Rushing out of Afghanistan will not end war

By: Aref Mohammadi

The Afghan people are going through yet another terrible time due to war with terrorist groups—the Taliban and ISIS. The most recent attacks in Kabul, Nangarhar, Laghman and Paktia, are additional testimonies to the continued brutality of the Taliban. Their hideous attacks are crushing the Afghans’ souls in the middle of a pandemic crisis. It is no secret that the Afghan people are enduring violence by Taliban and other terrorist groups for many years. A negotiated peace agreement that ends the bloodshed and violence in Afghanistan is a must. From cradle to the grave, the people of Afghanistan have being attacked by the Taliban and its affiliated terrorist groups. The recent attack on the maternity clinic of Kabul was one of most heinous one in the history of this bloody conflict.

The United States (US) is part of the ruthless war with the terrorist groups in Afghanistan. The US has a role in the loss of life of every Afghan as much as they have a role in helping the government and people of Afghanistan. We started this war against the terrorists together and must end it together. The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban on Feb 29 to withdraw its troops in return for violence reduction by the Taliban and start of the Intra-Afghan dialogue. But, realities on the ground indicate that Taliban has violated the deal with frequent attacks on the Afghan National Security Forces and Afghan people.

According to the Afghan ministry of interior, the Taliban have carried out more than 3175 terrorist attacks over last two-and-half months (after the signing of the US- Taliban peace deal). In most recent attack, the Taliban killed more than 14 Afghan border forces in the eastern Paktia province late on Thursday evening, according to the Afghan ministry of defense.  

Any peace agreement should ensure a real peace and put an end to the bloodshed. A deal with no transformative outcome will not pave the way for real peace. Afghans have been longing for peace for decades, but a war, which continued for many years cannot be ended in a few months. A rushed peace deal and getting out of Afghanistan will neither bring peace nor it will guarantee the end of terrorist activities in the country.  

It’s very naïve to believe that Taliban, a terrorist group that appallingly burn humans alive and murder pregnant women and new-borns babies in a maternity ward will cut ties with Al-Qaeda and ISIS or other terrorist organizations and networks.

President Trump, in response to a question about the recent attacks in Afghanistan, on 14 May, said: “We’ve been there for many years, we’re like a police force. We’re not fighting in Afghanistan, we’re a police force in Afghanistan and at some point, they’re going to have to be able to take care of their country.” In such a difficult time, Afghanistan needs support of the US and other international partners and there is no need to mention the significance of the support of International Community to Afghanistan in bringing peace.

There is no question that Afghans will have to take care of their country but considering the current situation in the country only a long-term partnership between Afghanistan and its international allies will enable the people of Afghanistan to adequately take care of their country. The people of Afghanistan are the primary victims of the international terrorism. Dozens of terrorist groups are active in the country and Afghans, by paying the ultimate price, are the firs people who take the bullets and become the “collateral damage”.

Indeed it is simpler to seek a way out of this pitfall of war with Taliban but not under any circumstances. The US has a political and moral responsibility to put a proper end to a war they waged under the name of ‘war against terrorism’. If US leaders only think of an unconditional exit plan, their deal with the Taliban will be the Afghan 9/11.  Making a transformative, inclusive and just peace with the Taliban is as important as overthrowing of their regime in 2001.

The Afghan people along with the US and other international partners have made a lot of sacrifices and have gained significant achievements in the post-Taliban era. Today’s Afghan society is not comparable to the Afghanistan under Taliban rule. A lot of things have changed. The level of participation in politics and social life is considerable. Freedom of speech and vibrant media in Afghanistan are unique comparing to other countries in the region. 

There are a number of challenges in succeeding the peace deal and ending the conflict in Afghanistan such as a mutual mistrust between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the persistence of Taliban to continue violence.  Such challenges can only be addressed through a durable and partnership between the Afghan government and its international allies through supporting the government and facilitating the peace talks. The path to peace is extremely intricate, and a hurried exit plan will not only not contribute to the peace process but also might jeopardize our hard-fought achievements.

It’s very naïve to believe that Taliban, a terrorist group that appallingly burn humans alive and murder pregnant women and new-borns babies in a maternity ward will cut ties with Al-Qaeda and ISIS or other terrorist organizations and networks. Only a deterrent force with the support of International Community can induce Taliban to step forward for a sustainable and meaningful peace.

After the fall of the Taliban regime, the US along with the international community helped the Afghan government and people to rise back again after years of brutality from a medieval regime. The war against the Taliban was not and is not only the war of Afghans against an extremist group. It is a war against a common enemy and the US has a moral responsibility to stand behind Afghans for a real peace agreement. A hurried deal with a deviation approach will not pave the ground to end the war in Afghanistan. Taliban must be convinced to extend the ceasefire that they announced during the Eid days. That is the first precondition for the realization of a negotiated settlement agreement. Washington will repeat the mistake it committed after withdrawal of Soviet Union from Afghanistan. The Afghan mujahedeen fought the war of Western bloc—led by the US—against the Soviet armies in Afghanistan. But after the debacle of Soviet Union and fall of the Berlin Wall, the Americans left the country in chaos and obligachy which led to 1990s civil war and subsequent rise of the extremist Taliban.      

Aref Mohammadi is a Foreign Service Officer at Afghan embassy in Brussels and a postgraduate student at CERIS-ULB, Diplomatic School of Brussels. You can reach him at @arefmhi.