war” against the Soviets, including the rich man Osama bin Laden. He was the most important man for the CIA in the war “against the communism” in Afghanistan. With money and weapons given from other countries like the USA and Pakistan, the mujahedin held 80% of Afghanistan throughout this period, especially the countryside.[12] Specifically, the Tajik mujahedin Ahmed Shah Massoud - also known as the Lion of the Panjshir - and his troops were among the most important parties who fought against the Soviets because he was a tactical genius. However, it is unsurprising that all mujahedin groups were fundamental, including seven Sunni and four Shia factions[13].

During stage two, the Soviet army and the Afghan communist government buried 30 million mines unmarked and unmapped across the whole country, which is the reason for many victims having stepped on a mine, including at present. Furthermore, the Soviet’s KGB arrested, tortured and executed many people, especially in 1982 and 1983. They took children to the Soviet Union to educate them according to their communist system. This would have made it easier to secure loyalty among the population through these people. They could have also spread communism throughout their country, although the Soviet period did not last sufficiently long for their vision of a communist Afghanistan to take place.

Moreover, the Soviet Union transported the natural gas from northern Afghanistan into their territories, which led to the Afghan economy collapsing. They exploited Afghanistan, which further increased tensions. After 1981, the war according to guerilla tactics increased because no province showed any loyalty.[14]

Indeed, this is the reason why the Soviet Union placed a priority on controlling the main cities as well as protecting the northern pipelines and their politics until 1983.

After this year, stage three began and their priorities changed to weakening the mujahedin and intensifying the war, mainly by air, bombing villages that supported the mujahedin, like Herat and Kandahar. An example can be found in Herat: in April 1983, more than 3,000 Afghanis died due to the Soviet air war. However, the Soviets were not successful in the mountains because the mujahedin knew the region very well, which increased their chances in guerilla war.

As the “freedom fighters” gained 107mm and 122mm rockets from the USA, they could hold up a little against the Soviet air force. On May 4, 1986, the Soviets replaced the current president of Afghanistan with Mohammad Najibullah, who was a former KhAD (Afghanistan’s intelligence service) director, hoping to gain more chances of winning with Najibullah. Moreover, they changed their strategy and tactics for winning the war.

In the fourth stage, the mujahedin were very weak but they had the international opinion on their side, whereby they obtain more weapons from the CIA in October 1986.[15] On the other hand, Najibullah’s government was less successful than the previous one and the Soviets lost their hopes. Gorbachev had already pressured the Soviet generals to win the war through his speech “Afghanistan - bleeding wound” in February 1986. According to this speech and the talks with UN representatives in 1988, the Soviet troops were withdrawn by February 2, 1989 and had to declaim 15,000 deaths.

However, the war did not yet end as the mujahedin started to fight against Najibullah and his government, whereas the Soviet Union was covert involved in the country. Some Soviet soldiers - including the air force - remained in Afghanistan, although this was not reported because they joined the Afghan army and the Soviet Union gave the regime in Kabul $250 million to $300 million per month.[16] Thus, the deputy war between the two global powers further increased; for example, the Soviet Union destroyed much war material of the mujahedin and assassinated many mujahedin generals. Nonetheless, the guerrilla fighters enjoyed increasing success, whereby the communists tried to disable the support from Pakistan for the mujahedin. President Najibullah replaced his ministers and changed his way of ruling: from Marxism, he introduced an Islamic nationalist identity and changed the name of his party from PDPA to Hezb-i-Watan (Homeland Party). Furthermore, he tried to negotiate with the mujahedin, although all such attempts were rejected.[17]

There was no possibility to gain freedom with the communist Najibullah as president. The situation became more confusing, whereby the USA and the USSR signed a contract pledging not to deliver further weapons and to leave the country. As the USSR started to collapse in 1991, Najibullah’s era ended. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran arose based upon the question of who would control Afghanistan’s politics in the future; indeed, this question remains unsolved. Accordingly, these events mark stage five.

According to the warfare, 2 million Afghanis died, 6 million citizens had to escape to Iran and Pakistan and 2 million were displaced, accounting for half of Afghanistan’s population.[18] After some time, Pakistan refused to take more Afghan refugees without a visa. Of course, almost no one can obtain a visa, which forces these people to escape within their country. However, this was very difficult owing to the warfare throughout Afghanistan.

