Afghan Taliban rebound at Kabul
AFGHANISTAN has an established reputation as a graveyard for foreign occupation forces. It is easier to come there but exit is ignominious as foreordained.
In Feb 2020, US appeared to escape this stigma at Doha when peace deal between Afghan Taliban and US was inked therein, a face saving was accorded to US while withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan however, how Afghan Taliban moved the chessboard, forced US to swallow the sup of humiliation, reserved for foreign intruders as before.
It would haunt US long how it had to lower its flag on its sparkling but now an abandoned embassy in Kabul unceremoniously.
It scrambled in panic everything which it had to evacuate its diplomats and citizens in face of imminent capture of Kabul by Afghan Taliban which stunningly touched its climax unrivalled within hours.
This marked end of US’s longest war tamely while abundantly signifying about its shortfalls in its ability as a big super power.
US Republican Congressmen have the termed abrupt and chaotic departure of US from Afghanistan a disgraceful exit that will cap off its total failure.
Its dishonoured escape also prompted other observers to equate it with its Vietnam fiasco in shame.
More or less, a scholar on Afghan matter summed up this as follow: Decades from now, images of Taliban victory, will be invoked as a vivid example of the limits of US’s power and of its ability to fight modern wars effectively or to end them on favourable terms.
Seeing fate of its presence sealed in Afghanistan, the US wanted a civil war to ruin Afghanistan and keep the region in turmoil.
During peace process at Doha, it did not use its leverage over Afghan government to arrive at agreement with Taliban on a broad-based inclusive set-up in Afghanistan or making its withdrawal conditional for Afghan Taliban for such an arrangement.
Instead its whole focus was to secure a safe withdrawal with a face saving. Even afterwards, despite calls for responsible withdrawal from the world, it resorted to leave, suiting to its convenience on the presumption that Afghan security forces would withstand marching Taliban to gain the control of the country for about 18 months thus, this would be a good enough period for its objective of pushing Afghanistan into fires of civil war.
This was a huge miscalculation and ultimately, the US had to pay the price by suffering huge loss of face as a big superpower.
A few days back, PM Imran Khan also quipped by saying that the US does not know what is going to happen in Afghanistan in a month time while lamenting on its indifference for a provision of an interim set up during peace talks with Taliban.
In the same vein, Taliban could also be blamed for not making safe passage for withdrawal of its troops conditional for the US to pressurize Afghan government to show flexibility on the issue of an interim set-up in advance, however, their crisis of intent is different in content than of US, motivated by mischief.
Instead of including puppets of foreign occupation forces in future government, the necessity of showing door to them was an indispensable cleansing act for making their heroic struggle for independence unblemished and a humiliation for US and its other accomplices.
Now they are undisputed winner of the war and are entitled to rule Afghanistan, however, in return, it demands a healing touch and peace in the country. It is an imperative. It is not enough to win a war, it is more important to organize peace, said Aristotle.
The conduct of war by Taliban and their assertions after the fall of Kabul give hope for better and could be taken a good omen for future of Afghanistan. They preferred conciliation and understanding than bloodshed and revenge.
There was no pillage and disorder. The general amnesty filliped their lightening advance to take over the country. They seemed humble in victory and mindful of what is required for the country.
Their political chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has said “now it’s time of test, now it’s about how we serve and secure our people and ensure their future/good life to the best of abilities”.
They have also said that we did not want to live in isolation and called for peaceful international relations.
They will not allow anyone to use their land to target anyone. They want a participatory government with various components of Afghan people.
They have also talked softly about women’s way of life and other aspects. All these assertions/actions portend good and are urgently required but remain subject to actual experience.
Taking cues from Afghan background, one could safely assume what is needed in Afghanistan to start with.
It is peace, sense of participation at the centre and autonomy locally to satisfy their tribal instincts. Taliban are the victor, however, need to show flexibility and magnanimity in sharing the power. Afghanistan is a geo-strategically important country and full of untapped mineral resources.
Instead of being a hotbed of international intrigues, it needs to hold its destiny in its own hands than mortgaging it for individual petty interests and jealousies.
Instead of being a basket case of world or live in poverty and backwardness as impoverished people, it needs to cash in on its strategic importance and explore numerous and enormous avenues available for development and prosperity.
For this, it needs peace within and with outside world. Latter calls for responsibility internationally. Besides, it is an era of globalization and they could only wish it away vainly.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.