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Kabul attacked again

There seems no end to war in Afghanistan. The deadly attack on Sunday that left around 100 persons dead and many more wounded in Kabul underlines that the situation in Afghanistan is moving from bad to worse. A suicide bomber drove an ambulance to get through a security checkpoint in Kabul, and then detonated his explosives at a second checkpoint, near a locality where foreign embassies and government buildings are situated. This is fourth attack in a week. The latest attack is significant, though condemnable in all sense of term, as it took place in the heart of the country’s capital city where security measures are in place more than anywhere else. It has been a month of relentless attacks in Afghanistan, with the Taliban and the Islamic State affiliate making alternate claims of responsibility, shattering the usually quiet winter fighting season. It demonstrates the brute fact that the Afghan government forces along with American and its allied forces are nowhere near defeating the opposition Taliban. The attacks have infuriated America and Afghan government frustrated by the worsening security after 16 years of war. They have expressed their anger with neighbour Pakistan for harbouring insurgents. It is America’s standard response to castigate, threat or warn Pakistan after every dead attack in Kabul. But the war in Afghanistan warrants more a serious attention, critical analysis and right responses. Without changing rules of the game, America wants Pakistan to fight its war in Afghanistan. To build pressure on Islamabad to follow its diktat, the US has stopped all the military aid to Pakistan. 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 increasingly 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. Afghanistan can only begin to be peaceful through negotiations between the government and the Afghan Taliban. This basic element is dangerously missing in America’s Afghan policy. As long as negotiations are not made corner-stone for peace, the war in Afghanistan will continue.