By Zeba Noori
May 12 in Afghanistan turned out to be another dark day in the history of the country, as it witnessed a couple of dreadful and brutal attacks on guiltless civilians. An attack on a maternity hospital in Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul, took the lives of 24 people, mostly pregnant women and innocent children, and left 16 others injured. The attack shook the people of Kabul, rather the whole country, and later the entire world once the pictures of slain and injured babies and their mothers went vital. Nevertheless and most unfortunately, the attack was not the only tragic story of the day. Another attack was carried out in Nangarhar, where a suicide bomber targeted the funeral of a local police commander. The attack was not less heinous than the other one, as it killed 26 people and injured 68 others. The attacks have been rightly called as ‘war crimes’ by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), but they have not been claimed by any individual or groups; meanwhile, Taliban have rejected any involvement. There are possibilities that Daesh (ISIS-K) is involved in the attacks, particularly in the Kabul attack, because of their history of targeting Shia Hazaras in western Kabul. Nevertheless, it is vital that the perpetrators of such attacks must be identified and must be brought to justice.
However, for that to happen it is vital that Afghan government and security forces must consider themselves responsible enough, and they must find the determination to do so. But that does not seem to be the case, as has been witnessed by the people of western Kabul, who have undergone at least 10 such attacks in a duration of only one year. Residents of the area after Tuesday’s attack shared their concerns that there has not been any sort of change in government’s security plan for the area; some even doubt there is any plan. A few even claim that Ghani administration may be backing Daesh’s plan to sabotage the community or it may be keeping its eyes shut against such attacks, as it sees opportunities to strengthen its position after such attacks.
It is really vital to see what President Ghani’s role has been in recent times more than an opportunist. Let’s see his role in the peace process between Taliban and Afghan government. In fact, the process has not even started, as Ghani’s team in Arg has never shown any intention to do so. Definitely, the United States took a wrong decision not to involve Afghan representatives in the peace deal with Taliban, but after the signing of the deal, there has been an opportunity for Afghanistan to move forward, as it had to start from somewhere. Though Ghani apparently agreed that he would implement the terms of US-Taliban deal, starting with the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, he never pursued it in true spirit. He saw an opportunity in it to strengthen his position against his political rival Abdullah Abdullah, who doubted his victory in the presidential election. After having enough backing to announce his inaugural, he promised to release 1,500 Taliban prisoners, which again has not been carried out, with the claim that Taliban have not released the promised number of prisoners. Taliban, on the other hand, have mistakenly continued their offensive attacks on Afghan security forces with the belief that it might pressurize the Ghani administration to agree for peace process or it might strengthen their position once such process starts. However, Ghani seems to be taking advantage of it as he has never wanted a peace process. He seems afraid of losing his authority, his position, and his intention of implementing his will over the proceedings. That’s what he has been guarding even in the talks with Abdullah Abdullah. He did not seem slighly moved when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that people of Afghanistan will lose USD 1 billion in US assistance this year, and a same amount the next year.
It is unfortunate to note that Ghani ordered the Afghan security forces to go offensive against Taliban after Tuesday’s attacks, especially at a time when the US-Taliban peace deal is being pursued. It seems that Ghani had been waiting for such an opportunity to sabotage the process altogether. Definitely, it is necessary that Afghan security forces should be ready against Taliban and other insurgent groups all the times and take necessary measures when required, but for that to happen it must first be investigated that the Taliban are the real perpetrators. People of Afghanistan deserve that they know their actual enemies. It is always easier to blame an alleged enemy without proper investigation and launch a politically motivated security initiative but it is more difficult to ascertain the true culprits and take tangible actions. Clearly, Afghan administration has opted for the first option. Even before the attack was completely thwarted, it was announced by the Afghan officials that Taliban are behind the attacks.
What does Ghani wants to achieve from such a strategy? Is he just echoing his and his team mates anger, who are unhappy with the deal? Or does he think he can gain the support of the US by baiting Taliban into an offensive? However, that it seems unlikely that he can drag US again in the quagmire as Pompeo said in a statement after the attacks, “The Taliban and the Afghan government should cooperate to bring the perpetrators to justice.” He also added, “As long as there is no sustained reduction in violence and insufficient progress towards a negotiated political settlement, Afghanistan will remain vulnerable to terrorism.” So, his offensive strategy may backfire and further strengthen Taliban’s position in the present scenario.
The regional countries also want peace in Afghanistan, and they want to make sure that ongoing opportunity is not lost or at least not used by Ghani for his vicious objectives. On Wednesday, May 14,
Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told TASS that President Ghani’s order to launch an offensive against the Taliban and the suspension of the release of Taliban prisoners will halt the process of launching intra-Afghan negotiations. Moreover, many of the political leaders in Afghanistan believe that turning away from peace at this juncture would direct the country towards further instability and chaos, like former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said in a recent tweet: “Rhetoric that promotes conflict & leads to further violence & instability must be avoided… Our people want #peace and right now. The Afghan factions must engage in intra-Afghan dialogue at the earliest as this is the only way to peace and stability.”
From a realistic perspective, it is impossible that Afghanistan gets perfect opportunity for peace. It needs to take advantage of whatever opportunities are available. It needs to find its way from a complex situation that involves the interests of various players including that of the world’s most powerful countries but for that to happen its political leadership, particularly, its government leaders must show some true determinism and must not prioritize their self-centered incentives.
Brutal Attacks, Stalled Peace and Opportunist Ghani
By Zeba Noori