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Reminder for Afghan stakeholders

Afghanistan's current scenario is a rude reminder for both the Afghan government and the Taliban that the country could be dived into a bloody civil war the likes of what it saw post-Soviet withdrawal in 1989.

The Soviet Union started withdrawing its red army from Afghanistan in February 1989 after suffering a disgraceful defeat. After that Dr Najibullah, then Afghan president, was forced by the UN to hand over office to a transitional government in1992. This irrational formula of transfer of power didn’t bring peace to the country but paved the way for the birth of another religious armed outfit in Kandahar called the Taliban.

After years of fighting, the Taliban then rose to the throne of Kabul at gunpoint in 1996. They established their self-styled government under the name of Amarat-e-Islami Afghanistan. On September 26, 1996, they brutally killed Dr Najibullah and his brother Shah Pur Ahmedzai who took shelter in the UN compound in Kabul. The Taliban then hung their mutilated bodies out on public display in the famous Aryana Chowk in Kabul for three days.

For sheltering Al-Qaeda’s supremo Osama bin Laden militants who were said to be responsible for the 9/11 attacks, the US ousted the Taliban from government in 2001 and then installed a poor setup led by Hamid Karzai.

Today, Afghanistan is once again passing through a critical and alarming situation as the US has scheduled to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan without guaranteeing peace in the war-torn country after a nearly two decade-long stay in Afghanistan. Since its invasion in 2001, the US has been acting upon a dual policy towards Afghanistan in the name of peace.

In the early phase of its invasion in 2001, the US kept the Afghan government as its blue-eyed boy and vowed to teach an exemplary lesson to the Taliban and their like-minded militant outfits by crushing them. But in the end, the US began encouraging the Taliban by signing a peace deal with them in Doha last year. On the other hand, the US didn’t bother to take the Afghan government onboard while drafting a historical accord about the future of the country.

Under the deal, it ensured the security of its troops at the hands of the Taliban but didn’t bind the Taliban to conduct a ceasefire by reaching a comprehensive consensus about Afghanistan. After providing a free hand to the Taliban, the US government left both Afghan civilians and the Ashraf Ghani-led government at their mercy.

In recent weeks, the Taliban have escalated their violence threefold against the Afghan security forces and have even made more territorial gains in several provinces of the country. On the one hand, in March, the Biden Administration has written a letter to President Ashraf Ghani claiming that Taliban insurgents could forge serious threats to his government in their spring attacks if he doesn't adopt a flexible stance. On the other hand, Nato encourages the Afghan Army to have enough capability so as to face the Taliban’s wrath in the future.

In the early years of power, the previous Afghan president Hamid Karzai considered the US a very loyal friend of Afghanistan, but now he considers its so-called peace claims with suspicion. In his farewell speech to his cabinet and staff members at the presidential palace in Kabul in 2014, Karzai openly claimed that the United States did not want peace for Afghanistan, because it “had its own agendas and goals here”.

During an interview with Al Jazeera in 2019, Karzai had raised serious questions about the poor security arrangements of the US in Afghanistan. He questioned how ISIS warriors could openly operate in Afghanistan in the presence of the U. He even accused the US army of “encouraging the ISIS’’.

And now in his latest interview with Der Spiegel of Germany, Karzai said that ‘this war is not our conflict…we Afghans are just being used against each other – the republic against the Taliban and the Taliban against us. Both the Afghanistan republic and the Taliban are victims of these external forces. That is why we are suffering’. He blamed the Americans, too, for the inability to start any sort of meaningful peace talks with the Taliban.

To enjoy lasting peace, all the stakeholders in Afghanistan – especially the Taliban and the Ghani-led government – should restore the stalled intra-Afghan peace process as soon as possible. Otherwise, the country may plunge into another civil war, the consequences of which will be much more horrific than seen in the past.

The writer is a lecturer at Degree College Zhob and a columnist.

Email: [email protected]