The Agreement signed in Doha on 29 February 2020 between USA and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, more known around globally as Taliban, with much fanfare has failed to deliver any semblance of peace in Afghanistan.
By Brig N K Bhatia
While the world grapples with the Coronavirus epidemic, Afghanistan and its people are struggling to make headway in over a month old “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”. The Agreement signed in Doha on 29 February 2020 between USA and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, more known around globally as Taliban, with much fanfare has failed to deliver any semblance of peace in Afghanistan.
On the contrary the scale of violence during March 2020 has seen a sharp upward trend of violence and attacks across Afghanistan. As per data accessed from the South Asia Terrorism Portal, there were 99 incidents of killings resulting in the death of 78 civilians and 124 members of Afghan security forces. On the terrorist side the number of killed was pegged at 272. There were targeted attacks on minorities, more prominently on the Sikh Gurudwara resulting in the massacre of 27 worshipers.
The attack claimed by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) was traced back to AslamFarooqi who owes his origins to Lashkar-e Toiba and claims to be an emir of Islamic State. He was arrested along with 19 others after a near ten-day follow up by Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS). This new connection between the ISKP and established protégés of Pakistan ISI portends to a bigger conspiracy that is being unleashed upon the Afghan people by Pakistan backed masterminds.
The ability of the Taliban to carry out attacks at will has not diminished over the last two decades. They continue to draw support and guidance from across the southern border. The attack on Sikh Gurudwara, claimed by ISKP, would therefore not have been possible without the approval of Taliban. The immediate denial by Taliban to the killings and acceptance by ISKP of the attack in Gurudwara was a clear giveaway to the collusion between two terrorist organisations and clearly aimed at absolving Taliban of any terrorist activity post-signing of the peace agreement.
Pakistan has never shied away from using its terrorist proxies to send across a message that it considers Afghanistan as its backyard and will continue to use these outfits to further its interests, though howsoever misplaced.
Another significant action on part of Taliban has been its silence on the Spring Offensive that it unleashed repeatedly every year to show its relevance and challenge the authority of legitimate government. By remaining quiet, it has tried to show that it is committed to the peace deal but its attacks on government forces have not diminished.
It would be worth considering if the United States has been entrapped in an Agreement with an uncompromising entity over which it has no control.
The Taliban have so far refused to cede any quarter to the Afghan government and refused to engage in any dialogue with it. A 21 member delegation constituted to carry forward the talks with approval of two opposing factions have not met any success to break the ice with the Taliban as it has refused to negotiate with them saying that they do not conform to their principals.
The attacks on Afghan Security forces have increased and the Taliban continues to consolidate its position across the country fully aware of the fractured political dispensation in control in Kabul.
The critical question thus remains whether the Doha Peace Agreement will lead to Afghan peace or more instability in the region.
At the outset, the Agreement seems flawed and based on mutual distrust between the two signing parties. The Agreement repeatedly mention the Taliban as “The Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan” and emphasis that the United States does not recognise the entity. This fact in itself shows the hollowness of the Agreement and its dubious nature.
The Agreement calls for a commitment from Taliban”to prevent any group or individual, including al-Qa’ida, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies”. In nutshell, the United States has secured for itself and its allies security from the Taliban and its affiliates from attacks and left Afghans to the mercy of an unrelenting entity whose sole aim is to establish a regressive Islamic state based on their interpretation of religion.
From US perspective an exit from Afghanistan is the outcome of an intervention where its goals have been partially met and any further presence could not be unending and a drain on its resources. But leaving Afghans to the mercy of same forces that it had intervened to protect from remains baffling.
The current government, howsoever fragile and fractured is legally accepted. Taliban refuses to accept the same and refuses to engage with it. Its ultimate goal is political power. In all probability, it is unlikely to change the political status quo in the near term and wait for the US and allied forces by next year to start a battle for political control. In the interim, it will continue to support its affiliates to carry out targeted killings of minorities and other high profile assets in urban areas. Simultaneously, it will continue to consolidate its position by a show of strength by attacking government forces and occupying territory in the countryside.
The future for Afghanistan, therefore, remains bleak with violence unlikely to abate anytime soon.
(The author is Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal.)