Treading the path in war-torn Afghanistan

By: Salim Bokhari      Published: 08:32 AM, 11 Aug, 2021
Treading the path in war-torn Afghanistan
An army soldier patrols as stranded people wait for the reopening of the Chaman border crossing point.–AFP

The prevailing situation in civil war-ravaged Afghanistan is highly capricious and needs sensitive handling by all the stakeholders. Taliban’s dream of capturing Kabul is far from being translated into reality since they are facing the resistance of different kinds including the US plane ariel bombing and Afghan army operations. The nature of a battle being fought between the Taliban and Ashraf Ghani’s regime is far from a conventional wargame.

Taliban forces are achieving one victory after another and appear to be in a mood to capture one province after another. Kunduz battle had been the fiercest of all yet in the spate of rampage by the Taliban, it resulted in capturing of more than three capital cities including Sari-Pul and Taliqan besides Kunduz while pressure on five more major cities is rising.

Pakistan is monitoring the situation very carefully and the military top-brass is fully conscious that any wrong move by any of the main stakeholders would explode the situation for the worse. The Foreign Office has already stated Islamabad’s csategorical view that we have no favourites in Afghanistan.

According to diplomatic sources, countries in the region including China, Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Pakistan are reacting to the situation keeping in mind their own interests. On the other hand, India, which does not share its border with Afghanistan, is providing funds and arms to anti-Pakistan terrorist groups to achieve the objective of bleeding its neighbouring arch-rival.

According to these sources, only a swift initiative could save Afghanistan from this destructive violence and reduce the suffering of its people in form of cold-blooded murder, looting, and arson. Now the question is whether such an initiative would come from within Afghanistan i.e. the warring factions, from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) which is debating the devastative situation in and around Kabul, or from the regional states?

No immediate answer is available yet. The United States has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan and yet, maintaining its air superiority by either operating from its bases in Qatar or the three remaining airbases inside the war-torn country that it is still maintaining. The manner in which the United States decided to withdraw its troop was sudden and without taking Ashraf Ghani's regime on board. Pakistan, as an old-time ally, was also kept in dark.

Not only this,  Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered Russian airbases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the American Air Force for carrying out operations inside Afghanistan, surprising many stakeholders in Afghanistan.

On part of the UN Security Council, its members have issued a call for stopping the violence claiming human lives and damaging whatever the properties have left. This situation has forced a large number of Afghan people to flee their country to adjoining countries.

Due to the lack of action from the UNSC, the United States, or the regional countries, there is a strong possibility that this conflict will spill over the Afghanistan border spinning it out of anyone’s control.

Pakistan, on its part, has since fenced its border, on the advice of the military leadership, to stop the likely heavy inflow of Afghan refugees as a result of offensives being launched by Taliban forces like in the past that resulted in the influx of four million Afghan refugees, the burden Islamabad is still carrying.

The fencing of the Pak-Afghan border that has been completed 98 per cent has already started showing positive results forcing militants and terrorist groups to stay away from Pakistani soil. In addition to this, all the entry points have also been closed as a result of recent clashes among warring factions. Any Afghan who desires to enter Pakistan through entry points must possess legal documents including identification and a valid passport or permit.

The problem is that concerned parties including the Taliban and the Ashraf Ghani regime are not honouring their commitments made at the Doha intra-Afghan dialogue. The basic understanding given by the Taliban was that they would neither attack nor capture any provincial capital in Afghanistan which has since been violated after capturing Kunduz, Sari-Pul, and Taliqan.

The victories of the Taliban forces inside Afghanistan are undeniable but the images coming from there in form of videos, pictures, and reports do not depict the correct scenario. An expert on Afghan conflict confided to this correspondent: “These are either fake videos or old-ones and are being projected to malign Taliban fighters on the social media and such national media channels that are under the influence of the United States”.

A former senior Pakistan military commander when asked to comment on the current approach of the Afghan Taliban leadership categorically stated that they have learned their lessons from history and the prevailing situation in Afghanistan, and have amended their vision as both liberal and moderate people.

“They have sent a clear message to the people that they are not against female education and fundamental rights of women as provided by Islam. They have sent a similar peace message to the business community to fearlessly continue their respective businesses. They also believe in access to information and freedom of expression”, the commander added.

However, the commander was of the view that the stakeholders in this region must act with a greater sense of urgency to ensure an end to conflict in Afghanistan before it devastates the peace in the region and the world at large. 

It may be mentioned here that despite having withdrawn its forces along with the NATO troops, the US cannot stay unconcerned with the fast-changing situation in Afghanistan. The regional states in this part of the world must understand that the United States would never simply pack up and give up on Afghanistan.

Therefore, a country like Pakistan should always bear in mind that the US would maintain its status as a ‘Thanedar’. We would have to accept such a role because we are dependent on the US Administration if we need to seek loans from the International Monitory Fund, the World Bank or wish that Pakistan’s name should be removed from the Grey List of FATF. 

We made mistakes in the past and we must learn our lessons. Our past rulers had placed all eggs into the US basket and we should not repeat the similar mistake by shifting those eggs to yet another basket.

And if we wish to say goodbye to the United States that would be possible only if we stand on our feet by increasing our exports on the basis of expanding our industrial base.