Why I wrote This Shall Be a House of Peace

Why I wrote This Shall Be a House of Peace

Posted on February 5 by Phil Halton in Non-fiction, Recent Releases
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Afghanistan loomed large in my imagination long before I ever set foot there. I grew up listening to my Grandfather tell tales of serving in British India, hanging on his every word. In my mind, Afghanistan was a wild place on the border of civilization. It was a place for adventure.

Little did I know then that Afghanistan would play such a large part in my life. With the surge of international interest in the country after 9/11, I soon found myself working there. The first of many roles I played was to help safeguard the humanitarian agencies supporting the Afghan people. And as I made friends with many Afghans from different parts of the country, my view changed. Little by little, I began to see the country and its people from a different point of view. I dropped the colonial lens that had clouded my vision before, and saw things with fresh eyes.

Despite much of what has been written by Western pundits, Afghanistan is not a country doomed to everlasting conflict. Afghan people are not especially violent, nor are they or their society flawed in such a way to cause ever-lasting strife. Like any other people, they wish for safety, security and the certainty that their children will survive into adulthood. The many-sided and long-lasting insurgency in Afghanistan reflects their struggle to achieve these things, in the face of many challenges.

The largest grievance driving the insurgency is one that Western intervention has exacerbated: corruption. Many of the leaders brought into power in 2001 were the unpopular and corrupt people the Taliban had deposed. The lightning campaign in which the Taliban took over Afghanistan was successful in part because of how little support these local warlords had in the first place.

There are many Afghan and Pakistani writers whose work explores these grievances. If Afghanistan interests you, I urge you to read the works of Atiq Rahimi, Mohamed Hanif, Jamil Ahmad, Mohsin Hamid and Ahmed Rashid, to start. Get past reading the more easily accessible Western pundits, and try to see the conflict through local eyes.

My hope for Afghanistan is that it finds peace after decades of war. It is important to understand that there will be no military victory there, for any side. Peace will only come about when there is a reconciliation of the many parts of Afghan society. The West has a key role to play in this process, but there first needs to be an understanding of the legitimate grievances that drive the insurgency.

This is why I wrote This Shall Be a House of Peace – not as an apology for the Taliban or the insurgency in Afghanistan, but as a means to promote a better understanding of the “other side.”

Phil Halton

Posted by Dundurn Guest on March 27, 2018
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Phil Halton

Phil Halton has worked around the globe as a soldier and security consultant, including in Afghanistan. He is the author of the novel This Shall Be a House of Peace. He lives in Toronto.