Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen for VT
Afghan Writer and Political analyst based in Kabul
On 21 June 2017, at the meeting of the UN Security Council, UN’s representative in Afghanistan Yamamoto made explicit remarks about the peace and security situation in Afghanistan. He said, “The Afghan peace requires strong will, the government must do a lot in this regard. The cooperation of the neighboring countries is essential for peace. The security and economic situation in Afghanistan is further deteriorating, and corruption is still a major challenge.”
The US Ambassador to UN Mrs. Michele Jean Sison said: “The US is politically and militarily assessing the situation in Afghanistan.”
In the same session, Pakistani Ambassador to UN Mrs. Maleeha said: “Both political and military efforts do not work simultaneously. We have to undertake either the peace or war strategy. [And not both]”
Mrs. Maleeha repeated the remarks of the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which he had made a year ago: “either peace or war. The Afghan government must choose one way.”
In the meanwhile, the four members of US Congress have held a press conference on 21 June 2017 and have sent a letter to the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. They have opposed with the policy of sending additional troops to Afghanistan and have reiterated on ending the war through the political solution and negotiations. They have also asked for clarification about the 6-month delay of the Trump administration to build a strategy for Afghanistan and has said that the Americans are not winning.
“Secretary Mattis is right – we definitely aren’t winning in Afghanistan. And it’s completely unacceptable that 6 months into the new administration, President Trump and his advisors still can’t agree on a strategy,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a Marine Corps combat veteran
The US top Commander in Afghanistan Nicolson had said in last February that the Afghan war had reached a stalemate and there was no development in it. On the other hand, the US intelligence agencies estimate that the situation in Afghanistan will grow even worse in 2018.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that this time, under the pretext of the fight against IS-K, the US is sending more troops to Afghanistan to perpetuate war in the region.
It is the first time that China is publicly announcing its concern through the media about sending more US forces to Afghanistan. On 14 June 2017, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said that sending more US troops to Afghanistan will not resolve Afghanistan’s problems, but will add to its challenges and will create obstacles for peace. He has also added that sending additional troops will raise concerns in the region as well.
The recent NATO session was held in Brussels on 29 June 2017. The Afghan government and the US were expecting the NATO members to specify the number of their additional forces that they intend to send to Afghanistan.
In this meeting, neither the US announced the deployment of additional US troops to Afghanistan nor did the other member states of NATO accept the US and Afghan governments’ demand about specifying the number of the forces they want to send to Afghanistan. Only the United Kingdom announced that it would send about 100 British soldiers to Afghanistan to train the Afghan soldiers.
NATO’s Secretary General and members explicitly told the US in this meeting that they want the US strategy regarding the Afghan war to be cleared to them. The US and the Afghan governments did not get the expected achievements from this meeting, and the Pentagon and head of the NATO did not have a consensus in the session.
The objectives of the US and regional countries in Afghanistan
Although it is said that the US relations with Pakistan are tenuous, as long as the US troops are in Afghanistan or additional troops land in Afghanistan, the US will be obliged to improve its ties with Pakistan because the US needs to equip and reinforces its forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan because Russians will create challenges for them if they do it through Central Asia.
Also, if the US wants to continue imposing sanctions on Iran, it needs to repair its relations with Pakistan because Pakistan shares a long border with Iran.
If the US-Pakistan relations remain tenuous, Pakistan will serve the interests of Russia and Iran in the region (its ties with China is strong from the beginning anyway) and in order to achieve their goals, these countries in the region will make efforts to utilize the security situations in Afghanistan to put pressure on the US.
The US has economic ties and large-scale trade with China. If the US strengthens its relations with India very much, both China and Pakistan will oppose such a US strategy and Afghanistan is a proper place to show this opposition and the two countries will project their enmity with the US and India right here in Afghanistan.
Saudi Arabia is concerned about Iran’s influence in Afghanistan and the Middle East. This country wants to block the religious, cultural and economic developments of Iran. Now that Saudi’s relations with Qatar are also deteriorated, Qatar will be obliged to establish warm relations with Iran and, therefore, the only two countries that Saudi Arabia can utilize to pressurize Iran are Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Since Pakistan has mature politics, it does not put its interests at risk because of Saudi Arabia. However, Afghanistan, on the other hand, has less politically informed politicians and make decisions on the basis of emotions. Saudi may want to strengthen the anti-Iranian groups and utilize some groups to put pressure on Iran in Afghanistan. In the meanwhile, some groups, due to religious commonalities, are serving Iranians interests since long ago. Therefore, due to the conflict between the interests of Iran and Saudi Arabia, war will start in Afghanistan, and the way for violence will be further paved.
The attacks and explosions on the Shiite mosques in Kabul during the Ramadan month (Jun 2017) show that there are secret groups that work to serve the goals and interests of both Saudi Arabia and Iran in Afghanistan.
