NEWS & VIEWS
AS a result of the US-backed power-sharing deal, unity government was formed with Ashraf Ghani as President and his rival candidate Abdullah Abdullah as his Chief Executive. The deal was brokered by the then US Secretary of State John Kerry to prevent the bitterly contested elections from plunging Afghanistan into turmoil. Some of Dr Ashraf Ghani’s aides had parted ways with him after he struck the deal; thus weakening his position to start with. Both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah had promised to put their differences aside; but this never happened, according to a recent report published by the International Crisis Group (ICG). Initially, Ashraf Ghani wished to improve relations with Pakistan; but due to American and Indian pressure he adopted policies to appease them. In fact, the unity government is the problem rather than the solution to the problem, as it does not want to enter into meaningful negotiations with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani has said that “without American assistance Kabul can’t fight the many militant groups active in the country after 16 years of US involvement, and the Afghan national army won’t last longer than six months on its own.” This is candid admission about Afghan government’s failure, rather an expression of helplessness. Of course, the ego of the sole super power America would not allow it to accept that after 16 years of war whereby the US and the NATO forces had failed to establish the writ of the state. The US had invaded Afghanistan 16 years ago when the Taliban government was swiftly overthrown and driven out. However, after decades of war, with once peak of about 150000 US and NATO troops and spending one trillion dollars, they could not eliminate or even deter the Taliban who control about 50 per cent of the Afghanistan territory.
Saying that at least “21 international terrorist groups” are operating in his country, Ghani warned that “terrorists can strike at any time. Dozens of suicide bombers are being sent. There are factories producing suicide bombers. We are under siege,” Ghani told the ‘60 Minutes’ program in CBS. He continues to accuse Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, and holds Pakistan responsible for his failures. Russia had warned last month that while the Pentagon is focused on the Taliban fighters, who control approximately half the country, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants are expanding their presence in Afghanistan. Military analysts Kamal Alam told RT: “The majority of the country is far worse than it was before the US and NATO came in… NATO at their peak had 150,000 soldiers, about five years ago, and they could not turn the tide,” military analyst Kamal Alam told RT.
But neither lesson was learnt from the past Afghan history nor from the last 16 years presence of US/NATO troops in Afghanistan. Instead of taking right steps, the US continues with the policy of creating roadblocks in the path of peace in Afghanistan and the region at large. On Wednesday, returning from a UN Security Council visit to Afghanistan, US Ambassador Nikki Haley stressed the Kabul government wanted world powers to step up pressure on Pakistan. Haley joined the 14 other council envoys for talks with top Afghan leaders in Kabul at the weekend as the government considered holding peace talks with the Taliban to end decades of insurgency. “They feel confident that the Taliban will be coming to the table,” Haley told reporters at UN headquarters. While the peace talks will be Afghan-led, the Kabul government did request that the Security Council weigh in to bring Pakistan onboard.
In October 2017, in her address to an event organised by US India Friendship Council, Haley quoted Trump having said: “India can help the US keep an eye on Pakistan as President Donald Trump has taken tougher approach to Islamabad harbouring terrorists.” Haley was born Nimrata Randhawa to Ajit Singh Randhawa and mother Raj Kaur Randhawa, who had emigrated from Punjab to Canada and then to the US in the 1960s. Her Indian connection speaks volumes about hatred against Pakistan. Anyhow, Senior Afghan officials said the other day that meetings were underway in Turkey between their government and representatives of the Taliban, although the insurgents denied that any talks were taking place. No formal talks with the Taliban have ever been held, and various indirect efforts have repeatedly failed, most recently in June 2017, in the wake of a truck bombing in Kabul that killed hundreds at the entrance to the Green Zone, the diplomatic and government quarter.
Significantly, the three-day talks also included Hamayoon Jarir, an adviser to President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and a major figure in Hezb-i-Islami, an insurgent faction that made peace with the government in late 2016. A senior Afghan official in Kabul confirmed that talks in Istanbul had begun on Saturday and were to continue until Monday. He said representatives of the Taliban were present, but described them as unofficial. However, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, denied in a Twitter post that any talks involving representatives of the group were taking place. Mohammad Akram Khpalwak, secretary-general of the High Peace Council, said that the talks in Istanbul were not official, and that any involvement by Khalili, the council’s chief, would have been personal, not official. A spokesman for the office of the Afghan president declined to comment, but said he was unaware of any talks taking place. This shows real intentions of Afghan president.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.