US-Taliban peace deal- will it usher prosperity?
By Mudasir Wani
After more than 18 years of war, a deal between the US and Taliban has put Afghanistan on the path to what many hope will lead to a state of permanent peace in the region which has remained war torn for decades together. The US and Taliban signed the accord recently in Doha, Qatar, more than 18 years after George Bush first sent forces to topple the Taliban in the wake of 9/11 attack in 2001.The US-Taliban have signed an agreement aimed at ending nearly two decades of conflict in Afghanistan. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo hailed the signing of the agreement in Doha after the reduction of violence from over past weeks and termed it as the best opportunity to end the regional instability and usher regional prosperity. Each side have committed to reduction in violence and the agreement paves the way for the US to gradually withdraw it’s troops from Afghanistan. Taliban too have promised not to allow the country to be used as a base for terrorist attacks against the west.
Moreover less than 24 hours after the US signed a landmark agreement with Taliban on Saturday in Doha, it’s implications have already hit the first speed bump. The Afghan war survivor’s , amputees from the war torn Naghdehar province expressed contentment over the deal and said that it should have been done years earlier.
However, Pakistan has had a key role in setting the stage for the negotiations and has been cooperating with US to help pressure the Taliban to strike a peace deal with the aim of extricating the US from its longest war. The US has acknowledged Pakistan’s role to bring the US-Taliban back on negotiation table as the US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad himself said that Pakistan had assured the US of every support to initiating a dialogue and end the decades long conflict and to bring peace and stability in the region. When Pakistan prime minister, Imran Khan, visited US last year to meet US president he did offer every kind of support for result-oriented talks for which president Trump assured a meaningful dialogue between the US and Taliban to put an end to this war. In a statement, Dr Mohamed Faisal said that Pakistan hopes that it will lead to intra-afghan negotiations and ultimately to a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
No one should be happy about the situation that has been prevailing in Afghanistan. But Americans might console themselves with the sober recognition that they’ve been through events like this before. The United States is a powerful, extremely fortunate, and intermittently virtuous country that has done great things for its citizens and for others on more than one occasion. But it is neither perfect nor omnipotent and its history also contains a number of errors and disappointments. The War of 1812 was an ill-conceived venture that got Washington occupied and the White House set ablaze. The sad fate of post-Civil War Reconstruction might have taught the United States that remaking societies through military occupation is a tricky business. U.S intervention in the Russian Civil War was a failure too while as the Korean War ended in stalemate and the war in Vietnam too was a big defeat for US. Defeat in Afghanistan need not lead to defeatism; it should lead instead to smarter decisions about where and for what purpose the country commits its military forces.
The war in Afghanistan continues destroying lives due to the direct consequences of violence and the war-induced breakdown of public health, security, and infrastructure. Thousands of civilians have been killed during crossfire, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), assassinations, bombings, and night raids into houses of suspected insurgents. Even in the absence of fighting, unexploded ordnance from previous wars and United States cluster bombs continue to kill people here.
Hospitals in Afghanistan are treating large numbers of war wounded, including amputees and burn victims. The war has also inflicted invisible wounds. In 2009, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported that two-thirds of Afghans suffer from mental health problems. The history of wars here in the country have made the society extremely vulnerable to the indirect effects of war including mental health issues as well as lack of essentials, malnutrition and reduced access to quality health care. Nearly every factor associated with premature death — poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to health care, environmental degradation — is exacerbated by the current war. While Afghanistan has benefited from investments in health care that may ameliorate some of the effects of war, the results are mixed, with improvement in some areas, such as infant mortality, balanced by continuing or growing needs in other areas of public health.
To be clear, the Afghan debacle is not, strictly speaking, a military defeat. The Taliban never vanquished the U.S. military in a large-scale clash of arms, or caused its forces to collapse. Instead, it is a defeat in the Clausewitzian sense—18 years of war and “nation building” did not produce the political results that U.S. leaders (both Republicans and Democrats) had set for themselves. The reason is fairly simple: Afghanistan’s fate was never going to be determined by foreigners coming from 7,000 miles away.
The security situation has worsened in recent years, with rates of civilian casualties reaching record highs in 2018. A flawed and contested parliamentary election in October 2018 and uncertainty around the presidential election in September 2019 have furthered political instability. The humanitarian situation also remains dire as the possibility of a prolonged drought and other resource scarcity issues threaten greater levels of displacement and human suffering. About 157,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan war since 2001. More than 43,000 of those killed have been civilians. Lets hope that the peace deal ushers a new era of prosperity to the region.
The author is socio-political activist, President at Jammu and Kashmir students welfare organisation.