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Tag Archives: Kabul

Afghan peace process in disarray

President Trump is tasting the real power these days. Taliban have the military prowess to attack the places of their liking at the timing of their choosing. In the diplomacy domain, Taliban dictate the venue and agenda. And when they meet Americans, they field Guantanamo hardened Taliban negotiators to stare in the eyes of top American diplomats. Of late, peace talks between Taliban and US officials were cancelled over agenda disagreement. Senior Taliban members based in Afghanistan said “both sides have agreed to not meet.” Three meetings have already taken place between Taliban leaders and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE took part in the last round of talks in December. Reports last month about US President Trump’s plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan has triggered uncertainty. However, Afghan peace process is in disarray.Interestingly, as an afterthought, the US has taken a step back from the earlier hype of pulling out 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. An Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) representative has declared that if Taliban insist on not meeting Afghan government delegation, then, HPC won’t participate in Saudi Arabia session of talks. With these firmly grounded irritants and posturing, Afghan peace my not just be around the corner.

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Geneva Conference on Afghanistan: A cart and horse dilemma

The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, was co-hosted by the Government of Afghanistan and the UN “to renew their partnership and cooperation for Afghanistan’s peace, prosperity and self-reliance”. Meet was attended by delegations from 61 countries and 35 international organizations, and representatives of civil society, the private sector and the media. The Geneva Conference was a midway review between two pledging conferences: the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (2016) and the next pledging conference expected to be held in 2020. While Afghan leadership was looking for peace in Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, back home there were two back to back raids raids on occupation forces, two on the US and one on the UK assets. Four Americans soldiers were killed, taking the number to 12 during this year; more than 2,200 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 9/11. Since the start of 2015, when Afghan forces assumed lead in combative operations, 58 Americans have been killed, as compared to 30,000 Afghan police and soldiers. At least twelve people were killed after a massive blast outside a British security company’s compound in Kabul on November 28; the attack claimed by Taliban was the latest violence to target the Afghan capital. Blast was a car bomb targeting a compound which houses G4S, a private British security company, in east Kabul. Health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh told AFP “10 dead, 19 wounded have been evacuated from site,” he did not mention victims’ nationalities. Attack came just hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the formation of a team for prospective peace talks with the militant group, as the United Nations (UN) renewed calls for direct negotiations between Kabul and the insurgents. And on November 20, at least 55 people were killed when a bomber blew himself up in the middle of a banquet hall in one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan this year. The violence came as the Taliban intensify pressure on Afghan security forces, even as the international community ramps up efforts towards talks. If Khalilzad's effort also fizzles out, then Presidential elections may be put off. Notwithstanding the optimism, Afghan peace may stay elusive unless occupation forces offer concrete concessions including firm timeframe for the departure of last foreign soldier and substantial restructuring of Afghan constitution.

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Elusive Afghan Peace: Between Fire and Ceasefire

