In principle, on paper, yes we have reached an agreement — that it is done but it is not final until the President of the United States also agrees to it,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy to Afghanistan talking to the Afghan channel ToloNews, just two months back. He further revealed that the United States would pull 5,400 troops from Afghanistan within 135 days of signing an agreement with the Taliban and this pulling out would be the start of the expected gradual withdrawal of all 14,000 United States troops that could end America’s longest running war. Khalilzad had been leading nearly a year of talks with the Taliban. People were expecting something marvelous coming out of these talks but still the political scenario in Afghanistan is still the same.
A detailed report recently issued by the Human Rights Watch says that night raids and aerial strikes have led to mounting civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The report reveals that CIA-backed Afghan strike forces have once again made the lives of innocent Afghan citizens a hell. Night-time raids into homes in remote villages, forced disappearances, attacks on healthcare facilities and summary executions are the tools being used against the local people. In civilized societies such cruelties are termed as ‘atrocities’ and ‘war crimes’. The report has referred to at least 14 such cases across nine provinces over the last two years. Analysts are of the opinion that the basic reason behind this brutal behaviour of the Afghan troops is that most of them got their professional training from the officers of the US Army and of the US intelligence agencies. The training masters have taught them to show little concern for the local civilians’ life. That is why this training has made them callous and merciless to their own people. They don’t hesitate in shooting them direct in their heads when they are in their custody during the night raids.
‘Civilian deaths in Afghanistan keep climbing’ is the title of an article jointly written by Mohammed Harun Arsalai and Mohsin Khan Momand published in the Nation USA last August, 2019. The article narrated the murder story of Syed Wali who ran one of the only two shops in Sarkot village of Eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province. Wali sold sugar, soap, and cigarettes to everyone in town, including the region’s local Taliban members. A shopkeeper nowhere could stop anyone from doing purchases from his shop particularly when there are no other shops in the area. The article says that ‘The US-built’ National Directorate of Security (NDS) one night raided the Sarkot village and stormed the shopkeeper’s house. The officers in the raiding party blamed Syed Wali of doing business transactions with Taliban and before he could give them any answer, he was shot in head. And this way the story of Syed Wali’s life reached a pathetic ending.
The Guardian also narrated an incident of the same type recently. The Paper said, “On 11 August this year, troops from one of the CIA-backed units accompanied by at least one US soldier and a translator – served as judge, jury and executioner for 11 men in Kulgago, a village in the south of Paktia province. Four were executed in the family compound of Dr. Ulfatullah, a pharmacist who lost two sons and two cousins.” According to media reports the young men in Kulgago were targeted as insurgents but the facts are otherwise. Shafiullah and Hayatullah were the government employees and they were working as teachers in the Education Ministry of Afghanistan. A witness said talking to the media-men, “The Afghan soldiers who swept through Kulgago village one late August night shot three of Dr. Ulfatullah’s relatives carefully, a single bullet through their left eye, faces otherwise untouched as blood pooled below their bodies on the floor of the family home. However the last killing was less precise, and left the face of university student Ansarullah badly disfigured.”
Reports say that most of the time, the victims of the Afghan soldiers belong to the Pashtun tribes as most of the Taliban are Pashtun tribesmen. The foreign invaders know it very well that the Pashtuns would always remain a threat to their hegemonic designs as they are the hardest ones to be defeated. So the Afghan soldiers are being ‘misused’ in the process of making the Pashtuns weaker.
The recent episode of harassing the Pakistani diplomats in Kabul is also a part of the same ‘Kill Pashtun Movement’ as the trainers have convinced the Afghan authorities that Pakistan and Taliban are the two sides of the same coin. It means wherever the freedom fighters are fighting against the foreign occupation, they would be linked with Pakistan; be it the India-occupied Kashmir, the Khalistan, the Nagaland and even Assam. This blame game is not fair; most of the time the freedom movements are indigenous.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Multan.