By Sushant Sareen
situation in Afghanistan is going south very fast.
in the Afghan government’s hold over the country, always a little tenuous, now
appears to be slipping quite precipitously. The Taliban have, for some time
now, been on the ascendant. They are not getting any support from their primary
backers — Pakistan — but have also found a degree of acceptability among other
countries. The Russians, Iranians, Chinese, Turks and some Arab states have
established a close liaison with the Taliban. These countries are not just providing
diplomatic space to the Taliban by engaging with them, but there are also
reports that some of them might be supplying weapons to these medieval
too seems to be inclined, even desperate, to start a dialogue with the Taliban.
newly appointed Special Advisor for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay
Khalilzad, has already held a round of talks with the Taliban in Doha.
officials are pressing Pakistan to make the Taliban amenable to a negotiated
solution. They are hopeful that talks with the Taliban will take the ‘peace
process’ forward and eventually end the civil war in Afghanistan.
all these moves on the Afghan chessboard seem to suggest that peace might be
within grasp, it is difficult to not be sceptical about the prospects of this
somewhat half-baked ‘peace process’.
spin that is being given by all the countries to justify their acceptance of
the Taliban is that they are legitimate stakeholders who need to be brought in
rather than kept out.
of engaging the Taliban is based on a few arguments, which are nothing if not
said that the Taliban are a local, Afghan force. Since they have no
international agenda like the Al Qaeda or Islamic State or other such jihadist
organisations, they don’t pose a threat to the world.
also being said that the Taliban have changed. They aren’t the Taliban of the
1990s. To gain acceptability from rest of the world, the Taliban have moved
argument is that the Taliban cannot win. There is a stalemate which isn’t going
to be broken unless the Taliban agree to a political negotiation for power
these arguments, dripping with desperate self-deception, if not manic delusion,
are nothing more than an excuse to strike a Faustian bargain with the Devil
himself and throw the Afghans to the wolves.
bottom line is that if the Taliban were reconcilable, they wouldn’t be the
Taliban; if they were interested in peace, there wouldn’t be the sort of
blood-bath that they have unleashed on Afghanistan; if they were reasonable,
and if they had changed and become moderate, they wouldn’t indulge in the
massacres and brutal executions in areas they have temporarily captured, nor
would they impose their medievalism on the areas where they hold sway.
thing is that the Taliban are a local manifestation of a global jihadist
Taliban ideology itself is not of Afghan origin but a Pakistani import.
leave that aside, even in the 1990s, the Taliban while not actively exporting
their pernicious ideology or participating in jihadism outside Afghanistan,
were a magnet for all sorts of despicable jihadists from around the world.
provided sanctuary to every bad guy — Pakistani sectarian terrorists, Chinese
Muslim militants, Uzbek jihadists, Arab terror groups, Indonesian and other
South East Asian Islamists, you name it they were there in Afghanistan. And
there is nothing to suggest that the same won’t happen again if the Taliban
is also no evidence that the Taliban have nothing to do with international
jihadist terrorists like Al Qaeda anymore. If anything, the fact that the
Taliban and Al Qaeda have fought together over the last 17-odd years, means
that they will continue to have a much closer relationship than they had before
anyone to think that the Taliban, who think they are winning, will sever all
links with the Al Qaeda, is to live in alternate reality. Similarly, there is
no evidence that the Taliban have given up their medieval mindset. Their track
record in places they have captured or influence stands testimony to their
barbarity and misogynism. In fact, the Taliban of today are far more virulent,
violent and radical than the Taliban of the 1990s.
the military stalemate, it is quite debatable whether this is a correct description
of the ground reality.
the last couple of years, the Taliban footprint has constantly been expanding
while the Afghan government has been steadily losing control over large swathes
Taliban might not be in a position to launch a blitzkrieg to capture Kabul, but
they are winning through attrition.
it simply, there is no military stalemate because one side is winning, the
other side is losing.
the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that even though the Taliban have
condescended to talk to the Americans, they have not given an inch on their
other hand, the US has backed down on virtually every single pre-condition they
had put on talks with Taliban. This, in turn, has given the Taliban a leg up not
just in the war, but also in the so-called negotiations.
the way is paved for a Taliban takeover — a power sharing arrangement will be
only the first step towards that eventuality — the Americans must take into
account the imminent possibility that Afghanistan under Taliban will once again
become a magnet for all sorts of Islamists.
all, the Taliban chief is Emir-ul-Momineen (Leader of the faithful) not
Emir-ul-Afghan. What is more, the psychological impact of a Taliban regime in
Kabul will be devastating. It will enthuse jihadist terror groups all over the
world that they can tak on the mightiest military force on Earth, and win.
than bringing peace to Afghanistan, a deal with the Taliban will bring war to
rest of the world.
Sushant Sareen is Senior Fellow, Observer Research