By Imdad Hussain
The Afghan officials and parliamentarians have, for long, blamed its neighbours, especially Pakistan, for the current mess in the country. For a change, it has now included Russia in the list of its scapegoats, blaming the country for the recent rise in insurgency in the country. When Russia spearheaded a tripartite conference, which included Pakistan and China, officials in Kabul warned Russia that it was “playing with fire” by meddling in Kabul’s internal affairs.
The world has debated much on the issue of what the regional and international countries have done for peace in Afghanistan in the last 15 years, however, it is rarely discussed as what governments in Kabul have done to establish peace and stability in the country. Kabul is mostly seen as a victim in both pre and post 9/11 scenario, and thus escapes any scrutiny from its influential global allies and backers. And when neighbouring states, fearing the spill over effects of conflict in Afghanistan, take any initiative, it seems to irk Kabul.
This might also be down to Kabul’s scepticism when it comes to Taliban and its ties with Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran. This problem stems from the allegation of these groups having links and resources in the regional and neighbouring countries; namely Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China. They blame that Taliban have safe havens inside Pakistan. In other words, if the narrative is to be believed, Afghan government alleges that the Taliban enjoys better relations with these countries compared to legitimate government in Kabul.
But if Kabul’s allegations are taken seriously, it also highlights how successive governments in Afghanistan have failed in developing and nurturing ties with the countries it is now blaming for the conflict and instability. By doing so, Kabul could have easily and effectively suffocated any alleged support for Taliban by these countries. But contrary to that, Kabul never made concerted efforts in easing tensions with its neighbours, especially Pakistan.
Also, governments in Kabul have failed to satisfy grievances of important neighbours like Pakistan. Kabul either used blame games or doubting intentions of its neighbours when it came to reconciliation in Afghanistan. The Afghan officials’ rhetoric against neighbours’ efforts for talks between Kabul and Taliban is an evident example. Similarly, Kabul’s negative reaction to the last year’s tripartite meeting among China, Pakistan and Russia is another example. Such an attitude raises a number of questions:
First, what sort of impression is Kabul leaving on its neighbours by maintaining a negative approach towards any efforts for reconciliation?
Second, does this mean that Taliban have better capabilities when it comes to establishing ties with international players in politics?
Third, would that also mean that Taliban has more influence over regional states compared to a legitimate government in Kabul?
And finally, does the current situation not point towards the failure of Afghan government in solving its geo-political and security problems?
Without addressing these questions, the government in Kabul would face difficulties in countering the growing territorial gains and influence of Taliban inside the country. Also, Afghanistan needs to take a leaf out of the counter-terror books of its neighbours such as Iran, Pakistan, and also Russia. All three of them had the task of countering insurgency at hand. And all of them had also blamed foreign forces of sponsoring militancy in the respective countries.
Yet, rather than sitting idle and merely relying on blame, Pakistan was able to oust militants from Waziristan and Swat, whereas Russia and Iran were also successful in fighting their own militants.
It is not only the Taliban and the alleged “foreign forces” that Afghanistan has to tackle. The recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlights how corruption still remains one of the biggest challenges for Kabul. Not only has the foreign aid coming into Afghanistan over the years was misspent and embezzled, but the current Unity government and its members are also facing allegations of widespread corruption.
But instead of solving its internal problems and colluding with its neighbours to take further peace initiatives, Kabul seems to be hell bent on joining alliances that irk its neighbours. One such example was witnessed when Kabul joined the moot in Amritsar, which was an offshoot of India’s new policy of isolating Pakistan in the global arena. Kabul fails to realise that actions such as these would only raise tensions, rather than solving them. Rather than joining hands with India to “isolate” Pakistan, Kabul needs to go hand in hand with Pakistan to establish peace and security in Afghanistan.
President Ghani and his government in Kabul needs to understand that Afghanistan is going through a fragile, yet important, phase in relation to its future. It is now up to him whether he wants to keep engaging in a never-ending war with the Taliban, or join hands with regional stakeholders towards long term stability and reconciliation.
The author Imdad Hussain is the Research Fellow of Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS).