As US troops leave, Afghanistan Likely to Fall from the Frying Pan (back) into the Fire

The US and Taliban have recently concluded their 8th round of talks, which took place in Doha, Qatar. The meeting was sponsored jointly by Qatar and Germany. The main aim of these talks is to bring peace to Afghanistan which has been suffering from war continuously for 40 years. The main issues of these talks were: guarantee by Taliban that Afghanistan will not be used as a launchpad for attacks outside the country, withdrawal of the NATO forces, permanent ceasefire and an intra-Afghan dialogue. Neither of the parties have stated any outcome from the 8th round of talks. However, just a month ago, both parties concluded the 7th round which gave out various details through joint statements by both the parties.

If the world thinks that there will be peace in Afghanistan anytime soon, then they are mistaken. The first and foremost factor that we need to analyse is the parties to this peace deal – the US and Taliban. The US wants to withdraw from Afghanistan while saving their face in front of the world, and the Taliban (a proscribed terrorist group), are fighting to build their supremacy. The US invited the Taliban to the talks, while the Afghan Government which, in fact, is democratically elected, represents millions of Afghans, and thus the main party to this deal, was not invited because the Taliban doesn’t consider them a legitimate government.

It is also important to note that while the talks were going on between the US and Taliban, two major attacks were perpetrated by the Taliban on Afghan soil.

  • On 7 August 2019, the Taliban carried out a suicide attack on Police Headquarters, Kabul, killing 14 people and injuring 145.
  • On 7 July 2019, the Taliban attacked near the office of country’s main intelligence unit, National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Ghazni city. Around 13 people were estimated to be killed and 140 were estimated to be wounded.
  • On 1 July 2019, the Taliban carried out a deadly attack on the Afghan Defence Ministry in Kabul, the environs of which also encompassed a school. Around 40 people, including children, were killed and 100 people were wounded.

After the 7th round, the parties released a joint statement which was supposed to be in three languages, Pashto, Dari (Official languages of Afghanistan) and in English. However, the Taliban also published a fourth version on its official website – in Urdu. Each version of the joint statement was different from the other as each had points which were either not there in the others or were interpreted very differently by each party. For instance, point 3 of the Urdu version inserts a sentence, which isn’t there in the English version – all international, regional, and national parties should become respectful toward the great tenets of our millat.

While both the English and Dari versions guarantee fundamental rights of Afghan women as per Islamic values, they do not contain any mention of the withdrawal of all foreign military forces. On the contrary, the Pashtu version of the Joint Statement refers to the withdrawal of foreign troops but does not include any mention of guarantee of Afghan women’s rights. While the meeting did culminate into the Joint Statement, but any progress is from reality due difference of opinions. Meanwhile, Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman of the Islamic Emirate’s Political Office in Doha, has declared the Pashtu version to be the original one, further underlining that this meeting was façade.

On July 10, two days after the 7th round of talks and the Doha Agreement, the Taliban wrote on its official website, “No matter what the puppet regime does, the stance of the mujahedeen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is clear which is to strive for the cause of Allah and to remove the rule of tyrants and overthrow the disbelief and ignorance and re-establish the rule of shari’a in Afghanistan which is the will of Afghan nation.” It also reaffirmed commitment to jihad and stated that, “Military and political jihadi action is the effective remedy for demolishing the walls of the external occupiers and their internal clients in Afghanistan”.

The Taliban Emir Mullah Hibatullah stated in his message on the occasion of Eid on 8th August that politically and militarily, they have progressed and are striving towards success.

Recently, the nephew of an Afghan sergeant killed the latter’s wife and son during the former’s wedding ceremony which was hosted by the sergeant himself. Upon investigations by the authorities, it was found that the nephew was secretly working with the Taliban. He committed this grossly act because his uncle was in the Afghan Army. Pashtunwali, a code of conduct practiced by ethnic Pashtuns and other Afghans in Pashtun areas, obligates hosts to protect guests from harm, even if they are enemies. The principle is based on hospitality, righteousness, loyalty and bravery. 

The code of Pashtunwali permits revenge against someone who has committed a grave offense, or even someone who has insulted or shamed another. In this context, vengeance is a form of justice. Afghans who follow their customs strictly were enraged to see someone from their own fold break the Pashtunwali code, and that too between relatives.  

Being in the neighbourhood, India will not be unaffected by the damaging consequences of the Taliban gaining prominence. India has always supported the Afghan Government and helped it gain stability through financial and other means. Meanwhile, Pakistan has always backed the Taliban and has influence over them which Pakistan denies, but can be clearly seen. There were four versions to the Joint Statement: English is the language of the Americans, Pashto and Dari are the languages of the Afghans. Urdu is of no relevance to either parties, but it is the official language of Pakistan. It is no secret that if the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, it will be extremely bad for Indian interests, considering Pakistan will regain its stronghold in Afghanistan.

While the US is striking a deal with the Taliban and leaving the country, various splinter groups of the Islamic Caliphate (IS) are taking stronghold. On 17th August, a suicide attack in a wedding ceremony in Kabul killed 63 people and wounding 180 people. A local affiliate of the IS claimed responsibility. A series of explosions rocked Jalalabad on the eve of Afghanistan’s 100th Independence Day, injuring 66 people. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack till now.

The US has not only adhered to the Taliban’s request by not making the Afghan Government a party to this deal, but it has also brought the Taliban the authority which they have been claiming for all these years, thereby silencing the voice of millions of Afghans. I truly believe that the situation for common Afghans will become dire as soon as American troops leave Afghanistan. It will then be up to the Afghans to support their government and fight for what is right because at the end the fight is between the Afghans and the Taliban. It is high time that Afghans learn to distinguish that; the Taliban has already done so. 

Mark Kinra

Mark Kinra is a corporate lawyer by profession and geopolitical analyst at heart. He primarily works on South Asia, specializing in Pakistan.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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