By Bator Arsalan*
Afghanistan’s people are the real victims of war; it’s been four decades that Afghans are fighting against terrorism, barbarism and extremism on behalf of the world.
It is critical that the US stays engaged in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of its troops and provides military support and sustained aid to the security forces. After two decades of US military presence in Afghanistan, Afghans are still suffering, for not owning a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful country. On Thursday, July 8, 2021, US President Joe Biden declared the troop withdrawal will be completed by August 31 and said “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country. “
“I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,’ he asserted, claiming the US mission has achieved its objectives.
‘The United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan: to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and to deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat to keep Afghanistan from becoming a base from which attacks could be continued against the United States,” said Biden.
Biden said the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are fully capable of repelling the Taliban attack, refuting reports that US intelligence authorities felt the government in Kabul could collapse within six months.
According to Biden, about 650 US troops will remain in Afghanistan to sustain the security of the US embassy in Kabul.
Pullout a big opportunity
Over the past two decades, nearly 36 different countries deployed their troops in Afghanistan. The withdrawal of foreign troops presents a unique opportunity for the Afghanistan government to take all decisions on its own regarding military approaches to the Taliban and other insurgent groups. In recent days, the Taliban have taken a large number of districts in the northern and northeastern provinces of Afghanistan, which was no surprise, but what surprised the government and its strategic allies was the speed with which the Taliban progressed.
I believe that as an Afghan and as a youth, after the full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, no pretext and justification will exist for the Taliban to continue the war – the jihad against a foreign power. All Islam scholars have declared that the war which the Taliban is fighting has no legitimacy according to Sharia law (Islamic law).
There is no military solution for the Afghanistan problem, but a political settlement. However, the Taliban may choose to portray the Afghan government as a US proxy. But it will be a miscalculation on the part of the Taliban if they think they can overthrow the government militarily. ANDSF now has considerable expertise to simultaneously manage both military operations and negotiation.
The US withdrawal also appears as an opportunity for the Afghan people to acquire actual sovereignty and prosperity. Afghanistan has been fighting on three fronts – internal terrorism, regional terrorism and International terrorism. It is incumbent upon Afghan politicians, influential figures and tribal leaders to keep aside the resentments and political dissensions.
The Taliban are Afghans, they are inhabitants of Afghanistan, and the priority is to make a deal with the Taliban and prevent fratricidal war.
Taliban must see reason
President Ashraf Ghani successfully implemented a ceasefire during the Eid festival in 2018 for three days with the Taliban, He has called upon the Taliban numerous times to stop violence against civilians, desist from destroying infrastructure and say yes to a comprehensive ceasefire. However, the Taliban has yet to categorically put forth their stand on the issues. Their statements have so far only offered ambiguous answers.
The Taliban, one feels, remains more interested in power than peace. A political agreement and integration of the Taliban into the society and the government is the only way out. They can decide their future, but the ball is on their court.
Over the past two decades, Afghanistan has changed; now Afghans in parts of the country live in a democratic environment. In the previous elections, people came out of their homes and cast their votes for prosperity, sovereignty, and most importantly, for the peaceful Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that explicitly signaled a firm no to terrorism and barbarism. The achievements of the past 20 years (democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech and human rights) in Afghanistan are non-negotiable. During the Taliban domination in Afghanistan, women were denied even their basic rights. Now Afghanistan has four female ministers in its cabinet.
The Islamic Emirate that the Taliban imposed in the 1990s is unacceptable to Afghan people and the world. If the Taliban still scoffs at a settlement process that would be at their peril. The Afghan security forces are well-trained and well-equipped to sustain the government.
There are a few steps to reach a political settlement, to put an end to this endless war. It’s been almost a year since the Intra-Afghan dialogue started in Doha, However slow the progress is, it has kindled the hopes of the Afghan people. Now it’s a momentous opportunity for both sides to formalize a reconciliation process by discussing with all urgency the issues regarding comprehensive ceasefire and peace.
Regional countries’ role
The regional and international communities have to use their influences and cut off the Taliban’s financial resources. The group’s (Taliban) annual income from 2011 onward was estimated to be USD 400 million. But the amount is believed to have dramatically increased in recent years and could be as high as USD 1.5 billion from exporting opium, levying taxes and resorting to extortion.
Regional and international consensus is a must for reaching a political settlement. Pakistan is a country known as a haven for terrorist groups. The Taliban has been backed by Pakistan for years; Pakistan is still equipping and providing financial assistance to the Taliban. Pakistan has had a strong influence on the Taliban. It can play a significant role in making the Taliban see reason. A peaceful Afghanistan means a peaceful Pakistan and it will help the region to be stable.
Iran can also play an important part. The Islam Qala border town, one of the key trade gateway of Afghanistan into Iran, has fallen to the Taliban. On July 8, Iran hosted the first crucial high-level talks in months between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
In a joint statement after the peace talks, both sides agreed that “war is not the solution to the Afghanistan problem” and that all efforts must be directed toward achieving a peaceful political solution.
In a welcome move, the two sides agreed to continue the talks, and condemned attacks targeting “people’s homes, mosques and hospitals” and “destruction of public institutions” and called for “punishment of the perpetrators”. This is a positive development, but it’s just a fresh beginning.
President Ghani has said he wants an urgent solution and is willing to negotiate, with an unbiased and neutral mediator under UN supervision between the government and the Taliban. An interim administration may be there for governance purposes during the negotiating process, but it has to be of short duration until the elections are held.
Moreover, he is eager to resign and give up his presidency for the sake of peace in the country before his term comes to an end.
The Taliban are claiming they have changed, and are not the Taliban of the 1990s anymore. Now it is incumbent upon the Taliban to agree to the Afghan government’s appeal and stop the violence. During a transitional administration, the Taliban will be able to integrate into the government and society. And thereafter they can smoothly join the election.
Finally, one needs to accept that the conflict in Afghanistan is not a war against any occupation, but one run by regional rivalries and ignited by competing ideologies and escalated by the rise of a brand of violent extremism.
Mutual acceptance is a must in a multi-ethnic country, Afghanistan cannot be conquered by one side, nor divided among all. Now is the time for both sides as Afghans to take action, put an end to the endless conflict and lead Afghanistan to peace and prosperity. If the Afghan government and Taliban fail to establish a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, the consequence can only be calamitous.
*About the author: The writer, an Afghanistan citizen, is an International Relations student at the University of Mysore, Karnataka, India. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected] He tweets @Baturarsalan Obaidi
Source: This article was published by South Asia Monitor