In an interesting development while Afghan government announced four days cease fire on Eid eve, Taliban refused to assume a cease fire posture and took their operations to Kabul, at least notionally, where they fired rockets on Presidential palace; though rockets missed the mark. The ensuing hours-long battle involving insurgents’ rocket attacks and military airstrikes ended with the death of two insurgents. “Two attackers were involved. The enemy was firing mortars,” General Murad Ali Murad, commander of Kabul´s garrison, told a press conference. Taliban assault coincided with President Ashraf Ghani’s conditional offer of a three-month ceasefire on first day of Eid. If Americans are looking for good news from the battlefront, then Afghanistan is not the place to look. Taliban are having success after success against the best equipped army in the world. District Faryab has fallen, and fate of over 100 Afghan troops hangs in balance; just miles from Kabul, battle is raging in Ghazni with predictions of its fall. Americans had been begging for Eid ceasefire during three rounds of their direct talks with the Taliban. Afghan government has also been contacting the local leadership for the ceasefire. Some Muslim states and other countries had also approached Taliban for accepting ceasefire proposal. Earlier reports had Taliban in control of the bulk of Ghazni city and surrounding districts on the outskirts. While the Interior Minister was claiming that Taliban were being pushing back to just small pockets of resistance. The Taliban, by contrast, maintain that they remain in control of most of the city. US military statements, unsurprisingly, continue to downplay what they called an “inconsequential fight”, saying they view the Taliban in the area as “isolated and desperate,” and insist that control of the city remains with the government. NATO’s command in Afghanistan has been intentionally misleading the public about the status of seven of Ghazni’s districts. Three additional districts have also been overrun by the Taliban. Resolute Support claimed these seven districts were under government control. In reality, the Taliban physically controlled the terrain while the Afghan government operated them remotely from Ghazni City. Battle for Ghazni has been quite fierce. Over 100 security force members were killed during a recent Taliban attack. The city hospital was reported overcrowded with hundreds of wounded people and dozens of bodies and people desperately searching for relatives among the dead and wounded. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was providing dressing packages and oral and intravenous medicine to treat wounded at the provincial hospital. The ICRC also sent fresh water and electricity generators for trauma surgeries and delivered material for the management of remains. The ICRC is organizing emergency water supplies by trucks to cover the needs of about 18,000 people. “They were facing severe shortage of food and drinking water and the power supply”. Fleeing citizens reported. A humanitarian crisis may just be in the making. In the Faryab province, the Afghan forces surrendered after a 48 hour siege; the Afghan Army base in Ghormach District was surrendered outright to the Taliban. Security forces ran out of ammunition and badly needed reinforcements, which never came. Government troops apparently had no choice but to give up. Over 40 surviving troops were taken prisoner in the surrender. For the second time in the week, Taliban insurgents attacked and overran an Afghan Army base in the country’s north, this time in Baghlan Province. The offensive lasted for about five hours, and left the Taliban in control of the military base and a nearby police checkpoint; Taliban killed nearly 50 Afghan police and soldiers and took 36 prisoners. Taliban have overrun large parts of another army base in northern Afghanistan. The insurgents had captured tanks and ammunition in Chenayeeha army base, in Ghormach district of Faryab province, in an offensive that began on August 12. “We have not been able to enter the base. Large parts of the base are still under the Taliban control,” a local spokesperson said. The Ministry of Public Health confirmed the death toll had risen to 48 in the suicide bombing in a classroom at an education academy in Dasht-e-Barchi, in Kabul. Government sources reported that over 70 security force members had been killed and dozens more wounded in battles on several fronts around the country including Baghlan, Zabul and Kandahar provinces. Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) reported on August 15 that more than 64,000 Afghan civilians were either killed or wounded during the past nine years, with the Taliban causing 70 percent of the casualties. A similar UN report indicates that more than 5,100 Afghan civilians had suffered casualties in the conflict over the first six months of the ongoing year which indicated that a large number of Afghans continued to be victim of terrorism. Presumably the US led occupation forces are in the process of abdicating their responsibility in the rural Afghanistan and have decided to even handover some of the urban districts to Taliban as a part of preliminary bargain. Taliban have risen from the ashes and are now a force to reckon with. Afghan government is under tremendous pressure as Taliban threaten new districts. Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded, on several fronts, in clashes during the last two weeks. Contrast this bloodbath with what the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an unannounced visit to Kabul on July 09 that there was “now hope” for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. “An element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is now hope,” Pompeo told a press conference. “Many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily. That’s very deeply connected to President Trump’s strategy”, he added. Earlier in January this year, President Ashraf Ghani had offered the Taliban peace talks without conditions. United States has dropped its previous refusal to talk to the Taliban; and both have spoken directly in Qatar, where they maintain a political office. Systematic retreat indicates that while maintaining a state of denial, Americans may have actually covered a substantial space for reaching a political deal with Taliban. Now America is contemplating addition of Zalmay Khalilzad, as Presidential Special Envoy on Afghanistan. Zalmay, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, is known for his anti-Pakistan and anti-Taliban leanings. His appointment is meant to impress upon Taliban and Pakistan that the US is serious about talks to end its longest war. The US military commanders now openly acknowledge a stalemate in the fighting. Afghan peace continues to be as elusive as it had ever been.

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