Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, February 24th, 2024

Afghanistan’s Contradicting Stance on Taliban Insurgency

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Afghanistan’s Contradicting Stance on Taliban Insurgency

With the peace efforts unfolding, the terminology on the insurgency and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan is also changing. The Afghan government is finding it difficult how to label the various militant groups fighting government forces. Since long ago, there have been efforts going on to differentiate between the militant groups who are potential future peace stakeholders in Afghanistan and those who will likely continue their fight. Speaking at Munich Security Conference, President Ashraf Ghani emphasized on the threat of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda and urged the world to relentlessly fight these groups. The president said that the insurgency going on in Afghanistan is not a civil war, but the insecurity and challenges in the country have in fact originated from other regional countries.
The long-term threat of Taliban to Afghanistan’s security and stability was largely missing in President Ghani’s speech in the top world security conference. This is while observers and Afghan and American intelligence and security officials believe that the Islamic State group has been considerably weakened due to the persistent NATO and Afghan forces’ military operations as well as Taliban offensives against the group. Afghan defense officials say that the Islamic State group has failed to establish the group’s base in Afghanistan with the aim to threaten the Central Asia. Since its emergence in Afghanistan, the Islamic State group has been under immense pressures from all its opponents including the Afghan government, the US and the Taliban. Despite the group’s efforts to find footholds in provinces like Helmand and Farah in the South and Nuristan and Kunar in the east, its presence is now largely limited to the eastern Nangarhar province. Due to this, the group has largely failed to become a major long-term existential threat for Afghanistan.  The sustainable pressures from all relevant parties of the conflict on the Islamic State group in Afghanistan are a rare consensus among warring sides in Afghanistan. The course of the fight against the Islamic State group seems to be on the right track with all major external players such as the US and Pakistan aligned with the government of Afghanistan’s military efforts against the group. This is a promising for the collective efforts to prevent the Islamic State find a foothold in Afghanistan. Obviously, the Afghan government needs to keep the pressures on the group and continue to forge a regional consensus for combating the group.
But perhaps no one would disagree with the fact that the Taliban remain the biggest threat to future stability of the country. Afghanistan needs to deal with the group as an existential threat to the future stability of the country, and forge an international consensus over the threat. The Taliban threaten major cities in the north and south of the country and are bracing for another bitter year of fighting. In 2015, the group wracked havoc across the country and had considerable gains in the fight against government forces. The Taliban threatened major cities and towns last year and even momentarily took the strategic northern Kunduz city. 2016 predicted as highly challenging year for Afghanistan as the Taliban are preparing for launching a heightened insurgency this year.
In a tone indicating once again broadening US involvement in Afghanistan, the outgoing NATO commander John Campbell said on Saturday that the coalition forces “are here to stay.” According to Campbell, the Afghan forces are set to face a tough time next summer. Campbell said that “the Taliban has no vision for the future of Afghanistan. They don’t believe in education, they don’t believe in women’s rights. They don’t believe in the Afghan Constitution. All they believe in is violence and killing women and children.” Campbell’s statement appropriately depicts Taliban and the threat it poses to the future of Afghanistan. And his statement of the US and the whole international community “starting to talk about long-term commitment” in Afghanistan is a promising sign of a re-shift of the US and NATO approach towards Afghanistan.
As another aspect of the mainly Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, the US mission in Afghanistan announced that civilian casualties in 2015 reached its highest level since the start of the conflict in 2001. According to UNAMA, over 11,000 fatalities had been recorded in 2015 which shows a 4-percent increase than in 2014. Sixty two percent of the casualties are attributed to the anti-government groups. The fact is that the Taliban is by far a dominant player in the insurgency of the militant groups in Afghanistan. The staggering sustained rise in civilian casualties suggests how the insurgent groups including the Taliban continue to commit atrocities against civilian population in the country.  The government has set an eye on the peace efforts to bring the mainstream Taliban group into civilian life and put an end to the conflict. That is a rightful wish for the government. But avoiding labeling the Taliban a long-term threat and a terrorist group is in no way helping the Afghan government’s efforts to stabilize the country. One of the most important incentives to drive the Taliban into the peace process is maintaining sustained military pressures against the group on the battlefields. Afghanistan cannot do this without a sustained support from the international community. To ensure that commitment, Afghanistan needs to promote its counter-insurgency policy at the international level and persuade the international community to help the country in the counter insurgency campaign.
President Ghani perhaps deliberately did not seek to persuade the international community in the Munich Security Conference that the Taliban is a terrorist organization and continue to remain a long-term threat to stability of Afghanistan. As he has previously called the Taliban as “political opponents” of the Afghan government, he didn’t need to term the group “terrorist”, but he needed to use the opportunity at the international policy platform in Munich and seek the international community’s long-term commitment to support the ongoing campaign against the Taliban insurgency.

Abdul Ahad Bahrami is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at ahad.bahrami@gmail.com

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