By Dr Raja Muhammad Khan 

According to New York Times, “Taliban insurgents dealt a serious blow to one of the Afghan Army’s most highly regarded units on Friday (April 5, 2013), killing 13 soldiers and overrunning their remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan.”  This attack was on the Third Battalion of the Second Brigade, which was rated by US commanders as the only a handful of Afghan Army battalions which can operate independently; indeed the best trained and equipped with most sophisticated weapons and equipment. This and many other such like attacks by Taliban have created alarms, whether Afghan Security Forces, would be able to control the Afghanistan in the post 2014 scenario. It is worth mentioning that, over 80% security responsibilities have already been transferred to Afghan Security Forces and remaining 20% responsibilities are going to be transferred to them in next few months.

As per the ISAF spokesperson, Colonel Thomas, “We know the enemy’s going to come out hard this summer, so the numbers are going to go up.” Indeed, as per Afghan Government in 2012, only, Afghan army lost 1000 soldiers and Afghan police lost 1800 men. Afghan Army spokesperson Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, told NATO Headquarters that, “110 soldiers and 200 policemen were dying each month.”  In the last over, 11 years of military engagement in Afghanistan, United States and its allies have lost over 3100 soldiers besides over 18000 wounded. The number of Afghan civilian who lost their lives in the post US invasion is still unsure.  Financially,  US alone has expended over $527 billion,  besides, the allies have spent $73 billion as aid to Afghanistan, without bringing any positive change in the lives of Afghan masses.

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With all these realities, has United States and its allies attained the strategic objectives of the war. More than this had this super power brought any positive change in the lives of Afghan people, as portrayed initially and now claimed. With the available facts and figures, there is a broad consensus that, “After 12 years of bloody conflict in Afghanistan, US could not attained its objectives.”  Whereas, Al-Qaeda might have scattered world over, the Taliban has become stronger and active as compared to 2002-2005. It is a considered view that, Afghan Security Forces are unlikely to sustain the Taliban offensive in the post 2014 scenario, after US drawdown.

The envisaged situation would not be very different from the post Soviet withdrawal; a factional fighting and civil war for the racing to take control of Kabul. This would mean that all that has occurred and invested in the last over twelve years have gone waste. As per the Telegraph article of April 11, 2013, the writer Con Coughlin writes, “Britain’s Afghan war is over – but there is still no sign of peace.” The paper foresees that unless a deal is brokered between Taliban and Hamid Karazai, “there may well be another civil war.” Should this be allowed to happen once again; as a destiny of the Afghan people, who suffered ever since 1979, Soviet invasion, indeed, in the clash of major powers over their strategic interests.

[box] The fragmented and isolated dialogue process-taking place between United States and Taliban has not yielded any promising outcome as yet. A similar exercise between Afghan incumbent Government and some Taliban groups could not made headway, despite Karazai’s visit to Qatar, where there is Taliban office established under the host Government. Had there been any such breakthrough, Taliban could have restrained their offensive, at least against own fellow citizens and so could have been done by Afghan security forces. The emerging trends are contrary to reach a consensus situation. [/box]

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The problems perhaps lie in the perception and mindset of all those involved in this complex process. Rather going for a win-win situation, all parties to the problem, desire to have a lion’s share from these negotiations. Each one of them wants to be at the victory stand all alone. United States wants to talk to the Taliban from the standpoint of a victorious power, projecting them (Taliban) as the defeated party of the conflict. The demand and perception is against the ground realities and unacceptable to Taliban. Then there is a misconstrued contemplation of good and bad Taliban in the minds of US strategists. Whereas the fact is that, Taliban have presented them as a united force, without surrendering to US military might in last over eleven years.

In the negotiation process, President Hamid Karazai wants to be at driving seat. Owing to his growing differences with US, he wants negotiations between Afghan Government and the Taliban without involvement of any third party, especially United States. Indeed, Karazai wants to secure the future for himself and his party. Though he cannot contest election for the third time, yet, desires guarantees from the Taliban for his nominee/appointee in the 2014 elections of Afghanistan. He too wants Taliban to talk to them within the ambit of Afghan Constitution. He too wants Taliban to talk to him from the position of weakness; both conditions are unacceptable to Taliban. On their part, Taliban wants complete pull out of foreign forces and a new set up where they have the domination. After all, they claim to defeat the super power and its coalition partners besides, the incumbent Afghan Administration.

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The way forward of this complex proposition seems to be a bit complicated, as none of the party accepts for itself the position of a runner-up. The deadlock and mutual antagonism is not making headway. The status quo indicates a perilous scenario in the making.  Should the country pushed to experience another bloody civil war, the international community and Afghan neighbours will have to pay a heavy price. Then what about the 30 million Afghan masses, whose future is always decided by few none representatives, mostly away from their homeland.

Under such a situation, it is extremely essential that a positive breakthrough is achieved through a win-win situation. A peaceful and all-inclusive solution of Afghanistan, keeping the interests of Afghan masses at the centre stage would be a durable solution to the problem. Therefore, the peace process in Afghanistan should be Afghan led and Afghan owned, rather dictated from elsewhere.

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