Has the war in Afghanistan ended? |By Dr. Farrukh Saleem

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A powder keg of a country

AFGHANISTAN is landlocked, mountainous, a fragmented society and a fractured geography.

Afghanistan has deserts, a dispersed population and sparsely settled areas. Afghanistan has isolated valleys, snow avalanches and disputed borders. Afghanistan has poverty and high birth rates.

Afghanistan has ethnic and sectarian divides and a population that has little affiliation to the state. Afghanistan is passing through deforestation, land degradation, pollution and uncontrolled urbanization.

Mountainous terrain and a lack of infrastructure means lack of communication and travel. This in return reinforces existing ethnic and sectarian divides. Geographical fragmentation and a population with questionable affiliation to the state has resulted in an extremely weak central government.

A weak central government means ineffective governance, lawlessness, fiefdoms of conflict, corruption, drugs and warlordism.

On top of all that there are at least half a dozen layers of conflict: Pashtun versus Pashtun; Pashtun versus Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek; Urban ‘progressives versus rural ‘conservatives’;
regional militias versus the Taliban; Pakistan versus India proxy war and America versus Afghans.

Over the past couple of weeks, America has been busy taking Americans home and Indians have all left (so the last two layers of conflict have gone home). Afghanistan still remains a powder keg of a country.

President Bi-den now has ‘good Taliban’, the ones who listen to him, and ‘bad Taliban’, the Islamic State-Khorasan Prov-ince (ISKP), who bombed the airport and killed a dozen US Marines.

Is America now going to weaponise the ‘good Taliban’ against the ‘bad Taliban’? Has the war in Afghanistan ended or just begun?
Afghanistan’s Nangarhar and Kunar provinces are home to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISKP).

ISKP has been designated as a ‘terrorist organization’ by the United States, Can-ada, India and Iraq. On July 14, a blast in Pakistan that killed nine Chinese nationals was said to be a suicide attack by “militant groups linked to al-Qaeda and the ISKP”.

On August 26, the suicide bombing at Hamid Karazi International Airport killed more than 185 people inlcuidng 13 members of the US military was claimed by ISKP. On August 27, a US MQ-9 Reaper drone struck the Nangarhar province. Has the war in Afghanistan ended or just begun?

Afghanistan hosts the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) that seeks to ‘liberate’ the Xinjiang Uy-ghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)-as ‘a homeland for the Uyghur people’-from the People’s Republic of China.

ETIM is supported by armed separatists like the East Turkestan People’s Revolutionary Party and the Soviet-backed United Revolutionary Front of East Turkistan.

ETIM is also supported by the East Turkestan Liberation Organization, a militant secessionist entity. Intriguingly, Washington hosts the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile. Has the war in Afghanistan ended or just begun?

According to a letter dated 20 May 2021 from the Chair of the Security Council, Tehreek-e-Taliban Paki-stan (TTP) “has increased its strength, of which current Member State estimates range between 2,500 and 6,000 armed fighters”.

The same letter states that TTP is “traditionally located in the eastern districts of Nangarhar Province, near the border with Pakistan.” In 2014, TTP claimed responsibility for the Army Pub-lic School attack.

On August 16, the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan also known as the Panjshir Resistance was announced with the goal of undertaking an “anti-Taliban guerilla struggle”.

This new Front claims to have 8,000 armed fighters active in Panjshir, Parwan and Baghlan provinces of Afghanistan (Panjshir is 30 miles from Kabul).

The Front is led by Ahmad Massoud, who is the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, an anti-Soviet military commander.

In a recent opinion piece for the Washington Post, Ahmad Massoud wrote: “We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come.” Has the war in Afghanistan ended or just begun?

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