Will there be War Forever in the Heart of Asia?

With the recent breaking-off of peace talks between the US and Taliban, President Trump hastening the troops withdrawal process, the ground realities is likely to worsen as Afghan forces are not prepared to end the war.

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President Trump & Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Going for peace talks with Taliban, bypassing Afghanistan’s democratically elected government was not quite in line with the democratic values for which three US presidents have carried on the war in Afghanistan. Days before Afghanistan presidential elections to be held on 28 September, the country is witnessing surged insurgency, series of terror attacks and heavy civilian death toll instead of rallying up for the democratic process.

What does this imply for Afghanistan?

If the US and NATO troops leave afghan soil, it is quite possible that the Taliban will take over Kabul within month(s) and restore their control as was back in 1996 before US army dismantled their rule in 2001 in the wake of 9/11 attacks. It is also possible that Trump will have to send back reinforcements to Afghanistan as President Obama had to reinstate troops in Iraq to fight ISIS, after he pulled them out in 2011. But, till then, a lot of ground will be lost to Taliban again. Further, it must be emphasized upon that it is not just Taliban but the Al-Qaeda, Haqqani network and the ISIS are all working together against democratic forces. By all equations, Afghans will continue to suffer as they have been since 1978.

Was there a chance of peace with Trump at helms of state?

No, not really! Trump’s sudden cancellation of talks following the killing of a US soldier showed nothing but his mercurial temperament and inability to handle an issue as sensitive as Afghanistan. For the sake of data, he must know that since 2001, around 2,400 American soldiers have been killed and more than 20,000 injured.

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A UN report says, in just first six months of this year, 3,812 civilians have been killed or injured, including 1,207 children. The insurgency has exacerbated following the breakdown of peace talks.

However, it is not Trump to be blamed. During the talks, on the question of comprehensive ceasefire, Taliban had been insisting on ceasefire not until the complete withdrawal of soldiers, which itself reflects Taliban’s agenda. Further, on the question of intra-Afghan talks, the Taliban leaders initially refused to negotiate with Afghanistan government but they reached a deal with US anyways; Taliban don’t recognize the current government set up there. Moreover, during the entire peace talks, Taliban had carried out attacks and targeted civilians. Even the 2012 peace talks also met the same conclusion.

What should the world leaders do to bring peace to Afghanistan?

As the United Nations General Assembly is meeting from 17–30 September, it is a fortunate timing, when all the world leaders will meet at the UN to discuss issues. Here, the world leaders should reaffirm their support to Afghanistan and the peace process. The leaders need to agree upon the possibility that the US and NATO’s pulling out will aggravate the situation not just in Afghanistan but will also have a snow-ball effect in the whole of South-Asian region. The US instead of focusing on Iran to wage a new war on them, should try to clear the mess created here. It should also try to squeeze the funds that these fundamentalist groups receive from other Muslim countries, a few of which are strong US allies. It is also imperative of US to take stern measures against Pakistan as it has been the breeder and sheltering ground of terrorist groups wreaking havoc throughout the world. The European nations and NATO members should lend support to such measures as they have been on the receiving end of terror attacks.

Civilian war casualties Photo credit: ProPublica

Russia has its share of historical responsibilities in helping Afghanistan brokering peace; China have heavy investments in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran; all this markets cannot be used until the conditions are fragile on ground.

Marking a change in its’ pattern, the US is now engaging Pakistan against its old stand of isolating it in dealing with the issue; China and Russia have welcomed the move. Pakistan’s role stands central for bringing stability in Afghanistan, with recent strict steps to cut down US aid to Pakistan and supporting India’s move on Kashmir; Imran khan is in a predicament to deal with the issues. It is here that leaders from international community should mount pressure on Pakistan to fall in line and act as a nation and not a training institute for terror groups.

India’s role in the peace process and development in Afghanistan

India has invested its fair share in Afghanistan, the Salma dam, MIG choppers, the new Afghanistan Parliament complex and extending a development aid of $58 million in August this year. It must also understand of the fact that India has mostly contributed as a soft power.

From the last years of Obama administration, there has been a greater push to India for its proactive role there. Considering India’s historical and cultural closeness with his nation and recent economic investments in the region, it is imperative to rise to this occasion and assert herself as a regional superpower. India can immensely help Afghanistan by letting them use Chabahar port for trade as they are dependent on Pakistan’s Gwadar port.

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In spite of India’s developmental efforts here, a number of terror attacks have been directed towards Indian diplomats, and evidences show they were all motivated by Pakistan’s ISI.

So, India must be wary of the moves that Islamabad is trying to make through its’ proxy agents, which it has at its disposal, especially after New Delhi abrogated provisions of Article 370, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir. With Pakistan’s inability to deal with Kashmir, Imran khan in all possibility will bring the issue at his meeting with US President Trump and at UNGA meeting. It must be prerogative of Mr Modi to use his bonhomie with Trump and diplomatic wit to ask Washington to pull the chains on Islamabad to wipe-out the terrorist safe havens and avoid an early troop pull-out, assuring Trump of proactive Indian efforts in Afghanistan. New Delhi can also garner support for Kabul at regional platforms like SAARC and help it in getting assistance from BRICS Bank, ADB or similar lending organizations.

It has been almost twenty years of bloodshed yet the Taliban has not been defeated nor the international community been able to maintain peace. Though Taliban is part of Afghan population, their way of life can only bring more suffering to the Afghan people. Afghanistan has already been termed as ‘soviet’s Vietnam’, Washington has been at the receiving end both in foreign land and at home too, thus it becomes more pertinent for super powers to not let undemocratic forces have the final word and the US must not leave with a backdoor deal but with the promised peace to the people of Afghanistan.