Concerning the riots and wars, it is a very fragile state. Thus, it can be concluded that the ethnic tension and the narcotics economy increased in prominence, including the Islamic ideology. All three points are major problems that can hardly be solved because they are characteristics of Afghanistan at present.[19] Therefore, it is unsurprising that there is much drug trafficking and terrorism based upon Islamists and warlords.

3. The arising of the Taliban and its consequences

3.1 Origin of the Taliban

The mujahedin divided into four groups and occupied different territories and cities, whereby they started a war against each other owing to the major rivalries.

Especially the citizens had to suffer; for example, in Kabul 60,000 people were assassinated between 1992 and 1996. The city was under the command of Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was a Tajik warlord. In fall 1993, the Iran-supported Shia mujahedin began to fight against the Saudi Arabia-supported Sunni mujahedin in Kabul.[20]

Additionally, the Pakistani secret service supported young Pashtu-Afghan students who lived in the refugee camps in Pakistan. Mohammed Omar - better known as Mullah Omar - was the Mullah in the Mosque in this refugee camp. He radicalized and recruited many students, which is the reason why they call themselves the Taliban[21]. In Dari and Pashto language, Taliban means student.[22] Moreover, the Pakistani intelligence and Saudi Arabia supported them from summer 1994 onwards because they shared the same Islamic fundamental views. The students wanted to rebuild their destroyed country and hoped for the help of Allah. They fought against the corruption in their country, which made them very famous and favored. Thus, the population wanted to live in peace again, they welcomed the students in their villages and many other young Pashtun men joined them. They cooperated with the mujahedin group of Osama bin Laden, who made the Taliban strong.[23] Thereby, they had the weapons given from the USA to the mujahedin years ago. This was the end of the intra-mujahedin civil war and the beginning of stage six.

The Taliban’s initial method to bring freedom was to bribe warlords and drug kings, whether they left this region or capitulated. By September 1995, they controlled half of Afghanistan and occupied Kabul in September 1996.[24] The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was established in 1996 and ended in 2001, where the sharia was obtained as official law, including the suppression of females.[25] Besides, they forced the Shia mujahedin to escape to Iran and the Sunni mujahedin groups who did not want to cooperate with them fled by themselves to the north of the country.

In 1997, three Mujahedin groups formed the Northern Alliance, also known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan. Its leaders were the Tajik mujahedin Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Uzbek Abdul Rashid Dostum and the Hazara Karim Khalili. They were supported by Russia, Iran, India, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, although they could only hold 10% of the country.[26] Nonetheless, it has to be mentioned that the Northern Alliance engaged some efforts; for example, they killed 4,000 Talibs in Mazar-i-Sharif in May 1997. Starting with stage seven in 1998, the Talibs captured Bamiyan and Mazar-i-Sharif and placed strong pressure on the Hazaras, who no longer received food aid, which resulted in starvation. In Bamiyan, the well-known Buddha statues - which had been UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites - were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001.[27] They were built in the 6th century AD and had always been a pilgrimage for Buddhists and a tourist attraction.[28]

As previously mentioned, the Taliban cooperated with Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who should have been handed over to the USA after 9/11. Nevertheless, the Taliban did not hand bin Laden over, which should entail sanctions because they were involved in terrorist activities.

In 2001, they controlled 97% of Afghanistan and 45,000 fighters belonged to them.[29] Their Emirate was destroyed by the western countries during the ISAF mission, although they held the aim to rebuilt it.[30]

Concerning the countries that took part in the tension, Afghanistan became more unstable again and the war rose again.

3.2. Political consequences

Looking back, we can say that the faith of Afghanistan’s population was abused. The consequences for the people can be read in section 3.3.

