Blogs & Opinion - Opinion
In his recent policy shift, President Ashraf Ghani flipped a Pakistan-oriented peace negotiation talks process with the Taliban to an Afghan-owned process, vowing more robust and harsher military action against militants who continue to wage war and refuse to endorse the Afghan constitution. In doing so however, Pakistan has also appeared unwilling to cut ties with terrorist groups.
Although the president's new policy on insurgency has to some extent elicited a positive response from those monitoring the situation, and from a wider public audience, it has at the same time raised the question for me as an Afghan citizen as to whether his new stance is a practical approach.
This question is surely also being asked by the wider segment of society who, on a daily base, see their countrymen fall at the hands of militants waging war, violence and suicide attacks.
This new policy shift looks a bit confusing as it is now clear both peace and war in Afghanistan have international and regional facets to them as the majority of insurgent groups, including the Taliban hardliners, are enjoying ties with foreign intelligence services and states beyond Afghanistan's geographical boundaries - which definitely makes our dreams of peace in Afghanistan elusive.
I come from a country that has been coping with a wide of range of problems for many years and is basically embroiled in a war that many interpret as one having been imposed on us - a proxy war by certain regional players.
Even I am branded as being part of the 'generation of conflict'; who after learning the basics in life watched his country burning in flames of war and violence; the wars that have widely affected our nation's socioeconomic, cultural, financial and national infrastructures.
What can we understand from President Ghani's war and peace policy?
I was in a state of confusion recently after hearing President Ghani's rare address to a joint session of the Afghan parliament - when he thumped Pakistan and criticized Islamabad's perception of good and bad terrorists; but when it came to the Taliban's bloody insurgency, the president said that while we no longer expect Pakistan to convince the Taliban to join the peace talks process, the peace window for those Taliban factions that do not shed blood and believe in peace will still remain open.
In my perception, such a policy will not heal the wounds of a nation still under attack in the face of Taliban's ongoing insurgency. This, because President Ghani's predecessor Hamid Karzai, pleaded with the Taliban for more than a decade not to harm their country on orders of foreigners and to endorse a peace process.
But the Taliban never bothered to respond positively to Karzai's persistent calls for peace; instead the Taliban increased attacks on certain targets in which Afghan civilians including women, children and man were killed.
As part of government's goodwill gestures over the years, Karzai also released hundreds of militants from jails to motivate the group to join the peace process, but nothing was achieved from this, which instead proved a one-sided measure.
Many of those freed from jails rejoined their former militant groups and continued to fight the Afghan forces.
Analysts argue that the policy of classifying the Taliban into good and bad 'moderate or extremist' terrorists make the peace process more complicated. This despite the group reportedly being split into several factions following the announcement of the death of group's longtime leader Mullah Omar.
What the people want to know is which Taliban faction is willing to join the peace process - this while there is no clear indication for peace from the Taliban's side.
While the Taliban has outlasted an untold number of operations by the world's most potent military forces such as the U.S and the NATO military alliance, what does President's Ghani hasty declaration of war really convey?
We should not forget that the Taliban, as an insurgent group, created major challenges to thousands of foreign troops who were deployed in Afghanistan after 2001 when the U.S-led western coalition toppled the regime from power.
This despite foreign forces having been equipped with the latest technology and modern weapons.
But Ghani's declaration of war against the militants comes at a time when our embattled forces are already defending our nation's honor and dignity on multiple fronts and sacrificing their lives during battles while not having a fully-fledged air force nor sufficient weapons, artillery and armored military vehicles.
The scale of human casualties among the Afghan forces is estimated to be between 10 and 15 soldiers a day, which is a devastatingly high number of victims. Remembering that every fallen soldier leaves behind a devastated family.
Although we have to fight our enemies by keeping the principles of patriotism in mind, at the same time we have to focus on the support the Taliban and other militant groups are getting from other countries such as Pakistan.
The current insurgency in Afghanistan is not summarized only in the structure of a group known as Taliban. But it has a regional facet and particular nations try to fight their proxy war on our soil. Pakistan wields a strong influence over the Taliban and Pakistani leaders have at different times confirmed this.
But the world must realize that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are battling the war for global peace and security. The ANSF is paying the price, soldiers are sacrificing their lives on the front lines in their quest to defeat terrorism so that the world can live in peace. This should help us to forge an international coalition against Pakistan's anti-Afghan policies.
The Afghan insurgency has its roots beyond Afghanistan's geographical borders and had it not been the case, the Taliban, on their own, could wage a war on such a large scale as is currently happening.
Therefore, the government of Afghanistan, under President Ghani and his CEO Abdullah Abdullah's guidance, must sketch a comprehensive war and peace strategy which are both practical. Otherwise, assumptions and a superficial look at the war cannot help us defeat our enemies.
The government must raise the issue of the war in Afghanistan on international platforms such as the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and appeal to them to use their influence on Pakistan to stop harboring terrorist groups and the Taliban leadership on its soil.
At the same, the government needs to push for the implementation of segments within strategic partnership agreements and the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States to curb the insurgency and violence. In line with the BSA, Washington had committed to defend Afghanistan against external threats, but today Pakistani military attacks our border regions and no voice is heard from the U.S nor others over these incursions.
The U.S, as Afghanistan's strategic partner, should not pursue a dual policy regarding insurgency in Afghanistan despite the fact that Islamabad is supporting the Taliban.
In line with the BSA, the U.S should also back the Afghan air force and provide more Tucano fighter planes.
The need for a national consensus and political unison
While President Ghani tried to talk with militants from a national platform, on a political level, there is still no sign of unity among government leadership on major national policy issues including a Taliban policy. On 25 April the President delivered a key address in parliament – his own CEO and other influential politicians clearly absent.
President Ghani needs to define a national consensus on policy issues. But to do this, all of Afghanistan's political elite and the security forces must unite in favor of government so that an effective and strong government can emerge. A stable and strong political system can only help address and rectify national challenges.