Russia, China, and Iran are concerned that IS-K is getting stronger in Afghanistan. They suspect that the IS-K fighters come from Pakistan to Afghanistan and then to the Northern Afghanistan. Hence, Russia and Iran publicly say that the US supports IS-K. However, China is more cautious about such remarks. India, which is concerned about the activities of Pakistan, does not comment regarding IS-K and if positive developments are made in the US-India relations, India may not join the Russia-China-Iran bloc against IS-K.
The country’s challenges in areas of trade
Afghanistan is a landlocked country. In order to break Pakistan’s monopoly regarding the transit way of the Afghan traders, the Chabahar port was being taken into consideration as an alternative to Karachi port, and the US agreed with the idea. During, Dr. Ghani’s presidency, the Chabahar port was inaugurated, and against the interests of Pakistan and China, India was also happy for the opening of this port. Nonetheless, since this port is located on the Iranian shores and Iran’s relations with the US is deteriorating, Iran is not inclined in activating the port.
Another choice for Afghanistan is extending trade with the Central Asian countries. Nevertheless, in this regard, the problem is that the US-Russia relations are tenuous and the Central Asia countries are in the Russia sphere of influence. Therefore, except for Turkmenistan, the utilization of the soils of the other Central Asian countries for trade and transit will be a challenging task.
India, which does not share a border with Afghanistan, opened an air corridor for trade purposes on 19 June 2017, and the first Afghan flight transported goods worth $60m from Kabul to India. However, since transportation through the air is expensive, and the Afghan planes are used for the transportations, it is a short-term expensive economic project and will not last for long.
Except for the Taliban; all others used political relations
In order to resolve the political, security and economic challenges, Afghanistan will be forced to convince the US to adopt the political and peaceful strategy instead of war in Afghanistan. If the US is not persuaded and the war continues, the Afghans will pay the bigger part of the price and the way will be paved for proxy wars between the countries in the region in Afghanistan.
Some analysts believe that the Afghan government carries out the US strategy, which is the perpetuation of war in Afghanistan and does not undertake serious measures for peace.
All the parties utilized the political and military strengthening of the Taliban except for the Taliban. The Afghan government told the international community to prevent the strengthening of the Taliban and keep supporting the government. Russia, due to its relations with the Taliban, brought the US under pressure. However, due to various reasons, Russians have not gone ahead in other areas with the Taliban except for the political relations.
In the meanwhile, Russia and Iran are concerned about ISIL-Khurasan, that is why they made many developments in their political relations with the Taliban. It seems that Iran has extended its ties with the Taliban beyond the political relations, while Russia, due to various reasons, has not gone beyond the political relations.
Using the card of having influence on the Taliban, Pakistan receives money from the US and the international community, has frightened and raised the concern of India, has persuaded the US and the world to be cautious in their relations with Pakistan otherwise the Taliban, the groups fighting in Kashmir and the Chinese Uyghur fighters will get out the control of Pakistan. The Afghan nation has always suffered from Pakistan’s such false claims.
The Taliban do not value political relations and political deals based on political ties. The Taliban are mostly focused on military and war relations and goals. However, now it is possible to put pressure on NATO member countries, through political relations and relations with the regional countries, which the Taliban have failed to achieve yet.
The Afghan government tried to win the trusts of the countries in the region. However, due to these countries’ opposition to the US presence and policies in the region, the Afghan government failed to this end.
The Afghan government also tried to achieve the Saudi Arabia’s support and win the support of the Ulama (religious scholars) of the Islamic world regarding the Taliban and other armed groups. Nevertheless, due to strong relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and the Taliban’s influence among the Ulama, the Afghan government failed in this regard as well.
The Afghan government is stuck in the internal disputes, and gradually the politicians are distancing from it, and the nation was distanced from it long ago. The absence of the Afghan politicians in the Presidential Palace during the Eid ceremony on 24 June 2017 proved that Dr. Ghani has not yet reached a political consensus with the Afghan politicians.
The new coalition between Ata Mohammad Noor – Governor of Balkh, Ustad Mohaqiq – 2nd Voice CEO, and Abdul Rashid Dostum – 1st VP, formed during the Eid days, will further challenge the Afghan government internally.
It is thought that besides Turkey, Russia and Iran are behind the trilateral alliance and, with the formation of this coalition, they want to weaken the pro-US Afghan government and put pressure on the US to consider Russian, Turkish and Iranian interests in Afghanistan.
The Taliban, on the other hand, have bigger problem; there are some Afghan politicians, influential people, tribal leaders, educated people, the small Afghan groups and the important groups/individuals within the government who want to contact the Taliban and get close to them but the Taliban have kept their group solid [impermeable] and hardly trust someone. That is why even their close sympathizers seem sort of disappointed.
Although after 2009, the Taliban took the students of schools and universities in their military ranks and the distance between the madrasas and the schools/universities shrunk, in the political and administrative structures of the Taliban, this gap is still evident.
Mistrust; is peace the priority or war?
Most of the Afghan politicians, countries in the region (except for India) and some members of NATO do not trust the Afghan government and the US regarding their peace policies. Therefore, in such circumstances, it is needed for the Taliban to become pioneer along with the Afghan nation in the field of peace.
