Afghan war turns blood­ier

The Miracle - - Opinion - By: Zahid Hus­sain

THE lat­est wave of ter­ror at­tacks in Kabul that has claimed dozens of civil­ian lives marks the blood­i­est phase of the so far 16-year war with the in­sur­gents get­ting more au­da­cious. The es­ca­la­tion in fight­ing raises ques­tions about the new US-Afghan strat­egy. Not that the Afghan cap­i­tal has not wit­nessed such high­pro­file ter­ror­ist at­tacks be­fore, but the fe­roc­ity and the fre­quency of as­saults is alarm­ing. Three at­tacks in a week in high-se­cu­rity zones in­di­cate the in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity and the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the in­sur­gents de­spite mas­sive es­ca­la­tion in the US air strikes. While the Afghan Tal­iban claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for two of the first two at­tacks, the mil­i­tant Is­lamic State (IS) group re­port­edly car­ried out the third one. The in­sur­gents have taken the war into the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. The ris­ing toll of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties is dis­turb­ing. It sig­nals a shift in in­sur­gent strat­egy — from gain­ing ter­ri­to­rial con­trol to fo­cus­ing more on the cap­i­tal to test the met­tle of the Afghan se­cu­rity forces. It seems that the Afghan Tal­iban and IS are com­pet­ing when it comes to car­nage in the be­sieged cap­i­tal and other towns and cities in Afghanistan. The chaos re­sult­ing from the vi­o­lence serves the ob­jec­tive of th­ese mil­i­tant groups — to un­der­mine the con­fi­dence of the Kabul ad­min­is­tra­tion. It seems that the Afghan Tal­iban and IS are in a race to mas­sacre the most peo­ple. In­deed, the Afghan Na­tional Army has im­proved its per­for­mance greatly over time, but it is still not ca­pa­ble of deal­ing with such or­gan­ised ter­ror­ist at­tacks on its own. The fre­quent breach of se­cu­rity by the in­sur­gents has fur­ther ex­posed the in­ca­pac­ity of the Afghan se­cu­rity agen­cies. While the Tal­iban con­trol vast swathes of ter­ri­tory, the in­creas­ing pres­ence of IS in Afghanistan is ex­tremely wor­ri­some. The ter­ror­ist group that is fight­ing both Kabul and the Tal­iban has been re­spon­si­ble for sev­eral high-pro­file at­tacks in the cap­i­tal over the last few months. The ter­ror­ist group has made some in­roads in east­ern and north­ern Afghanistan. The rise of IS has brought greater dev­as­ta­tion and caused a spike in the num­ber of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. The lat­est surge in mil­i­tant at­tacks has come as the re­lent­less US air strikes have forced the Tal­iban to re­treat from some of their strongholds in west­ern Afghanistan. But the US mil­i­tary of­fen­sive has failed to con­tain the in­sur­gency that has now spread to vast ar­eas. There has not been any ces­sa­tion in the fight­ing, not even in the win­ter months. The sit­u­a­tion is likely to get worse with the ap­proach of the fight­ing sea­son. The weak­en­ing writ of the Afghan govern­ment in the hin­ter­land has given fur­ther im­pe­tus to the in­sur­gents. Pre­dictably, the vi­o­lence has evoked a strong re­ac­tion from Wash­ing­ton. There are clear in­di­ca­tions that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will in­ten­sify mil­i­tary ac­tion in Afghanistan. Ad­dress­ing the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil mem­bers in the af­ter­math of the Kabul at­tacks, Pres­i­dent Trump vowed to take the bat­tle to the fin­ish. “What no­body else has been able to fin­ish, we’re go­ing to be able to do it,” the US pres­i­dent de­clared. Not­with­stand­ing Trump’s tough tenor, such prom­ises have also been made by pre­vi­ous US ad­min­is­tra­tions in the past decade. It is hard to be­lieve that the mas­sive use of air strikes alone could bring this fes­ter­ing war to an end. Trump has ruled out ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Tal­iban, at least for now. So the US ad­min­is­tra­tion is still pur­su­ing an elu­sive mil­i­tary vic­tory that it has failed to achieve in the past 16 years with more than 150,000 troops on the ground. Some re­ports sug­gest that more Amer­i­can troops could be de­ployed after the re­cent in­sur­gent at­tacks. That may only get the US mired deeper in Afghanistan. Even the clos­est of Amer­ica’s West­ern al­lies are scep­ti­cal of Trump’s mil­i­taris­tic ap­proach. Not sur­pris­ingly, the surge in mil­i­tant vi­o­lence in­side Afghanistan has in­creased pres­sure on Is­lam­abad. Both Kabul and Wash­ing­ton have once again ac­cused Pak­istan of pro­vid­ing safe havens to mil­i­tants. They have also blamed Pak­istani se­cu­rity agen­cies for fa­cil­i­tat­ing those re­spon­si­ble for the car­nage. More alarm­ing is the grow­ing AfghanIn­dian nexus de­mand­ing tougher US ac­tion against Pak­istan. There are clear in­di­ca­tions that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is get­ting ready to tighten the screws on Pak­istan fur­ther and in­ten­sify air strikes on al­leged Tal­iban sanc­tu­ar­ies in­side this coun­try’s tribal re­gion. The re­cent at­tack on re­port­edly an Afghan refugee camp in Kur­ram Agency that has al­legedly been used as a sanc­tu­ary for the Haqqani net­work is omi­nous. There is also a strong pos­si­bil­ity of the US slap­ping eco­nomic and mil­i­tary sanc­tions on Pak­istan and us­ing its in­flu­ence to per­suade mul­ti­lat­eral fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions to squeeze as­sis­tance. Wash­ing­ton has al­ready sus­pended mil­i­tary as­sis­tance to Pak­istan. There could also be a move to get the coun­try de­clared as a ter­ror­ist haven. Surely such rad­i­cal moves can­not suc­ceed. Still, they would put greater diplo­matic pres­sure on Is­lam­abad to crack down on sus­pected mil­i­tant sanc­tu­ar­ies and take ac­tion against the Tal­iban lead­er­ship al­legedly op­er­at­ing from Pak­istan. It cer­tainly presents a very se­ri­ous chal­lenge to the Pak­istani lead­er­ship, al­most com­pa­ra­ble to what it had faced in the af­ter­math of the 9/11 at­tacks. That raises ques­tions about Pak­istan’s op­tions and how our po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship can deal with this se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion. The pre­vail­ing po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity and ab­sence of a chain of com­mand has com­pli­cated our predica­ment. It may be true that Pak­istan is be­ing used as a scapegoat for Amer­ica’s fail­ure to wind up the war, the long­est it has ever fought. Yet the al­le­ga­tions of some Afghan in­sur­gent groups tak­ing sanc­tu­ary in our border ar­eas can­not be re­futed. The fact that so many pro­scribed mil­i­tant groups are op­er­at­ing with such im­punity has weak­ened our case and made us ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble to grow­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure. We can­not hide be­hind a sense of vic­tim­hood. It is not just about US pres­sure. It is im­per­a­tive for us to clean up our home in our own na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­est. The surge in mil­i­tant vi­o­lence and grow­ing in­sta­bil­ity in Afghanistan threaten our se­cu­rity too. In­deed, Amer­ica’s con­tin­u­ing reliance on the mil­i­tary so­lu­tion and an in­ef­fec­tive, frag­mented ad­min­is­tra­tion in Kabul has been the ma­jor cause of the deep­en­ing Afghan cri­sis. Yet it is in our own in­ter­est that we con­tinue to co­op­er­ate with Afghanistan and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to con­tain vi­o­lence in the strife-torn coun­try.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.