An Afghan Ceasefire That Didn’t Last Long
By: Qazi Naveed Ajaz
The historic ceasefire in Afghanistan was a respite for men with arms from both sides. It allowed them to visit their homes and family.
Since this brief interlude of peace, people hoped for a longer ceasefire, so that both parties involved could think of peace and reconciliation in the longer term.
The calm of Eid-ul-Fitr gave an impression of the peace that Afghanistan could have in the future. The three-day truce was something historical because it happened nearly after a decade.
Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, despite the highs and lows of Taliban insurgency, it finally seems that the Taliban is dominant in the country, exerting its rebel and political influence.
The US, on the other hand, cannot think of wiping out Taliban, sooner or later. The only way out right now is a sustained political dialogue.
Compromises have to be made by either of the parties involved. But Taliban doesn’t want to negotiate with Ashraf Ghani’s government because they think that he is an ‘American puppet’. They don’t want to give up their arms to a regime who is hell-bent on keeping ‘occupiers’ in their country.
In a New York Times Oped on June 27th, 2018, Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani wrote: ‘I will negotiate with Taliban anywhere. For 38 years now, the peace in my country has remained a dream, a prayer on my lips. During the ceasefire, Taliban entered our cities to join the celebration. Afghans belonging from the countryside returned to their homes, some first time in years. For three days, it made no difference whether you were a Taliban or an Afghan soldier; a woman or a man; a Tajik, a Pashtun or a Hazara. For three days, Afghans were united and elated by the possibility of peace. We rediscovered tolerance and acceptance within us.’
The intentions of the US Government with their perpetual drone strikes and bombings is clear. They have been around for seventeen years, but they have not thought of the continual collateral damage. It is because of a lack of unity of command and using old strategies such as excessive use of airpower, failed counterinsurgency attempts and catch and kill operations. The war is killing and terrorising common Afghans. Nothing much has changed in that scenario. But the US claims, in its attempts of hard-nosed diplomacy, that it wants to work with the Taliban, the Afghan government and common people for a resolution.
According to UN data published in February 2017, there was a rise in indiscriminate attacks by the US forces that contributed to at least 10,000 civilian injuries. Around 3,500 were killed. Most of the common Afghanis blame it on the continuous support of the government in Afghanistan – Ashraf Ghani’s National Unity Government.
According to inputs by The Hill, Taliban fighters, government officials, security forces were seen mingling, breaking the fast and clicking selfies together. Laurel Miller, The Hill’s Opinion Editor wrote: “the Afghan people on both sides are tired of war and that even fighters would like to find a way out of perpetual fighting.” These events do indicate some sort of potential for prolonged peace in the troubled country, but ironically it didn’t last long.
After the ceasefire ended, around thirty Afghan soldiers were killed in Bagdis, west of the country. It appears that Taliban is now relying on targeted killings. International Crises Group has predicted more violence in the cities. In Kabul alone, 94 per cent of killings have been done by suicide bombings lately.
According to an article on Daily Beast, written by Donald Bolduc, Taliban controls 14.5 per cent of the districts in the countryside. In 2016, the Taliban influence was only 9 per cent.
“ In 2017, there was 63 per cent increase in land cultivation for opium poppies and 88 per cent increase in raw opium production. All this happened in a matter of one year,” Bolduc claims, according to an official US Govt. report.
The Taliban have even attacked schools and other facilities, since 2016. They often beat the guards, set the chairs, books and classes ablaze, despite governments ‘safe school’ slogan. There are children in the country, who work for a living, while also attending school.
Accords’ latest publication in Afghanistan, produced by Conciliation Resources, recommends a new approach in dealing with the situation. The contributors in this publication include the Taliban Political Office in Qatar, senior representatives of five Taliban factions, the Chair of the High Peace Council. It also includes perceptions of common people, men and women from academia, military, political and civil society.
The publication’s peace approach insists that ‘lack of confidence’ between two parties is the sole reason of failed negotiations. The main reason being corruption in the national institutions. There are stark differences on the idea that a civilian government should run main cities with significant populations and Taliban controlling the countryside.
The publication reflects that there is ‘pervasive violence’ affecting the country because of a ‘glaring gap’ between ‘words’ and ‘actions’.
The international reactions to Afghan Peace Process have come from Pakistan too. Ambassador Lodhi believes that a Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) consisting of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and the US, remains a useful platform to pursue a resolution.
Many political analysts believe that it is actually the inefficient strategy of a NATO-led coalition that helped in the resurgence of the Taliban. As the conflict has remained over the course of time, it has given Taliban a chance to propagate their ideology, maintain active relations with local chieftains and spread its influence in the local and international media machines.
The world calls Taliban ‘combatant civilians’, where guns and war are a part of their lives. As of now, Taliban are recruiting local poppy farmers to join their ranks, and the income earned has also gone into their operations. Farmers have been reliant on growing this notorious crop to sustain a living for their families.
As of now, it seems poppy eradication and finding alternatives (commercialising poppy industry into the pharmaceutical industry) will remain as a conciliation measure among the peacemakers.
Naveed Qazi is the author of ‘The Trader of War Stories’ (2018) and ‘Musings on Global Politics’ (2018). For feedback, write to [email protected]