Afghanistan has seen one of its worse bloody days in the previous week where more than 220 personnel of security forces and civilians killed and many others sustained injuries in spate of lethal bomb and suicide attacks. These attacks were carried out separately by Islamic States and Taliban in different parts of the country including in the capital Kabul. The people of Afghanistan do not have the taste of a single day passing without any incident of terrorist attack in the country.
Following the recent terrorist attacks, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paid an unannounced short visit to Afghanistan which was part of his South Asia tours. The deteriorated security situation compelled the Secretary of State to summon Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the strong US airbase at Bagram and discussed Donald Trump’s new Afghan strategy on how to deal with terrorist groups and bring peace and stability to the country.
With full access to the world’s advanced and sophisticated weapons and technologies, the United States still could not achieve success in bringing enduring peace and stability. This is the longest war the US has fought. The US and Afghan government continue to lonely blame Pakistan for its total failure that the latter facilitates, harbour and provide safe-havens to Taliban, Haqqani Network and other terrorist and extremist groups in its territory from where these groups craft plans to carry out terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan, killing US, Afghan security forces and civilians, a charge always denied by Pakistan with the assertion that the country has tendered tremendous sacrifices of lives and treasury in the fight on terror.
Blaming Pakistan for the US mess might be one side of the story but there are several other reasons, issues and challenges that contribute to the US failure in Afghanistan.
Taliban is not a Terrorist outfit
Following the terrorist incident of 9/11-2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan because of Taliban’s refusal to handover the Al-Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden (OBL). The US easily managed to oust the extremist Taliban regime within the short period of one and half months. The US sole aim was to dismantle the international Islamic organization Al-Qaida and eliminate its safe havens from the country. At the time, Pakistan as a US ally fully cooperated with the US in hunting Al-Qaida operatives including its leader Khalid Sheikh.
One of the failures of US government is that the US does not consider Taliban as global threat. Therefore, Taliban is still not on US list of foreign terror groups as the US looks the organization largely as insurgency with intent to control vast swaths of the territory and with the desire to govern the country.
With the opening of new war front in Iraq, Afghanistan has been fully ignored by US and international communities that gave favorable space to the much shattered Taliban that managed to regroup and launch attacks on US and Afghan security forces in the country. Now Taliban either control or have influence in vast swaths of territory nearly about 40-45% of the country.
No Clear Vision Of The Enemy
The enemy should be called by its name; however, the Afghan government thinks Taliban as an indigenous movement that wrongly playing at the hands of some foreign forces and neighboring countries. The government always remained reluctant to carry out mammoth operation against the group as the Afghan leadership is not willing to kill their own fellow Afghan tribesmen, affiliated with Taliban.
Afghan leaders including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai often call Taliban as their “Unhappy Brothers”. During his rule, Hamid Karzai disagreed with the most successful US military tactic against the Taliban– the midnight raid on terrorist hideouts. He demanded its immediate end and termed the night raids as attack on Afghan homes. Karzai also disbanded the private security firms and militias fighting Taliban in the country.
Bad Governance and Corruption
The Afghan government and US not only obtain victory in the battlefield in the fight against Taliban and other militant groups but also remain so far unsuccessful winning hearts and minds of the Afghan people.
With the billions of aids to the country by US and international community, the afghan government has failed to deliver the masses because of widespread corruption and bad governance that boost up the anti-American sentiments among the masses. Afghanistan is still one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
India’s Role In Afghanistan
Although India’s proactive role in Afghanistan apparently in economic and social development were much discussed before. Now with announcement of new US strategy on Afghanistan, US is going to assign India more role to play. Pakistan, the historical rival of India was not happy with the move, having severe concerns and reservations. Pakistan, being one of the most important players in Afghan issue, considers the Indian presence and role in Afghanistan as a major threat to its security and sovereignty.
Given the history of both hard rival countries that fought four wars over Kashmir issue, a disputed area between India and Pakistan, the latter always looks the role of India in Afghanistan in a suspicious way. Pakistan accuses India for its support and funding to anti-Pakistani militants particularly the separatist groups for their subversive and terrorist activities inside Pakistan especially in the restive southwest Balochistan province. The country thinks the Indian Intelligence agency RAW has been utilizing Afghan soil with the support of National Directorate of Security (NDS) for destabilizing Pakistan.
