Overview of fluctuating situation in Afghanistan
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Haqqani Network (HN) under Sirajuddin Haqqani based in North Waziristan (NW) was declared the most dangerous outfit when it hit military targets in Kabul several times with impunity on September 13, 2011. Murder of Burhanuddin Rabbani on September 20, 2011 blocked the peace effort. These attacks blew up the story spun by ISAF media team that lot of progress had been made on the military front. Till attacks in Kabul, secret efforts with the help of ISI were underway to win over Haqqanis. After the attacks, they fell from grace and were named as HN. Thereon, HN became the chief target of USA and is on its hit list. All attacks in and around Kabul in 2012 including the one on 22 June were also pasted on HN. Pakistan is under intense US pressure since early 2010 and has been consistently asked to launch a major operation in NW to eliminate safe havens of HN. Pakistan which has been submissively obeying the dictates of Washington since September 2001 resisted this demand because of its socio-politico-economic-
military compulsions and discriminatory attitude of the US officials.
Pak military knows that America’s demand is not genuine but based on ill-intentions to further undermine its security situation. The US has not been able to explain as to why it is pushing Pakistan to take on HN and non-Taliban groups headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir when its political wing has been desperately trying to negotiate a peace deal with Afghan Taliban. It has not declared HN as an international terror group since it wants to keep a window open to bring it on its side and thus divide Taliban movement. It will keep trying to draw a wedge between and Haqqanis and Mulla Omar.
If Haqqanis were non-Afghans and attacking targets in Afghanistan, or they were attacking homeland of USA, or were involved in 9/11, they could be held accountable. Realities are quite the opposite. Haqqanis are pure blooded Afghans representing 42% of Pakhtun population. They had played a lead role in freeing Afghanistan from Soviet occupation and had remained in very good books of USA. They are now fighting a freedom war to liberate their country from foreign occupation, which has become the longest. One of the reasons why HN has become a monstrosity for USA is that it is advantageously placed in eastern Afghanistan to takeover Kabul once the ISAF departs. It has shown its skill and prowess in entering and striking sensitive targets in Kabul repeatedly.
Haqqanis or any other Afghan national had no connection with 9/11 attacks. In fact, majority of Afghans don’t even know if 9/11 occurred. Even then, the whole wrath of the US and its allies fell upon the Afghan Pakhtuns and later on the Pakhtuns in FATA. 42 million Pakhtuns in Af-Pak region have suffered the most in the war on terror and are still suffering because of drones. Haqqanis have their roots in NW while 17 million Afghan Pakhtuns are ethnically and historically linked with 25 million Pakhtuns in Pakistan. Their antagonism against USA and their collaborators in Afghanistan should therefore be seen in that context.
Under the circumstances, it is the moral right of every patriotic Afghan to resist the occupiers and push them out. They have the right to use force since massive force has been and is being employed against them. While the US led ISAF has no moral or legal justification to stay in Afghanistan and kill the locals, it is the right of the Afghans to attack occupiers who profess that use of force is the only solution to restore peace in Afghanistan. It is not so easy for few thousand ill-equipped Afghans to strike back the intruders who possess most advanced weapons systems and technology and have taken extra ordinary measures to keep themselves safe and secure. IEDs or suicide jackets employed by Taliban are a poor man’s weapon as against drones, jet fighters, gunship helicopters. The hpw occupying force is chasing the militants like hungry wolves round the clock and is using all sorts of methods to kill them. If both sides are fighting and killing each other, under what rules one side is called terrorists and why should the occupiers complain that they are attacked? As long as foreign troops remain in illegal occupation of Afghanistan and use aggressive means to subdue the locals, resistance will continue.
As far as Karzai regime and Afghan national security forces propped up by USA are concerned, each one of them extending support to the aggressors is a collaborator and falls in the category of a traitor. Whereas the Taliban had wrested power in 1996 without outside assistance, Northern Alliance forces ousted the Taliban with the help of outsiders and are still in power because of presence of foreign troops. Armies of 48 countries barged into Afghanistan on flimsy grounds and even after achieving their so-called objective of killing Osama bin Laden and killing/arresting majority of al-Qaida leaders, they are still there and want to stay on till at least 2024. The US military still not getting reconciled that the initiative has been wrested by the Taliban and victory is now a pipedream is the architect of the idea of stay behind force and retention of five military bases.
Having destroyed the country and killed tens of thousands of Afghans in the 11-year war, the Americans now want the Taliban to end the war on their terms. There is no earthly reason for the US to impose western model democracy upon deeply conservative and tribal society simply because a small minority of secular Afghans has accepted it. Why should the American military foolishly expect the winning Taliban to lay down their arms when they know their history?
Doha initiative for all practical purposes has fizzled out because of the US inability to stand to its commitment of releasing five Taliban leaders languishing in Gitmo since 2002. The US wanted the Taliban to first announce their agreement to hold negotiations with Afghan regime and also to denounce violence before the release of wanted prisoners. Apart from Republicans opposition and Karzai’s unhappiness over secret parleys between the US and Taliban, the US Congress was another obstacle which wasn’t in favor of release of prisoners.
Incident of burning of copies of holy Quran, night raids by US kill teams coupled with inking of strategic US-Afghan agreement and heart burning among younger Taliban over parleys with USA were other reasons for the Taliban leadership changing its mind to open a political office in Doha. Offer of safe passage for Taliban leaders willing to join the reconciliation effort and de-listing them from the UN terrorists list has been rejected by the Taliban saying it is yet another ploy to divide Taliban. Karzai too is resentful of collateral damage caused to non-combative Afghans and asked NATO to stay away from villages. He has made another attempt to woo Mullah Omar by offering him a political office and political party to contest December 2014 presidential election and 2015 parliamentary elections. His and his regime’s future is bleak because of massive corruption in government departments and poor governance of rulers.
Although the ANA has started taking over provinces from ISAF and is expected to complete the process by mid 2013, however, seeing the impunity with which the Taliban are striking targets all over the country including northern provinces, Karzai is unsure whether ANA will be able to tackle Taliban independently. To keep ANSF operationally fit and to continue with development works, he had asked for $10 billion a year at the Bonn Conference but in the Chicago conference only $4.1 billion was promised. Although Donors Conference in Tokyo pledged $16 billion for economic development, the donors are reluctant to release the amount because of corrupt practices and unpopularity of Kabul regime as well as the overall negative fallout of 2008 global recession. Kabul and Washington should thank their stars that Pakistan reopened NATO supply lines otherwise the US endgame plan would have crumbled.