With the Taliban and ISIS seizing control over key areas, is Afghanistan heading toward an unending chaos.
By Asian Review Staff
Afghan children playing with a tank destroyed outside Kabul.
In the recently concluded gruesome raid on
the Afghan Army base on April 21, Taliban purported to have killed over 140
soldiers, mostly un-armed. The attack was undertaken when the soldiers were
observing Friday prayers at the Camp Shaheen near Mazar-e Sharif. In an
official statement by Gen John Nicholson, Commander of NATO Resolute Support
Mission, stated ‘the attack on the 209th Corps shows the barbaric
nature of the Taliban’. It comes as a
setback for the Afghan government and its coalition that has previously made significant
efforts to initiate peace talks with the Taliban in Doha. Alongside, in the
aftermath of the U.S strike of MOAB (GBU-43/B) in Afghanistan, slated to have
killed over 95 militants, this strikes comes as a brutal rebuttal. According to
the latest quarterly report of the special inspector general for Afghanistan
reconstruction, between January 1 and November 12 last years, Afghan national
security forces has lost almost 6.785 soldier to the ongoing conflict. As the
most recent US military estimates states, there are between 600 and 800 ISIS-K
fighters in Afghanistan, concentrated mostly in the Southern province of
Reiterating Trump’s commitment to
eradicating ISIS safe havens in Afghanistan, the US NSA McMaster on his first
visit to Afghanistan stated
‘As a result of joint Afghan and international forces efforts, no safe havens
will be left for terrorists in Afghanistan’.
The history of fighting between the Taliban
and government forces in Afghanistan escalated majorly in 2015, with the
Taliban seizing control over key areas such as Kunduz. In this scenario, the
United Nations claimed almost half of the country’s province to be at high or
extreme risk. Particularly after the death of Mullah Omar, the Taliban Chief,
and perceptible signals of a staggered Taliban, it was impossible to attribute
firm responsibility for many acts of violence. Alongside, this region also
witnessed a profound rise in terror activities by the Islamic state.
In the subsequent years, the government
efforts to tackle increasing militancy in the region has ratcheted up. The
Afghan government was pushed to strong arm its military to tackle the ‘threats’
posed by the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS affiliates by a UNSC resolution. In a recent
meeting, this resolution has been extended until 17 March 2018. The UNSC on
extending the deadline for the resolution expressed serious concerns over the
escalating presence of Islamic State in Afghanistan.
As progress in the multilateral front to
conjure up support against ISIS was witnessed in the Moscow led multilateral
talks in February, the focus was drifted on targeting the Islamic state, as the
bigger evil. The participant countries including China, Pakistan, Russia, Iran,
except Afghanistan and India expressed strong will in confronting the IS first.
The latter two however, were inclined on addressing emerging security threats
from Taliban in the region. In these multilateral talks, United States was
In the present scenario, the peace talks
with Taliban from Russia as well as Afghanistan seems to have defeated its
purpose entirely. Further, proving right India’s wariness over any sort of
negotiation or accommodation of the Taliban demands in fighting with the ISIS.
As it seems, the Taliban emerges as the ‘bigger evil’ in the Afghan conflict that
multiple stakeholders need to cobble up their strength to hurl a strong fight
Afghanistan, over the years has evolved as
a strategic hub that the regional players as well global actors including
United States and Russia have found improbable to detach their attention from.
As for India, a strong state in Afghanistan will serve to hold against the
incessant sponsorship of terror activities by Pakistan, while the latter has
opted for a client government in Kabul that serves its interest well. Islamabad
has displayed greater worry for a rising Pashtun nationalism that could be
detrimental to its interest invoking tension in the western areas. Precisely
for this reason, Pakistan has aspired to dominate Afghanistan through
stratagems like the ‘Strategic Depth’ since late 1970s.
On the other hand, United States has opted
for a stable state however ironically the core reason for greater military
inflation goes down to US and China’s financial and military aid to Taliban in
the past decades. Making a revival to the war scenes, Russia aims to surge
ahead as a major stakeholder in Afghanistan, amongst other thing, to bolster
its strategic and politics aims. In the face of massive drawdown of its
strength in the international arena, for Russia a safe bet to assert its
diplomatic and to an extent military might come through Afghanistan. Iran,
while battling with larger problems in its domestic arena, aims to see a stable
Afghanistan and prevent to the best possible extent anti-Shia activity. Lastly, China with multifold aims aspires for security as well as
an elevated status in the regional domain vis-à-vis India, through its
continued engagement in the affairs of Afghanistan.
Asserting their individual aims as well as
explicitly making efforts to enhance peacebuilding efforts, these actors have
been indulged in the Afghan conflict scenario for an extensively long period.
Alongside, an ongoing UN Peacekeeping mission has erected stronger grounds for
its sustenance at least for a couple of more years, in Afghanistan. While much
has been talked about and bolder actions have been charted out for Afghanistan,
an inclusive conflict resolution has to build upon adherence to the universal
laws of human rights as well as allow pertinent space for a ‘Afghan led and
Afghan owned’ model of governance in the domestic ambit.
The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not the Asia Council.