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May 4, 2021

A backing for peace

Editorial

 
May 4, 2021

On May 1, the US began a troop withdrawal. There are quite a few hopes attached with the troop withdrawal which it is hoped will bring about peace in Afghanistan. Since 2001, the US has been engaged in its longest ever war in that country. An agreement reached under former US president Donald Trump had said that US troops would pull out of the country by May 1. However, President Joe Biden has extended this date to September 11 this year, coinciding with the anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon; the US has said that some 2500 US troops would remain in the country till that date. For the present, US forces and other foreign troops have begun gathering at the Bagram Base in preparation for departure to their own countries.

Afghan government officers had warned that the Taliban's expression of disagreement and disappointment over the delay in a final withdrawal of the US troops could lead to further violence in the coming days. This violence has indeed come. On May 2, according to the Afghan government, some 100 militants were killed in clashes in various parts of the country with Afghan government troops. Most of these clashes came in the Kandahar province, a long-time stronghold of the Taliban and militant groups that support them. The Taliban have adopted a policy of striking Afghan government forces but not foreign troops based in Afghanistan. In April this year, some 300 Afghan security forces and a smaller number of Taliban were killed in similar fighting which broke out between the two groups. The Taliban say that the Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani is a puppet regime and that they will not recognise it. This badly hampers the possibility of peace in Afghanistan and stability for the country and its people. An extended troika of Pakistan, China, Russia and the US has met over the issue and called for calm and a peaceful settlement to end the Afghan crisis and allow the country to move on. However, for now, there are no signs that there is willingness in Afghanistan to abide by this call.

The Taliban are aware that weak Afghan government security forces can be overrun fairly quickly. The Taliban also hold a majority of the country along with the various warlords who control stretches of the territory scattered across Afghanistan. So peace in Afghanistan still seems some way away. While President Biden may be correct in asking why the US troops are still present in the country in 2021, after a war and an attack that took place in 2001, the issue is that the American presence complicated the situation in Afghanistan and possibly instigated further violence within the country. As such the US has some responsibility to set things right before leaving the Afghan people helpless in the face of forces at war and not willing to spare the Afghan people caught in the crosshairs. The situation does not look promising. And it will be sometime before we know what the final outcome is going to be of the so-called peace process in Afghanistan.