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Attack in Kabul

January 25, 2018

Last week, Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Gani admitted the limitations of his government by saying that the Afghan army wouldn’t last more than six months without the help of the US. On Sunday when Taliban fighters attacked on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, it only but confirmed the belief that the Afghan government is nowhere closer to defeating Taliban. At least 22 people, many of whom were foreigners and several others injured in the attack believed to have been carried out by the Taliban militants. The attack comes only a week after a security alert was issued the US saying militants might target hotels. Six Taliban militants, despite high security, raided the hotel and laid siege to it for 12 hours. Though all six gunmen were eventually killed by Afghan and Norwegian forces but it demonstrated the fact that Taliban militants have the ability to hit anywhere and everywhere at their will, and Afghan government can do little to rout Taliban militarily. If media reports are to be believed Taliban has strengthened its position in Afghanistan quite strongly over the past two years. America is reportedly sending 1000 more troops to the war-torn country to help Ashraf Gani government in Kabul. But as the things go, it is most unlikely to make any effect on ground situation. Taliban is a force to reckon with. It has many advantages to its favour. It is local force with local support. Afghans have a history of dislike for foreigners. Even those Afghans who do not subscribe to Taliban version of religion and politics would like to support it when it comes to foreign powers. This is increasing unveiling the complexity of war in Afghanistan and it severely calls into question both US strategy and the Afghan government’s capabilities. There appear three principal actors in the theatre of Afghanistan war. On one side, it is Taliban and ISIS, which are believed to be responsible for the devastating attacks. Meanwhile, under the new loose rules of engagement, the US forces too have unleashed a bloody campaign of aerial bombing and drone strikes. It is almost three months since US President Donald Trump unveiled a new American strategy in Afghanistan. His announced intention was to give military commanders more flexibility, while increasing troop numbers and leaving the US presence open-ended. Since then there has been 68 percent increase, as media reports say, in the average number of missions it flies in support of Afghan forces each month. President Trump has authorized the deployment of as many as 3,800 additional U.S. troops, on top of 11,000 already in Afghanistan, to bolster the training and equipping of the struggling Afghan forces. The US is also dropping significantly more munitions as part of those missions: an average of 360 a month versus only 11 a month last year. Though the strikes are meant to target Taliban fighters but civilians are dying more frequently. A report released recently by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 95 civilian deaths and 137 wounded from airstrikes during the first six months of theyear that passed. Taliban, for their part, have carried out 1,000 strikes in 2017, compared to 1,600 for all of 2016. Lately there has been a noticeable increase in Taliban attacks around the country. Instead of raiding towns and cities, the Taliban has resorted to suicide bombing and more devastating small raids. That has made America quite desperate. The US President Donald Trump is now putting pressure on Pakistan to fight his war in Kabul. He has stopped all the military aid to Pakistan as a tactics to and conditioned its release only after Pakistan “does more”. Trump is also seeking more role for India in Afghanistan, something unacceptable to Pakistan. Pakistan, however, has refused to budge under US pressure and, instead, took some counter-measures to offset the US pressure. Pakistan pleads for negotiated settlement of the issue and insists on holding dialogue with Taliban, which virtually controls almost half of Afghanistan. It is no more a secret that besides Pakistan, Iran and Russia too are supporting Taliban for geopolitical reasons. Even China, of late, is taking interest in Afghanistan. For China’s growing influence in the region, China would not like America-influenced Afghanistan in the region. All this makes clear that peace in Afghanistan could be a distant dream if imposed through military means. Afghanistan can only begin to be peaceful through negotiations between the government and the Afghan Taliban. The role of Pakistan is crucial to the success of talks. For its geographical and political proximity with Afghanistan and the influence Islamabad yield on certain rebel groups, more particularly, Taliban, Pakistan should take a proactive role. The US should understand the importance of Pakistan and instead of warning and threatening; Donald Trump should give full cooperation to Islamabad for making peace a reality in Afghanistan.

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