Afghan War, started in 2001 post 9/11 attacks in USA, has finally reached a point where even experts and policy makers in the US are calling for a face saving exit. A recent op-ed by the New York Times, in similar vein, has recommended Washington that the only way to achieving long-term peace in Afghanistan is through serious talks with all regional stakeholders, including Pakistan.
Afghanistan can rightly be termed as the most unfortunate country in the world, for it has seen only days of tranquility, and bloodshed for decades. The grim reminder to this reality is the recent suicide bombing which led to 150 casualties and more than 350 badly wounded.
Taliban has started its spring offensive while Afghan security forces seem to be weak to confront them. USA has withdrawn most of her forces and only 9800 troops are currently stationed for some supportive functions.
Taliban has still control of more than 30 districts in Afghanistan. Their strength cannot be undermined; they have the potential to cause damage to government and the general public. We witnessed in 2016 that the group captured Kunduz and challenged the writ of the government. Furthermore, the entry of Islamic state and the associated risk of sectarian attacks have further grown.
It goes without saying that the security situation in Afghanistan is not very encouraging. Ashraf Ghani led government has concluded a peace deal with former warlord Gulbadin Hikmatyar, but will it bring peace to the war torn country?
Could Gulbadin deliver to Afghan government what is expected of him? The answer does not seem to be in affirmative because of his little influence which he possesses.
Gone are the days when he was the favorite of many during 1980s. Therefore, it can be assessed that the real problem is Taliban, Haqqani network and Islamic state (ISIS).
Although there are a number of groups operating in Afghanistan, their impact is still limited and they can be neutralized or eliminated with ease; most prominent of which is the TTP, which has strong presence in Afghanistan.
Its top leadership fled Pakistan after the military operation Zarb e Azab was started against them in North Waziristan. So far it seems that the real target of TTP is Pakistan and her interests while Taliban and its warriors have been fiercely fighting Afghan security forces, foreign troops and target any other place which is either used by foreigners or have interests there.
Additionally, regional powers have become more vibrant and consider Afghanistan as their fiefdom. It is an open secret that which country supports which group and what are the interests of each player. Power politics is being played at its best at this unfortunate land; which has resulted in a never ending war, suicide bombings and growing tension among different regional and international players.
USA and her allies have spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan by now and have, without a doubt, destroyed the safe havens of Al Qaeda, yet neutralizing the Taliban has remained a real challenge.
More than 16 years have elapsed when the war on terror was launched and Afghanistan was attacked. Shouldn’t this be enough of a time for the strongest military in the world to conclude its operations?
Why is it that different leaders just pay lip service to peace process and condole the deaths of innocent lives without making permanent efforts to conclude this bloody war?
Is international politics so devoid of morality that it can allow killing innocent children and women? And,
Does it not give the perception to a common man that ‘might is right’ is the only rule in the world?
Different writers have pointed out time to time that inequality and flouting the rules of international law are the catalysts behind taking up arms.
The more the strong countries interfere in other countries by manipulating facts and rules, the more there will be chances for exploitation by armed groups.
Afghanistan needs peace and sovereignty just like any other country. It can only be realized if all the countries involved in this war stopped sending their proxies. This might not be done voluntarily and need to be done by United Nations with impartiality.
Pakistan should stop viewing Afghanistan with the prism of its insecurity from India. Afghanistan should not distance herself from Pakistan despite of strong differences between them. The real key to peace in Afghanistan lies in dialogue among all the stakeholders.
Dialogue needs to be sincere and with strong determination along with some confidence building measures which must be chalked out by parties involved.
For genuine peace talks, hostilities must be ended by all sides. Let there be some peace and then the Afghans should decide by ballots who should rule them.
Although the Taliban and other groups have time to time expressed their abhorrence to democracy and its associated tools, but through genuine peace talks it can be brought to their minds that it is the only way to make peace.
The recent statement by US secretary Defense, James Mattis, that Taliban cannot be part of the political solution, will only prolong this never-ending war.
For lasting peace, the countries involved in making Afghanistan a living hell need to take some rest. There has to be some way to do that, if not, it should be made before all other things because Afghanistan is shattered partially by its own follies and mostly by others for pursuing their own strategic and security objectives.