The dream of peace

Ayaz Ahmed

Despite spending billions of dollars, lasting and meaningful peace is still a distant dream in war-torn Afghanistan. By capitalising on Afghanistan’s precarious security situation, Daesh has increased its tentacles in the country by attacking government institutions and beleaguered Hazaras. The ominous rise of the rampaging Daesh in Afghanistan has raised many questions about the fragile peace process of the war-weary country.

   Both the resurgent Taliban and Daesh are immersed in gaining more and more footholds in the north-western provinces of the country. After having acquired full control over 40 districts, the former has forcibly established its draconian rule there, while expanding its tentacles to other parts of the country. The American-trained security forces of Afghanistan lack the guts and the capacity to skilfully outsmart and dwarf the well-trained Taliban.

   The increasing presence of both the Taliban and Daesh in Afghanistan has raised important questions on the expected efficacy of the unity government. Apart from concluding a peace deal with the Hezb-e-Islami, the Afghan government has utterly failed to ensure foolproof protection of the life and property of Afghans from the intermittent attacks of Daesh and the Taliban.

   Both the feuding leaders, President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, have not concentrated their efforts on improving the declining capacity and capability of the country’s security forces so that they can inhibit Daesh from taking menacing roots in the country.

   The unity government should not celebrate its May 18 peace deal with the Hezb-e-Islami of the Hekmatyar group. The latter has pledged to abide by the constitution of Afghanistan by shunning all acts of terror. For its part, the Afghan government has decided to release the prisoners of the group and bestowing them with an amnesty.

   When hardened terrorists and militants become impotent due to certain reasons, they tend to conclude timely peace with governments. The Hekmatyar group too will heavily rely on the peace deal to reinvigorate its position and resurface with more deadly power and tactics to battle the crisis-ridden unity government, thus complicating the process of relative serenity in Afghanistan.

  Long-lasting peace in Afghanistan is impeded by some markedly entrenched issues existing in the country and in the politics of the region. The conspicuous divergences within the fragile unitary government are obvious impediments to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Both the leaders have a hankering for doling out significant government positions to their favourites and courtiers rather than competent professionals.

   In February this year, both these top leaders issued letters to appoint the mayor of the strategically important Helmand province. Intriguingly, they proposed two different personalities to the said post. Such obtrusive schism in a hand-picked government has perpetuated obstructive bad governance, thereby stymieing genuine peace in the country.

  Apart from that, some very important security departments and agencies are being haphazardly managed by acting heads due to political squabbling between the president and the chief executive. The Ministry of Defence and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) are being run by politicised and incompetent acting heads. The rampant corruption and unbridled nepotism of the incumbent government are chiefly responsible for the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of both the departments.

   Arguably, Indian strategic and military analysts have made significant inroads into these pivotal security quarters. Therefore, under India’s implicit sway of, Afghanistan’s NDS has provided safe shelters to fugitive Pakistan terrorists who escaped to Afghanistan from the efficacious Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

  More importantly, the questionable role of the Americans in terms of Afghanistan’s reconciliation has hampered meaningful peace in the war-stricken country. After five hectic and concerted efforts under the QCG, the recalcitrant Taliban formally and seriously agreed to peace talks at Murree. At that critical juncture, the US blatantly droned Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in Balochistan. Mansour’s killing not only foundered the ongoing peace negotiations, it also cast a death blow to the fate of the QCG.

   The Obama administration unconvincingly justified Mansour’s death by saying he was vehemently opposed to peace talks. But, the deceased Taliban leader had issued orders in the name of Mullah Omar in favour of negotiations.

   The US is not predisposed towards a final solution to the lingering security quandary of Afghanistan aimed to maximise its long-term regional strategic and economic interests. Under the controversial Bilateral Security Agreement, American troops have been conducting disruptive raids and detaining Afghans on clumsy grounds. Presumably, such unbridled policing authority at the disposal of the American forces is fomenting more insurgency and militancy in the country.

   Needless to say, the US wishes to build permanent military bases in Afghanistan – to watch Pakistan’s nuclear programme and hinder China from dominating Afghanistan’s security and economy. Such growing American presence in Afghanistan will prove a straitjacket for peace talks with the resurgent Taliban, who want Uncle Sam to leave their country before any serious talks.

   The growing Indian role in Afghanistan has also led to some formidable bottlenecks for Afghan peace and security. Through a plethora of diplomatic missions on Afghan soil, Indian agencies are immersed in training Baloch insurgents, supporting fugitive leaders of the TTP and orchestrating militant attacks inside Pakistan. Such activities are indirectly supporting the Afghan Taliban who have intricate links with their Pakistani counterparts.

  This has compelled Pakistan to follow a policy of ‘strategic depth’ towards India in Afghanistan. Consequently, there is a menacing cold war between both the two South Asian nuclear powers inside Afghanistan. The by-product of such detrimental competition will be further insecurity and instability in Afghanistan in the foreseeable future.

  Peace is imperative in Afghanistan at any costs because the country is also host to recruiters of regional terrorism and militancy. For this, the unity government should bridge its differences on core national matters; the US should announce an early drawdown; India and Pakistan should converge their interests in Afghanistan and the international community should earnestly come forward to stabilise Afghanistan democratically, make it powerful militarily and prosperous on the economic front.

The writer is editor of The Asia Watch.

The article  was originally appeared in The News on August 03, 2016.

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