The notion that Afghans are uninterested in living in a progressive, just and free society is most certainly a colonial and racist one; however, it is a premise that serves Afghanistan's ruling minority quite well, including President Hamid Karzai and the informal warlord power structures holding sway throughout the country.
The U.S.-led coalition must realize these aforesaid powerbrokers would not object to rolling women's rights and personal freedoms back to the 7th century per the Taliban's perverted neo-Deobandi dogma. Most importantly, the West must wake up and understand that a political deal divvying power amongst the same old miscreants and the religiously-demented would violate the will of the Afghan people.
That is, assuming the West cares about what the Afghan people think, and U.S. and UN actions to date indicate this is probably not the case. As a matter of fact, according to human rights activist Horia Mosadiq in a piece posted in the Afghanistan Analysts Network, the reason the UN has failed to initiate peace in the past has been its penchant for consistently ignoring the opinion and wishes of most Afghans while, instead, focusing and relying on warlords with little popular legitimacy. Mosadiq writes:
As President Karzai's government and the international community again contemplate a grand 'peace deal', now with the Taleban, it would be wise to acknowledge the, by now, empirically established fact that in Afghanistan there can be no peace without justice.
Some would argue that Afghan women didn't have much in terms of rights before the Taliban came to power anyway. Of course if critics are referring to the period of mujahideen warlord rule immediately preceding Taliban ascension that might be correct, but historically that is a completely erroneous assessment.
According to Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald in their book Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story, Afghans wholeheartedly believed in issues such as women's suffrage dating back to the 1920s, when King Amanullah in instituting Afghanistan's first constitution in 1923 took the truly revolutionary steps of giving women the right to vote and guaranteeing civil rights to all minorities - less than three years after the right to vote for women was enshrined in the U.S. 19th amendment, to put it into perspective.
Also worthy of note is how a certain Western power called the United Kingdom disturbingly aligned itself with conservative reactionary Islamist forces to ignite unrest against the progressive King. Emboldened by the Brits' devilish schemes to undermine Afghan society, Amanullah introduced an even more secular liberal constitution in 1928 guaranteeing full equality rights to women. However, the British Empire struck back and helped instigate a violent puritanical Islamic rebellion that overthrew the King which forced him to flee the country.
Mosadiq begins with UN Special Envoy Benon Sevan who, after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal, brokered a peace deal between the Afghan mujahideen groups based in Pakistan and the government of Dr. Najibullah, which failed primarily because there was little engagement by Afghans themselves in the entire process while "the United Nations failed to establish a mechanism for accountability and justice in the plan necessary to reconcile perpetrators and victims who were living in both sides of the conflict."
The result was not peace but a transfer of power that set the stage for massive destruction of the country and expansion of war between 1992 and 1996 from the borders and villages to the major cities of Afghanistan which also enabled the Taliban's rise. During a civil war that killed thousands and cause millions to flee the country, the U.S., Russia, Iran and Pakistan, all signatory members of the UN-brokered power-sharing agreement, continued supporting the different mujahedin factions that were fighting each other. According to Mosadiq:
The anarchy of the civil war and the power vacuum it created provided an opportunity for the Taleban movement established in Pakistan in late-1994. The movement promised people peace, disarmament, stability, accountability and peaceful transfer of the power to the late King Mohammad Zaher Shah. The Taleban did, at least initially, gain the trust and support of peace-thirsty Afghans, and members of the international community were also 'romanticized' by the Taleban's approach for bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan - although the Taleban's methods for bringing stability included the implementation of a very harsh form of Sharia Law.
UN envoy Mahmoud Mestiri's discussions with the newly emerged Taliban group in Kandahar between 1994 and 1996 also failed because the mission ignored the needs of the majority of Afghans and focused primarily on the demands of an elite group of power holders. In addition, the approach for dealing with the Taliban was based on an analysis of the situation from Pakistan and did not include a true Afghan perspective.
The most glaring violation of ignoring the Afghan voice occurred after the Taliban regime collapsed in 2001 during the UN-sponsored negotiations in Bonn Germany and the subsequent Emergency Loya Jirga (ELJ) in June 2002, where UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in close cooperation with and under significant pressure from Zalmay Khalilzad, then the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, opened the gate for bringing the warlords and human rights perpetrators back to power, totally against the will and expectations of most Afghans.
Brahimi dubiously stated in 2002 that "we cannot sacrifice peace for justice" in response to questions by many Afghans about accountability and an end of impunity. Yet, somehow Brahimi and Khalilzad still saw a place for the warlords in stabilizing Afghanistan despite their heinous crimes, and the international community failed to strongly oppose this strategy.
Afghans saw that the U.S administration came with its own unique definition of "good" and "bad" human rights abusers, the "good" being those allied with U.S. forces to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The U.S. and UN throughout these latest reconciliation designs seem to presume women's rights are not of paramount import to Afghans, but the truth is the possibility of living in a country ruled by Karzai in alliance with Islamic fascists strikes most Afghans as quite frightening, especially in light of the Taliban stoning women to death in Badghis and Kunduz provinces just a month ago.
Mosadiq wondered if there is still an opportunity for the UN to right previous wrongs. But in order for this to happen the West must suspend its cultural superiority and cease proliferating wrongheaded assumptions such as the one that it is somehow within the Afghan nature to happily exist under a repressive regime in a backward society, when a quick look at history tells one otherwise.