In the current situations, if the Taliban do not play a proper politics to end the war and achieve peace, if they (the Taliban) failed to put pressure on the US through relations with some countries in the region and the world (those who do not agree with the military presence of the US in Afghanistan), and if, in this regard, the way for the Afghan nation’s pressure was not paved, after some time, the Taliban and the Afghan government will have to pay the price.
Taliban’s relations with Iran in the short term will be in the interests of the Taliban. Nonetheless, given the history, Iran can never be a trusted friend of the Afghan Sunnite groups nor can the long-term relations of the Taliban with Iran are in the interest of Afghanistan.
Neither the Afghan government nor the Taliban has had a clear peace policy yet. It is understandable that the Afghan government had internal challenges but the fact that the Taliban could not prepare a clear peace strategy in the past years raises questions.
If the Taliban insist on war, as do the US and the Afghan governments, they will be repeating a similar mistake as that of Hizb-e-Islami at the end of the Dr. Najeebullah’s government.
It is the sixteenth year of the war; the world knows that, in order to defend their homeland, the Afghans fought a tough war with the US and NATO. The former US President Barack Obama, a little before leaving the White Palace, said that they failed to defeat the Taliban. Most of the US Generals accept their defeat. In such circumstances, it is needed for the Taliban to also think about the political solution as for how to work with the Afghan nation to find a way for the withdrawal of the foreign forces and end the war.
The prolongation of the war causes the nations to lose trust on the engaged parties
Given the background of the war, people’s confidence in both the Afghan government and the Taliban get affected if the war prolongs and people become disappointed, their sympathy and cooperation with the parties involved in war changes.
Now that the nation is suppressed in the fights between the Taliban and IS-K in Nangarhar and humanitarian and Afghan norms are ignored in the battles, the nation criticizes both of the two groups saying that both groups fight under the slogan ofAllahu Akbar [Allah is great], yet, to a greater extent, their victims are civilians. Clashes between ISIL-K and the Taliban such as the case in Nangarhar shows that the war is getting further complicated and secret hands are working for the continuation of war, and the war is changing in a way that kills the hopes for peace.
It is needed for Mr. Hekmatyar to utilize the current situation in a positive way. There are those who think that Hizb-e-Islami will be used against the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. However, we can also contemplate that Hizb-e-Islami could be urged by good Afghan politicians to play a decisive role in the peace process and their presence can also be utilized to take the foreign soldiers out of the country as well as to form an inclusive Afghan regime.
Recently, it is seen that secret hands implement anti-peace efforts and try to convince the Afghan youth that there is no way but war and they try to distort and defame those who sincerely work for peace and negotiations.
Can the US really do whatever it wants?
Some Afghan politicians argue that the security agreement with the US is for the self-sufficiency of the country. Nevertheless, the history shows that the countries can never develop in a war and as long as the foreign forces are present in Afghanistan, war will continue and, due to war, our country will be weakened in areas of security, economy, Afghan values, and culture.
It is needed to specify the main factors behind the insecurity in the country; the US is fighting here, foreign forces are present, and, in order to defend themselves and their soil, the Afghan nation is fighting with foreigners and the government that is established by America .
Why then a group of Afghans are allied with the US and are fighting with their nation (Afghans)? The victims of the war on both sides are Afghans and why do some countries in the region get economic, religious and monopoly interests.
In the meanwhile, due to the war policy of the US, Iran, Russia, and China are in the defensive mode. They do not want the war to extend from Afghanistan to their countries.
Most of the Afghan politicians and particularly the youth that are educated in the cities think that the US has specific goals in the region and is working to achieve these targets and will not withdraw unless it has reached its objectives, but it is not true.
The US puppets in Philippine, which is an Asian country, signed such an agreement with the US that had even taken the right of asking for freedom from the Philippian youth. However, this countries’ youth and people rose against the US, and the pro-US Philippine’s president fled the country in a US helicopter.
The pro-US Iranian kingdom was overthrown by Iranians, and even now we practically see that the US failed to achieve its goals in Syria.
Turks suppressed a coup d’état by the US supporters in Turkey (15-16 July 2016). The facts that during Obama’s presidency, sanctions on Iran were lifted, the US was forced to extend warm relations with Venezuela, the former US President went to Cuba on 21 March 2016 and Fidel Castro refused to meet him, North Korea repeatedly threatens the US and the Taliban and the Afghan nation fought the US and NATO for 16 years are proves that the US can never defeat the nations.
The Afghan youth must put pressure on the Afghan officials, politicians, the Taliban and various political and military groups to ignore their self-interests in order to save the country. The Afghan youth, with the support of the leaders of the nation, must make efforts to push the above-mentioned parties to agree to form an inclusive Afghan regime. If peace does not occur, our country will enter another long-lasting war, and the structures mentioned above will be affected, and the Afghan nation will be the victim of the foreign countries’ interests.