Today, there is no longer a Taliban regime, although they remain present in the country. This is the reason why schools and universities are built up and sometimes even girls and women can attend, although of course they have to ask their father or husband first for permission. Afghanistan has an education system from the age of seven to twenty years, after which they can go to university for nine years.[31] Nonetheless, the country has a literacy rate of 18.2%,[32] which is very low because people in rural areas do not have the possibility to attend school due to the high costs and the long way to the next building. Overall, 11.5 million children attend school, of which 4.5 million are girls, although most of them quit before they finish the 6th class. Often the pupils have not learnt reading and writing during the six years because the teachers are not very well educated and they have to teach about 64 children per class. Not being well educated means that a person is likely confined to a low-paid job or unemployment, whereby one-third of the population lives under the poverty line.[33]

Following the wars, many mines remain in the ground and the risk of stepping on one of them is high. Even if they do not die, people lose extremities and this is a reason for poverty because these people are no longer able to work, especially given that most of the Afghan population work as craftsmen or farmers. Additionally, nothing can be planted in a minefield, so some people even starve because they still have nothing to eat.

The government’s opposition indirectly supports the Taliban, allowing them to radicalize men in the madrasahs[34] legally who assassinate members of the council by order. These Taliban Mullahs have the function of a judge in individual and community disputes, which creates confidence in assuming the population to the Taliban. It is called a shadow justice service because the Taliban rule according to the sharia and their values.[35] Consequently, religion and politics are not separated but rather blurred. Moreover, the rural population rejected almost all reforms made from the central government because one tribe cannot decide over the whole country and most of politician are Pashtuns. For example, the country’s leaders were Pashtuns for the last 250 years, of which Durrani Pashtuns ruled for 200 years. Most of the ministers are also from the five different Pashtun tribes.[36] The northern tribes like the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks are less deputized, which means that their interests are not truly represented.[37]

Additionally, the border regions have to be stabilized because they are used by the Taliban and their “big brother” Al-Qaeda to plan attacks and destabilize the country. These border provinces are Pashto regions that mostly support these two groups because their members belong to the Pashto tribe.

A major problem is the opium and heroin trade in Afghanistan and consequently the related corruption. Since 1992, the country has been the world’s largest exporter of opium and heroin with 80% to 90%, of which 5% is consumed in the country, whereby approximately 4.6 million people are addicted to the drugs in Afghanistan.[38] Attempts were made to curtail the drug cultivation but they failed: in comparison to 2013, the production rose by about 7% in 2014 because most of the international troops who cared about solving this problem were subtracted.[39] Farmers stopped plating grain because poppies are more lucrative and they can no longer feed their families with agriculture. Furthermore, factories for processing agricultural products do not exist, which also causes an inflation of the Afghani currency.

Almost 10% of Afghanistan’s population works in drug cultivation plus 300,000 men during the harvest time, whereby this sector is the largest employer. Only $850 million of the $3 billion income is profit for the farmers, while huge sums of money flow to some people in the government, management and security forces to bribe them. Drugs racketeering is the major reason for the high corruption rate. According to calculations by Transparency International in 2015, Afghanistan is the third most corrupt country in the world.[40],[41]

Most of the poppy-growing fields belong to the Taliban, who finance their weapons, etc. with the earnings. They already tolerated the poppy growing during their regime because it has always been very lucrative and they received much money from the introduction of opium tax, even if this was against their Islamic law. The Taliban formed the new elite in the country because many of them became rich and influential due to the drug earnings and the education system remains disrupted, whereby the elite cannot be formed out of intellectuals.


1.[1] Tilo Jung: WARUM will Innenminister de Maizièen? November 5th , 2015 , URL:, 1:19-1:52min. (accessed on: July 3rd, 2016)

2.[2] dpa, De Maizière: Afghanen sollen in ihrer Heimat bleiben, February 2nd , 2016, URL: (accessed on: July 3rd, 2016)

[3] ibid. (3:00-3:11min.)

[4] Jaqueline Berton: Definition „sicheres Herkunftsland“ (July, 7th, 2016), Email information.

[5] Larry Goodson: Afghanistan’s endless war: state failure, regional politics and the rise of the Taliban, 2001, page, 54.

[6] History World , HISTORY OF AFGHANISTAN, URL: (accessed on: July 7th , 2016)

[7] Adam Ritscher: a brief history of Afghanis tan, URL: (accessed on: July 17th , 2016)

[8] History World , HISTORY OF AFGHANISTAN, URL: (accessed on: July 7th , 2016)

[9] Larry Goodson: Afghanistan’s endless war: state failure, regional politics and the rise of the Taliban, 2001, page 55.

