Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
PRESIDENT Ashraf Ghani led National Unity Government and Trump administration have been scapegoating Pakistan, instead of critically examining the causes of increasing violence in the urban centres of the country and chalking out a realistic strategy for averting violence in Afghanistan. They simply accuse Pakistan for harbouring and supporting the Afghan Taliban for diverting the attention of the victims and also for concealing the incompetence of the Afghan National Security Forces. Whereas; the people of Afghanistan blame the Unity Government especially the American trained Afghan security forces. Islamabad is worried about the increasing role of New Delhi in Kabul. It is convinced that India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) with the connivance of Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (NDS) is providing both financial and material support to Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for conducting terrorist acts inside of Pakistan. Neither American forces nor Afghan law enforcement agencies are erasing the safe heavens of TTP located in eastern Afghanistan.
Realistically, Kabul writ in Afghanistan has gradually been shrinking. Afghan Taliban and Daesh (Islamic State)—a non-state actor—fighters are successfully conducting their operations not only in the peripheral areas of Afghanistan, but they are also attacking sensitive cum protected enclaves located within the fortified major cities of Afghanistan. Indeed, Afghan Taliban devastating attacks on two consecutive weekends in Kabul, even before the start of a fighting spring season, have shocked the people of Afghanistan in particular and international community in general.
Increase in the lethal attacks during January 2018, reveals that adding of a few thousands American troops have no impact on the violent activities of the anti-government forces in Afghanistan. During the recent weeks, Afghan Taliban and Islamic State groups conducted four devastating attacks in Kabul. These attacks exposed the inability of the Afghan security forces and their trainers. It also manifests that upsurge in troops and air strikes (3, 554 air strikes used against the Taliban in 2017, which is nearly three times the 1,337 dropped in 2016) are having destructive repercussions for the people of Afghanistan.
Although, President Donald Trump announced on August 21, 2017, that American forces ensure unconditional victory in Afghanistan, yet defeating Afghan Taliban through military means seem difficult. Afghan Taliban enjoys popular support because they are part of Afghanistan’s societal and ‘political fabric’. In addition, the alarming reality is that despite the presence of American led NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Daesh has been increasing its hold in the country. Many analysts opine that Daesh in Afghanistan benefits from the mistrust between Islamabad and Washington.
The Daesh sanctuaries in Afghanistan are perilous for the regional security. Therefore, both Russian and Chinese have expressed their serious concerns over the increasing numbers of the radicalised militants. Russians seem convinced that without engaging Afghan Taliban, the Unity Government cannot combat the menace of Daesh effectively. Whereas; Americans are not prepared to engage Afghan Taliban in a dialogue process. On January 29, 2018, American media reported that President Donald Trump was weighing an option to send more troops to Afghanistan. Conversely, Taliban are inflexible in their demand about the foreign troops complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. Professor Marvin Weinbaum, a former official in the State Department, rightly concluded: “Once the U.S. is out, then the Taliban, without stating it, will go — whether it’s a matter of months or a year — to scoring a military victory.”
Realistically, the United States is gradually losing its control, instead of winning in Afghanistan. The influence of United States in the neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan is shrinking due to its convoluted global policy, the rapid transformation in global politics and the realignment in alliances at the international and regional strategic chessboard. Therefore, the American security analysts are expressing their apprehensions over the Washington’s Afghanistan policy.
The increasing anarchy in Afghanistan is alarming for the neighbours of the country. The spillover of ungovernable Afghanistan is perilous for Pakistan. Therefore, peaceful Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan. Unfortunately, Islamabad’s peace endeavours are not acceptable to both the Unity Government and Trump Administration. The divergence over modalities of restoring peace in the country, obviously, is in the advantage of both Afghan Taliban and Daesh. Hence, it’s imperative that Kabul, Islamabad and Washington revisit their strategies and cooperate with one another for the sake of security and stability in Afghanistan.
To conclude, blaming and shifting responsibility on one another do not replace the prevalent internal anarchy with public order in Afghanistan. Without the writ of the government, the country continues to be a safe heaven for the transnational terrorist groups. Thus, instead of blaming one another, the stakeholders sincerely cooperate for restoring political stability in Afghanistan.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.