by Martin Berger, New Eastern Outlook:
What we are witnessing today in Afghanistan was not to be anticipated – Washington started negotiations with the terrorist Taliban movement. Just recently, deputy assistant to the US President, Lisa Curtis announced that the White House is prepared to get engaged in a peaceful dialogue with representatives of the Taliban movement. This statement was preceded by a similar one that the the US permanent representative to the UN, Nikki Haley last January, after she made a visit to the Afghan capital – Kabul.
Those announcement is nothing but a direct result of the complete failure of the strategy that Washington has been pursuing throughout the Afghan conflict. The changes that Donald Trump introduced to this approach made little to no difference in the long run, which Washington had to reluctantly acknowledged.
For sure, the US maintained a line of contact open with the Taliban before those announcements were made, but there was no goal for the negotiations other than negotiations themselves, with each side going after each other’s throat on the ground. Now there’s a clear goal in sight – the integration of the Taliban movement and those groups that are close to it into the Afghan government. The leading part in this process will undoubtedly be played the United States, which plays both the driving force behind this process and one of its main sponsor. However, the idea came from the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who originates from the eastern Pashtunistan region and belongs to a tribal confederation of Gilzai, whose representatives are widely represented in both the chain of command of the Taliban and at the lower levels.
Formally, the start of the talks were kick-started back in February by the statement of Ashraf Ghani himself about the readiness of its government to launch the peace process and announce a cease-fire without any preconditions. He has also promised to recognize the Taliban as a political force, to open an office of the Taliban in Kabul, while handing out passports and visas to all the members of the movement and their families.
All of the above mentioned facts were made in spite of the fact that back in 2003 the UN Security Council officially recognized the Taliban as a terrorist organization.
After the United States wasting billions of dollars on futile attempts to put an end to the Taliban, the latter is now is de facto in control of well over 70% of the Afghan territory, as it’s been announced by the BBC. It remains remarkably strong in the provinces of Helmand and Uruzgan, the homeland of the founder of the Taliban, Mullah Omar. After the withdrawal in 2014 of the better part of the international coalition forces that were led by NATO, the territory controlled by the Taliban or those that are under constant threat of their attacks has significantly expanded. However, according to Stars and Stripes, a memo from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), John F. Sopko states that the Pentagon was pretty straightforward in its demand not to disclose these facts to the US Congress or the general public, so that nobody would come to the grips that a total of 17 years of constant warfare resulted in Washington finding itself cornered in a dead end.
That is why, in President Trump’s presentation of his “new US strategy for Afghanistan” that was made last summer, the main emphasis was put on increasing the number of boots on the ground and putting more political pressure on Pakistan and India.
However, some of the provisions of this strategy only worsened the situation and intensified the uncompromising geopolitical confrontation in the country, which is called graveyard of empires for a reason. It is enough to recall that back in 1842, a 16 thousand men strong British army was completely wiped out in Afghanistan, including with every single member of its camp being put tot the sword. For example, the intention of the US to get India more heavily involved in the Afghan affairs serves as a source of constant aggravation of its neighbor – Pakistan. As a result, one can expect Islamabad trying to mend its old ties with its age-old partner – Taliban, which might strengthen the latter even further.
It is hardly necessary to talk about the prospects of the plan on the partition of Afghanistan. Since 2001, American think-tanks were considering a number of options of such a scenario, as a way of finalizing the Afghan problem and appeasing the region. However, one of the reasons they turned their back on it initially was the fear that northern Afghanistan would fall into Iran’s sphere of influence. But these fears can only be described as groundless, as local residents are mainly Sunni. Only the Hazaras of central Afghanistan are Shiites, but most of them are fighting for Iranian citizenship in Syria.
But perhaps the main reason behind Washington’s rejection of this approach is its adherence to its tried and tested formula of dealing with ethnic conflicts – “unite and conquer.” That is, to play on the contradictions of the communities, while keeping them together by depriving local groups of the opportunity to seek their own way. This is how Washington acts in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, leashing the half-dead confederation of Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims for the last quarter of a century, while torturing the Serbs with the guilt for the so-called “Srebrenica massacre.”
That’s why the US has decided once again to “mold the Afghan nation together”. Until recently, the Taliban and the radical militants of ISIS were recklessly exterminating each other as soon as only blood enemies could. Today, a part of the Taliban, for example is already cooperating with the Afghan ISIS, while awaiting the fall of Kabul.
In recent years, Russia and several other countries have been actively working to prevent the union of the two groups and have tried to encourage the Taliban to get engaged in a dialogue with Kabul in order to reduce the level of armed confrontation in this country. Nobody tried to make a big secret out this fact, but then the Trump administration decided to voice yet another string of groundless accusations against Moscow by announcing that it was supplying arms to the Taliban, which thwarted Russia’s attempts to seek peacefully resolution of the Afghan conflict.