[10] 1.

[11] Adam Ritscher: a brief history of Afghanis tan, URL: (accessed on: July 17th , 2016)

[12] Soviet Invasion Afghanistan, URL: (accessed on: August 9th , 2016)

[13] Larry Goodson: Afghanistan’s endless war: state failure, regional politics and the rise of the Taliban, , 2001, page 62.

[14] ibid., pages 59 and 63.

[15] Larry Goodson: Afghanistan’s endless war: state failure, regional politics and the rise of the Taliban, 2001, page 67f.

[16] ibid., page 70.

[17] ibid., page 72.

[18] Larry Goodson: Afghanistan’s endless war: state failure, regional politics and the rise of the Taliban, 2001, page 5.

[19] ibid., page ix.

[20] Larry Goodson: Afghanistan’s endless war: state failure, regional politics and the rise of the Taliban, 2001, page 76.

[21] Adam Ritscher: a brief history of Afghanis tan, URL: (accessed on: July 17th , 2016)

[22] Guido Steinberg: Steinberg, Guido: Taliban, September 20th , 2011, URL: (accessed on: August 15th , 2016)

[23] Daniel-Dylan Böhmer / Masood Momin / Sophie Mühlmann / Taha Siddiqui: Ohne den Taliban - Führer wird Frieden schwieriger, July 29th, 2015 , URL: (accessed on: August 15th , 2016)

[24] CFR Backgrounders: The Taliban in Afghanistan, URL: (accessed on: August 15th , 2016)

[25] Adam Ritscher: a brief history of Afghanis tan, URL: (accessed on: July 17th , 2016)

[26] 2.

[27] Sven Hansen: Mullah Omar – Der einäugige Emir der Taliban, in: le monde diplomatique „Die große Unruhe. Afghanistan und seine Nachbarn“, N°17, Berlin, 2015, page 43.

[28] Sarah Hucal: Afghanistan: who are the Hazaras?, Aljazeera, June 27th , 2016 URL: (accessed on: October 16th, 2016)

[29] Larry Goodson: Afghanistan’s endless war: state failure, regional politics and the rise of the Taliban, 2001, page 85.

[30] Thomas Rutting: Militarisierte Entwicklungshilfe – Eine Bilanz nach 13 Jahren NATO Einsatz, in: le monde diplomatique „Die große Unruhe. Afghanistan und seine Nachbarn“, N°17, Berlin, 2015, page 20.

[31] Classbase, Education system in Afghanistan, URL: (accessed on: August 18th, 2016)

[32] Transparency International, Afghanistan, URL: (accessed on: October 16th , 2016)

[33] Thomas Rutting: Militarisierte Entwicklungshilfe – Eine Bilanz nach 13 Jahren NATO Einsatz, in: le monde diplomatique „Die große Unruhe. Afghanistan und seine Nachbarn“, N°17, Berlin, 2015, page 19.

[34] Madrasah is an initiation to study the Islam and Quran, found in: Madrasah, URL: (accessed on: August 10th , 2016)

[35] Thomas Johnson / Barry Scott Zellen: Culture, conflict and counterinsurgency, Stanford California, 2014, page 8.

[36] The five Pashtun tribes: Durrani, who mostly set the president or king, the Ghilzai, Kerlani, Gharghashti and Sarbanee, found in: Afghanistan history and entertainment portal, URL: (accessed on: August 11th , 2016)

[37] 3.

[38] Sven Hansen: Opium für die Völker der Welt, in: le monde diplomatique „Die große Unruhe. Afghanistan und seine Nachbarn“, N°17, Berlin, 2015, page 39.

[39] 4.

[40] Transparency International, Afghanistan, URL: (accessed on: October 16th , 2016)

[41] 5.

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Sociocultural and political reasons for migration in Afghanistan
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Afghanistan, ISAF, RSM, Bundeswehr, Ethnien, Frauenrecht, Taliban
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Isabell Mitschke (Author), 2016, Sociocultural and political reasons for migration in Afghanistan, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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