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April 20, 2021

Complex conflict

Editorial

 
April 20, 2021

As has been the case for decades, Afghanistan continues to face a complex situation ahead. President Joe Biden has met the challenge presented to the US halfway, by deciding to withdraw troops by September 11 this year. He has, however, abandoned the plan by former president Trump to vacate completely by May, a situation which would once again have left the country in limbo, and possibly allowed the Taliban and the various warlords who control large stretches of Afghan territory to once again plunge the country into chaos. This is what happened after the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

The Afghan people deserve peace. The question is how they can move towards this. The new timeframe set by the US gives the Taliban and the Afghan government more time to negotiate. The Taliban have said they are willing to do so. And a representative of the Afghan government has said it is their duty to defend the country. But there is a warning too from the Taliban: that if a reasonable negotiation process and a decision at the end of it cannot be reached, they are willing to fight. At the same time, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that apart from the 350,000 armed forces in the country, people have also been armed in towns and villages so that they are able to defend themselves against warlords and the Taliban. This may be a necessary step but it could lead to even further chaos. For Afghanistan, however, there is little choice, with only an extremely small Nato force to be left behind once the US pulls out.

The issue also involves the warlords who control portions across Afghanistan. Some of them have warned that if there is continued fighting and continued chaos, they will have no option but to try and protect the people. The question for the future of Afghanistan is complicated, which can also mean a complicated future for Pakistan, which is seen by the Afghan government as supporting the Taliban in that country. Pakistan must make sure it can act in a manner that can expedite Afghan peace, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan who have suffered war for well over four decades and even beyond that. Chaos in Afghanistan would make it the perfect place for militants to set up bases and Pakistan will wish not to be drawn into this scenario, but instead ensure that Afghanistan can somehow find stability and turn into a country which is able to defend its own sovereignty and protect its people from further misery caused by the endless war.