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The US Invasion of Afghanistan ended with Talks

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BY: Shabir Ahmad

Afghanistan is a mountainous landlocked country in South Asia and its area has been invaded many times in recorded history. The other part of the history is that no invader has ever been able to control all of its regions and often faced rebellions.

In September 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The United States believed that Osama Bin Laden - who was the head of al-Qaeda - was the Mastermind behind these attacks. There was a lot of international pressure on the Afghan leaders to hand over Osama Bin Laden. When the Taliban didn't do this, the United States decided they would use their armed forces. In October 2001, the USA began bombing Afghanistan. They targeted bin Laden's al-Qaeda fighters and also the Taliban. In November 2001, the Northern Alliance took control of the Afghan capital Kabul. They were being helped by the US and other countries that agreed with it, including the UK. The Taliban were quickly driven out of the capital city, Kabul, but even today Afghanistan remains a dangerous place. It was in 2011, ten years after the war in Afghanistan began, that Osama bin Laden was eventually found by American soldiers in Pakistan, where he was shot and killed.

Afghanistan War, the international conflict in Afghanistan that beginning in 2001 consisted of three phases. One- toppling the Taliban (the political and religious faction that ruled Afghanistan and provided sanctuary for al-Qaeda)—was brief, lasting just two months. The second phase, from 2002 until 2008, was marked by a U.S. strategy of defeating the Taliban militarily. The third phase, a turn to classic counterinsurgency doctrine, began in 2008 and accelerated with U.S. Pres. Barack Obama’s 2009 decision to temporarily increase the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. The larger force was used to implement a strategy of protecting the population from Taliban attacks and supporting efforts to reintegrate insurgents into Afghan society.

The strategy came coupled with a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan; beginning in 2011, security responsibilities would be gradually handed over to the Afghan military and police. The new approach largely failed to achieve its aims. Insurgent attacks and civilian casualties remained stubbornly high, while many of the Afghan military and police units taking over security duties appeared to be ill-prepared to hold off the Taliban. By the time the U.S. and NATO combat mission formally ended in December 2014, the 13-year Afghanistan War had become the longest war ever fought by the United States.

The Operation ‘Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan’, which began in October 7, 2001, caused the deaths of many soldiers during the period from 2001 to 2019. Although it has been nearly 18 years since the Americans started the Global War on Terror, there are still many terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. About 3,346 terrorist attacks were counted in 2010. In 2017, a total number of 1,171 terrorist attacks were reported in Afghanistan. According to the report by Brown University's ‘Costs of War Project’, fatalities in Afghanistan, stood at about 147,000 people, including Afghan security forces, civilians and opposition fighters. The figure also included the deaths of 6,334 American soldiers and contractors, as well as more than 1,100 allied troops.

The report said that war-related violence had killed 65,000 people in neighbouring Pakistan, including 90 American contractors, nearly 9,000 local security personnel and more than 23,000 civilians. The rest of the casualties were anti-government fighters. The report said the number of indirect deaths was several times larger than deaths caused by direct war violence, bringing the total death count to well over 1 million people. “Though the war on terror is often overlooked by the American public, press and lawmakers, the increased body count signals that, far from diminishing, this war remains intense," the report said. The death toll includes U.S. and allied troops, civilians in the war zones, local military and police forces, as well as militants, who have died from war violence. It also lamented that the U.S. war have displaced 1.2 million of people in Afghanistan."This update just scratches the surface of the human consequences of 17 years of war," the report warned in its concluding lines.

While the casualties in Pakistan have dropped by more than 80 percent in the past few years, intensified hostilities in Afghanistan continue to inflict record levels of casualties on civilians and pro-government forces. The year 2018, observers say, appears to be the deadliest so far since the conflict began 17 years ago.

After spending a staggering US$1.6 trillion on the Afghan war and reconstruction, it is becoming clear that Trump’s decision is primarily about not wanting to be involved in expensive wars. While it could mean more bloodshed for Afghans, the decision also paves way to the influence of other foreign powers. Russia are reportedly brokering peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan high peace council, which comprises tribal elders, alongside representatives from Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Whether US and other foreign troops stay in Afghanistan or not, the prospects of peace remain as distant as ever. This is due to the competing interests of Afghanistan’s neighbours, the rise of Taliban and other extremists, the failure of the Afghan government to provide basic services and security to its citizens and the international community’s reluctance to follow up on its promises and rebuilding engagements.

Therefore, United States ended its longest war in Afghanistan after bearing a huge loss in terms of lives, finance and property. The war which was initiated to revenge the September 11 attacks ended with a draft deal concluded between the Leaders of Taliban at the end of sixth day with U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar aimed at ending the war, more than 17 years since American-led forces invaded Afghanistan. U.S. negotiators agreed on a draft peace pact setting out the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan within 18 months, potentially ending the United States' longest war.

India and Pakistan must learn a lesson from The United States of America that war is never a solution to any problem. Both the nations must start working to initiate similar type of talks to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

The author is State Social Observer and writes on various contemporary issues of national and international import and can be reached at:sahilshabir@rocketmail.com

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