No independent and sovereign country can tolerate and allow its hard rival and enemy to be present in its doorsteps as a watchman to monitor and interfere in its affairs. The Indian new role in Afghanistan without brings the concerns and reservations of Pakistan to an end will further deteriorate and complicate the situation.
Economic Conflicts and Interests
As the main reasons and bases of disputes, crisis, security issues and wars in the world are mostly economic oriented with colour of religion and nationality. America as a sole world power has its own national, economic and financial interests in the region. Afghanistan because of its geographical importance always remained proxy hotspot for international and regions powers as it links the south-east Asian countries with mineral-rich central Asia and vis-a-vis.
Therefore, the US presence in Afghanistan is not just with the aim to bring peace to the country but it also has its own nefarious designs in the region. On one hand it keeps continued to monitor and observe the growing economy China to contain its rising economic and financial influence in the region, while on the other hand it will keep an open eye on Russia, Pakistan and Iran.
Recently the US expressed its objection regarding China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by saying that “One Belt One Road” passes through disputed territory whereas Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also said that his country would not be part of CPEC unless Pakistan provides trade access to India.
The new emerging national economy India is also not happy with the Chinese investment at Gwadar so in order to allay the Chinese economic influence in South and Central Asia, India has signed the Chabahar Port deal with Iran. India will invest $500 million to develop the strategically important port, close to Iran border with Pakistan. The said port would open a transit route to Afghanistan and Central Asia for Indian goods and products while avoiding the land route through Pakistan.
The future status of Iran Pakistan (IP) previously known as Iran Pakistan India (IPI) gas pipeline project is also unknown apparently due to US pressure. India has already abandoned the pipeline project in 2008 following the US sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The success of Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project and Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) power project are directly interlinked with the peace and stability to Afghanistan.
Playing Double Game
The United States is not willing to bring everlasting peace and stability to the war torn country–Afghanistan and wants the standstill remains continued. Some analysts and politicians think that US is pursuing dual policy in Afghanistan as one hand, the US and Afghanistan have frequently been blaming the neighboring countries for interference in the affairs of the country while on the other hand, they are reports that Islamic States Khorasan— IS-K are being facilitated, equipped and supported by the US and Afghan government.
Several Afghan officials and politicians including Afghan members of parliaments and governors exposed that unknown helicopters were supplying arms equipment to militants in the areas, mostly controlled by IS-K. The US handpicked former Afghan President Hamid Karzai who ruled Afghanistan after 9/11 incident till 2013 and now one of the US critics recently said that he did not see any distinction between US and IS. The former president accuses US for aiding the group in Afghanistan.
Pakistani government also continues to blame Afghanistan for providing supports and shelters to anti-Pakistan militants like Tehreek Taliban Pakistan—TTP and separatist militant groups. Pakistan has incessantly been demanding from US and Afghan government to whether handover the anti Pakistan militants and terrorists, operating from inside Afghan soil or to annihilate their training camps but all went in vain despite these groups pose serious threats to the security and sovereignty of Pakistan.
Following the President Trump’s new Afghan strategy, it seems the US has decided to ‘stay on’ in Afghanistan for an indefinite period. It does not want a complete and everlasting peace in the country but a semi-peace like situation on its own terms and conditions in order to justify its presence in the region. So, its presence will enable to utilize Afghanistan as a base to contain China and exert pressure on regional and neighboring countries.
Everlasting peace and stability in the region will not be established on the terms and conditions of such a country—thousands of miles away from Afghanistan without listening and addressing the gravity of security concerns and reservations of the neighboring countries and regional powers.
The stability could also not be established without addressing the issues of the governance, widespread corruption and without leaving the policy of appeasement—good country and bad country and the dual policy approach —good and bad terrorist.
A regional approach must be adopted by addressing all concerns of major players in order to bring an end to the Afghan conflict. The ‘win win’ situation is the only guarantee to the peace, stability and development of the region else the fire erupted in Afghanistan will not only engulf the region but also the world.