News Analysis |
A group of teenagers walking out of Karte Sakhi shrine, where Afghans gather every year to mark Nauroz, became the victim of a deadly attack acclaimed by ISIS. The suicide bomber was trying to reach to the shrine, which has already been attacked back in 2016, but couldn’t due to strict security amid Persian new year, Nauroz, celebrations. There are as many as 52 people acclaimed by the health ministry of Afghanistan to have been injured as the result of this attack. Kabul has been the top target of both Afghan Taliban as well as ISIS recently. The commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson had previously asserted that the top most priority of foreign troops in the country is to halt the further encroachment of the militants and making sure that capital is safe. Kabul having multiple access points has rendered the efforts fruitless so far. President Ashraf Ghani is criticized for not being even able to make the capital of country safe which has a high concentration for Afghan National Army (ANA) as well as foreign troops.
Given the harsh winter season which Afghanistan experiences every year, the fighting is somewhat put to a pause as it is not logistically possible to fight in a temperature below freezing point. Since attacks on the city and rest of the country have been deadly, the “spring offensive” by the US army is likely to be very bloody too. As par the policy of Obama administration, the withdrawal of troops was in progress back in 2014 when Taliban began to reclaim territory. Afghan National Army was never really ready enough to face the battle-hardened Taliban in the absence of foreign troops. As the surge made President Trump to rethink the magnitude of US personnel which were going to be present in Afghanistan, it also made America realize that with this strategy, no end to the war should be anticipated. This is the reason why President Ashraf Ghani has been repeatedly asking Taliban to negotiate instead of fighting.
Taliban have consolidated their position with such attacks inside the secured perimeter of Afghan capital that they are the most important stake holder in the process. A dialogue at this point of time would imply that they will be demanding a lion’s share of whatever the settlement comes out as a result. Recently, in an open letter to American people, Taliban asked for dialogue to end this long tiresome war. But they have refused to talk with sitting Afghan government as they believe that they are not the true representative of the people. On the other hand, United States has clearly stated that all channels of negotiations will be directed by the Ghani administration and US will not be a direct party to it. Beside the exogenous stakeholders like Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China, US is certainly an important part of the process and hence should be the part of negotiations too.
The emergence and existence of ISIS from the broken and rogue factions of Afghan Taliban has further complicated the issue. The Afghan ISIS is no different in practice to what we have been hearing about the core of the organization in the Middle East. They are not only fighting the government but have been evidently hostile toward Taliban as well or vice versa. They are not the sort of threat which could be dealt with via dialogue but they need to be eliminated once and for all. Not only for the country, are they in fact, a threat for the peace of entire region which includes Russia, Pakistan and China. The ideology behind this group is ruthless, cunning and deceptive. Given the incidents which have shown how vulnerable Afghan National Army is, in terms of its operational capabilities, the threat can only be neutralized by the US expertise and forces. But there have been reports and claims on part of Russia as well that US, instead of getting rid of ISIS, is actually strengthening them by means of weapon supply through un-marked choppers. If there are actual choppers flying toward ISIS strongholds and providing them with weapons then it is indeed worrisome. For US may not be in control of entire Afghan land, but they are certainly in total control of its airspace. No such move could be made without the consent of Central Command or CENTCOM of US army contingents.