On July 8, Joe Biden, the U.S. President announced that the U.S. is finally set to end its presence in Afghanistan that lasted for 20 years, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While 90% of the stationed troops and their equipment have already been withdrawn, the total withdrawal of the military will be finished by August 31. Since the conclusion of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Mission in December 2014, Afghan troops have been fighting primarily on their own.
Source – UNIPAL WEBSITE
However, the combination of reinvigorated Taliban insurgency gaining ground on the battlefield, the stagnated peace talks, and the recent barrage close to the presidential palace, minutes before the commencement of the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s speech aimed at commemorating the significant Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha has raised concerns- what would happen if the Afghan forces are not able to defeat the Taliban’s ferocious onslaught?
Given the fact that the regime in Afghanistan is currently unstable, the defeat of Afghan forces can very well lead to its collapse, resulting in a power vacuum, which the Taliban, with a history of human rights violations including brutality against women and children, is most likely to fill.
Wazhma Sayle, a Research Scholar, hailing from the Kunduz province of Afghanistan, currently, the hub of the Taliban’s operations for most of its part, was interviewed by the Economic Transcript. The interview strived to facilitate a deeper understanding of the implications of a complete U.S. military drawdown for the future of Afghanistan, particularly for its security forces, human rights, whether intra-Afghan talks would be successful in achieving a settlement, and the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan’s peace process. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Source – Wazhma Sayle, A Research Scholar.
The Economic Transcript: How do you feel about Afghanistan’s current security situation?
Wazhma Sayle: The current security situation in Afghanistan is undeniably critical. The country has recently been exposed to unexpected security turbulence and even war in most of the provinces, which in turn has made it immensely challenging for the citizens to move as freely as they could, 3 months ago. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the situation is direr on borders of the country, major cities of Afghanistan are mostly under control- this is contrary to the narrative that is presented by some biased news channels.
TET: Do you think the U.S. withdrawal has adversely affected the Afghan forces and their capabilities?
WS: The uncoordinated withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Afghanistan has affected the capabilities of the Afghan forces- the Taliban insurgents succeeded in temporarily taking control of the provinces of Faryab, Logar, Jowzjan, Spin Boldak, Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif, in addition to a few rural districts in the Herat province. However, within a week, Taliban insurgents were defeated and removed by the Afghan forces from almost all of these provinces, which indeed signifies that the Afghan forces are, in fact, fully capable of defending Afghanistan. The real problem is a lack of stability, owing to political distrust and corruption among the Members of Parliament, vested with the power to exercise control. Consequently, as soon as the government would employ stringent measures to deal with supporters of the perpetrators of war, the Afghan forces would be able to assume complete, rigid control of the country.
TET: Will it lead to the collapse of the current government in Afghanistan?
WS: While the U.S. withdrawal has strengthened the Taliban’s and its supporters’ belief that Afghanistan can be captured easily because of its present vulnerability, the unification of Afghans would effectively deter all the attempts aimed at capturing the country. The government has also been making strides that cannot be ignored- it has been able to successfully dissuade other political parties in Afghanistan that tried to show their backs to it, in order to engender situations that would lead to its eventual collapse. Further to this, I hope Afghan political allies know that the Taliban will always be their foe.
TET: What will be the impact on the human rights of the citizens?
WS: Well, the U.S. never arrived in Afghanistan to secure the human rights of the citizens. Work towards the same has always been undertaken by civil society actors (supported by the European Union, India, and intergovernmental organizations) and the government itself. The U.S. has solely provided support in terms of resources, such as vaccines, hospital equipment, and economic aid to help the country amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which it will continue to provide, even after its complete withdrawal, as there are legally binding agreements in place.
TET: Do you think the Doha peace process would be successful in restoring peace in the country? If not, what do you think is necessary?
WS: The Doha peace process has already failed in restoring peace in Afghanistan. It is a wasted effort not because of the Afghan government, but because of the Taliban and spoilers of the peace process, such as Pakistan. Now more than ever, the regional actors, in particular, ought to work towards stopping Pakistan’s interference in the internal peace process of Afghanistan.
TET: President Ghani, after the rocket attack near the presidential palace, asserted that “the Taliban have no intention and willingness for peace”. Do you agree?
WS: Absolutely! A ceasefire is imperative for a peace process to come to fruition; indeed, it is the first and the most important factor that should be mutually agreed upon by both parties. The Taliban are not one to agree upon a temporary ceasefire. They were not ready for it 2 months ago on Eid al-Adha, and unsurprisingly, on this Eid al-Adha they launched a rocket attack near the presidential palace, thereby clearly indicating their mentality towards peace. The Taliban themselves know that they would not be able to come to power through regular, democratic elections, since Afghans would not vote for them. As a result, they solely seek to assume power and control through force and war.
Source – ABC News
TET: President Ghani also stated that Pakistani media consistently campaigns “for a Taliban regime in Afghanistan”. What are your thoughts on this?
WS: With a long history of obstructing, spoiling peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan has no intention of supporting, not even letting the Taliban negotiate peace. This is because Pakistan does not want to risk losing the territory it has come to control, through varied expository tactics. It continuously strives to control the Afghan government through the Doha peace process, by establishing and sustaining the strong influence of Pakistani intelligence and getting the government to agree to its demands. However, Pakistan needs to understand two things, first, there is a strong possibility of the Pashtun region’s breakaway from Pakistan, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) is a strong threat. Second, the new Afghan government and the youth of Afghanistan have only grown more resilient over time, they are willing to go to any extent to save their country. Therefore, Pakistan must understand that a successful peace process and the negotiations that come out of it, would greatly serve its interests as well.
Written by- Ashrika Paruthi
Edited by- Aishani Mishra