16 MARCH 2016
The Taliban has rejected the Afghan government’s offer for peace talks as “futile” and “misleading”, saying they would be “contradictory” in the face of the fresh deployment of US troops and continued US air strikes and night raids in Afghanistan.
Last week’s rebuttal came after the Pentagon deployed “hundreds” of new soldiers to back US elite forces in combat against the Taliban in Helmand, a strategic southern Afghan province. Beating the war drums, the Pentagon is convinced that the United States remains in an armed conflict with the Taliban – according to a December 2015 Pentagon report on the situation in Afghanistan.
In line with US war policy, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani persistently warns the Taliban to choose between peace and war.
“We will crush those who choose to fight us,” said Ghani speaking in a graduation ceremony of Afghan military officers last week. Chaired by the president, an Afghan National Security Council meeting last Tuesday ordered Afghan security and defence forces to repel Taliban threats.
In the big picture of the ongoing war, the US and the Taliban both use incidents as pretexts to reignite war in Afghanistan. Both pretexts remain remarkably consistent and serve each other.
Washington and Kabul must take steps to conclude the controlled chaos in Afghanistan by agreeing to end the Taliban drama once and for all.
In 2014, after President Hamid Karzai’s unwillingness to sign the security pact between Kabul and Washington, US officials and their intelligence community’s assessments were signaling concerns about the future of Afghanistan.
Washington’s narrative was that if the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) was not signed with Kabul, and if the US was unable to commit personnel and resources beyond 2014, the Afghan government would not be able to prevent the return of al-Qaeda to some parts of the country, and that the Taliban’s control over Afghan territory would grow.
James Dobbins, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the time, told Karzai: “If there is no BSA, there will be no peace.”
The US administration warned Karzai that the Taliban were “tough fighters” who had a strong Pakistani backing and a local “support” in Afghanistan and if the pact was not signed the potential for continued war and violence would be inescapable.
Now, fast-forward a year and half after the signing of the BSA between Kabul and Washington, and this picture is exactly what today’s Afghanistan looks like. Earlier this year, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter put the Afghans on alert when he said that there would be “tough fighting” seasons ahead in Afghanistan.
More intense fighting
James R Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, recently warned that fighting in Afghanistan will be “more intense” this year than 2015 and that Afghans will continue to face “sustained attacks” by the Taliban in 2016.
According to the Pentagon, the Taliban is capable of contesting and taking key terrains in Afghanistan and it poses a “formidable” and “enduring” challenge to the Afghan national unity government.
On the other hand, unidentified statements by faceless spokespeople from unknown addresses continue to give a voice to the mythical enemy in Afghanistan: the Taliban. They continue to reject calls for any possible end to the war. Peace is always preconditioned by the full withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan.
With different labels, today terrorists are able to carry out high-profile attacks in all parts of the country, more than ever before.
As American officials portray it, based and operating from Pakistan, the Haqqani terrorist group remains a key threat to peace and security in Afghanistan.
But how can Washington and Kabul win the war on the Taliban in Afghanistan when Sartaj Aziz, a senior aide to Prime Minister Sharif, publicly admitted during a recent trip to the US that the Taliban’s leadership is in Pakistan and under its country’s control?
How can Afghans believe that the “war on terror” is being won, when the Taliban leadership and the Haqqani group continue to enjoy freedom of action in Pakistan?
Misgivings and suspicions
And how can an ordinary Afghan be convinced that the US has not been able so far to press Pakistan curb the activities of these groups on its soil?
Such questions and the acknowledgments of top Pakistani officials – recently Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the prime minister, and previously Gen Parvez Mushrraf – about their grip on the Taliban cause a lot of misgivings and suspicions about Washington’s role in Afghan.
Ground realities make it hard for the Afghan people to swallow the idea that US troops are present to continue the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. It is the growing strength of the foreign-backed terrorist groups and the failure of US military strategies to counter them, that further supports the notion that there will be no military solution to the war in Afghanistan.
More than 92,000 Afghans and about 2,172 US service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan over the past 15 years. Have no lessons been learned from past mistakes? Why is there insistence on repeating them?
War in Afghanistan is a creation and, therefore, Afghans are urging an end to a needless war. Ghani’s government should cross-examine Washington on its policy towards Pakistan and the nature of its war on terror in Afghanistan.
Kabul should embrace a greater emphasis on diplomacy and regional cooperation with a commitment to regional peacemaking initiatives by China, Russia, India and Iran. A peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan must be a top policy goal for all sides involved.
It is not anti-Americanism if Afghans question the US military presence and the so-called war on terror in their country, nor is it disengagement from the great American nation. We are simply resisting the war-making machine that has gripped our nation for too long.