Time for Afghans to Go Back Home

22 Jun

By: Aasef Chauhdry
Although U.S. officials justified the drone strike that killed Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansur by giving a lame excuse that the Taliban leader planned to attack American or coalition forces in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, some observers firmly believe that the secretive operation that embattled the extremist at a southwest Pakistan hideout represents a shift in how the White House plans to execute the long-running war. The Defense Department repeatedly insisted that they had intelligence that Mansur was actively preparing for some kind of attack that would have likely killed U.S. or coalition soldiers based in Afghanistan – providing the authority to kill him – even though he was in a foreign country at the time. Rules of engagement prohibit targeting Taliban leaders offensively while the US military insisted that the strike corresponded to its policy of protecting Americans and U.S. partners against direct threats.
The Taliban, who emerged as a major force in Afghanistan, during the raging civil war which took a toll of millions of lives, were blamed for their oppressive policies. They reigned after assuming control of nearly 95 percent of Afghan territory and were led by the cleric Mullah Muhammad Omar. When the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the alleged architect of the 9/11 attacks, the US forces and their allies invaded Afghanistan. Pakistan, which was the supporter of the Taliban, was forced and blackmailed to abandon the Taliban midstream and side with the US. Unfortunately, the US and the allied forces with a great strength and a large number of soldiers failed to hold back the Taliban. Regrouping, the Taliban inflicted devastation on the Allied forces and when the going got tough, looking for pleas to justify their failures, the US started blaming Pakistan for siding with the Taliban. Pakistan was accused of clandestinely supporting the Taliban in their raids on allied forces in Afghanistan and for providing them a safe haven in Pakistan. However, the fact is that the TTA (Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan) is very much operative in most of the places of Afghanistan and is running a parallel govt there. They have their own legal system/ legislation and own control and incidentally they are controlling the most part of Afghanistan.
Last month, the Taliban had refused to sit face-to-face with the government in Kabul under the quadrilateral process comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States. Following the refusal, President Ghani has been under pressure to change his policy on peace and reconciliation with the militant group. In sheer frustration, he is treading the path that was followed by his predecessor, which bore no fruit. Since the Karzai era, a sinking economy, perpetuating corruption and inept security agencies have stained Afghanistan’s domestic environment. No wonder the fault lines that prompt Afghan leadership towards blaming Pakistan for everything that could go wrong in Afghanistan are snowballing. At a time when President Ashraf Ghani should be unveiling a viable political framework for talks with the Afghan Taliban, he has taken a yet harsher stance against Pakistan and the Taliban that could further complicate the peace process. The bitter truth is that the TTA leadership is located/ based in Afghanistan and exercising strict control in most parts of Afghanistan. After the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack outside a building of the National Directorate for Security (NDS) in Kabul on April 19, that killed 64 people and injured more than 300 others, Ghani addressed the joint session of Afghan parliament. He retraced from ongoing attempts to engage Taliban in peace talks. He also articulated executing enemies of state and undertaking preparations for an extended war. Ashraf Ghani who seems to be now a hostage to a camp, said that Afghanistan faced a terrorist enemy led by Taliban “slaves” in Pakistan. He branded the insurgents as criminals, fighting the legitimate government. the attack on NDS headquarters became perhaps the only issue on which the otherwise divided leadership of the disunited Afghan government stands united — blame Pakistan for all failures of Afghan security forces and their American mentors. By playing cat and mice and by annoying Taliban through their underhand methods the US and Afghanistan is only adding fuel to the fire. There is still a silver lining and that is the back channel contacts to convince the Taliban to restart the peace process are still functional but that can only work if the Americans will play fair.
According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), expressing his serious concern on the US drone strike in Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, the army chief highlighted as to how it had impacted the mutual trust and was counterproductive in consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Gen. Raheel Sharif said all efforts for durable peace in the region have to be synergized with shared commitment…all stakeholders need to understand Pakistan’s challenges with regard to porous border, inter-tribal linkages and decades-old presence of over three million refugees.
Blaming Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan is unfortunate. Raising the demand of targeting TTP and Mullah Fazalullah in their bases in Afghanistan, the army chief reiterated Pakistan’s resolve not to allow hostile intelligence agencies’ efforts, especially RAW and NDS, of fomenting terrorism…Pakistan is committed to work for a long term peace process for Afghanistan under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group framework.” The Americans always have the option to target their enemies wherever they are, however, just keeping their eyes closed until they don’t enter Pakistan territories sounds weird and highly unfair. The point is that they may have had visited Pakistan under the garb of Afghan refugees for medical treatment, as thousands of other Afghans are also illegally residing in Pakistan under the cover of refugees while many of them are RAW and NDS agents but the fact is that Taliban undoubtedly remain operational in Afghanistan and cause pain to the Afghans, Indians and the Americans.
The US demands from Pakistan not to support Taliban or Haqqani group but irony is that when Pakistan asked the world to help Pakistan in sending millions of Afghan back then this logical demand is out rightly ignored by everyone. Early and immediate return of Afghan refugees and better border management/ control is essential and the only solution.

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