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Complete Withdrawal Of US Forces From Afghanistan Could Result In Another Bloody Civil War

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Rahim Nasar asserts that the US must not extricate its forces completely because that could result in Afghanistan plunging into another civil war, like it did after the Soviet withdrawal.

In April 1985, the then President of Afghanistan Babrak Karmal called Loya Jirga to find a peaceful and sustainable solution to insecurities and political instabilities in the country. More than 800 top Afghan figures representing the entire Afghanistan attended the Jirga. In the same month, backed by the Mujahedeen and their master states, an anti-government Jirga was organized by the frontier tribal Khans, Maliks, Mullahs and Sardars to renounce President Karmal’s Loya Jirga. Resultantly, Karmal transferred authority to non-communist and Pashtun political figure Dr Najeebullah who declared six-month ceasefire and invited all rebel groups, exiles and Afghan refugees to ensure peace and stability.

Later on, in 1987, President Najeeb established National Reconciliation Commission, summoned Afghan Loya Jirga and approved new constitution to govern the state affairs in Afghanistan. In May 1988, Geneva Accord was implemented and the USSR announced withdrawal by February 1989. The US and Soviet Union agreed to continue arming their respective friendly allies.

The USSR completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving President Najeeb’s government in lurch. The rejuvenation of the Mujahedeen and absolute support of regional extra regional states compelled President Najeeb to resign and Afghanistan entered in a new phase of monopoly of the Mujahedeen.

The unwise approach and expectations that the Soviet withdrawal of Afghanistan would end the era of war and anarchy at state level proved a completely false supposition. The failure of provisional government, several skirmishes among the Mujahedeen and weighty interference of regional states plunged the entire country into a dark hole of mass killings, violation of human rights, total institutional failure, vibrant insecurity, risky social extremism and furious religious fundamentalism. Only from 1992 to 1993, the bloody quest among warlords including Gulbuddinn Hikmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabani, Sibghatullah Mujadadi, Ahmad Shah Massoud, Dostam and other factions to capture Kabul resulted in complete destruction of Kabul city and more than 40,000 people were reportedly killed and 130,000 seriously wounded. The resurging power and increasing encroachment of Afghan provinces helped the Taliban to rule over Afghanistan.

According to Human Rights Watch and surveys conducted on demographic consequences of war, more than 1.5 million people were killed from 1979 to 2001 – a highest ever number of mass killings in the human history.

The catastrophic incident of 9/11 and US invasion of Afghanistan further worsened the situation but accurate and wise political decisions in Bonn and summoning Loya Jirga in 2001 and 2004 respectively helped Afghanistan to follow the track towards possible security and political stabilities. The regionalist political thinking of ex-President Hamid Karzai, establishment of Afghan national Army, integrating national institutions and successful political-economic policies of incumbent President Ashraf Ghani further stabilized the country. The US’s attempts to initiate peace talks with the insurgent Taliban in 2009, 2012 and 2014 respectively helped find a sustainable solution for peace and security in Afghanistan.

The recent ongoing peace talks in Doha, Qatar to ensure US withdrawal and Taliban ceasefire significantly depend upon the terms and conditions of US withdrawal, Taliban ceasefire and status of Afghan government. Any unwise presupposition in this regard will surely push back the entire country in agony and bloody scenarios of the 1990s. The same expectations were from complete Soviet withdrawal.

More than one million people died during post-Soviets era of 1989-2001. President Najeeb was capable enough to resist against the mujahedeen and Taliban but risky decisions made by the conciliators made the country a living hell for the Afghans. The failed attempt made by the mujahedeen of seizing Jalalabad in 1989 cleared the fact that Najeebullah held more power than fractious mujahedeen.

Currently, the world is going to commit another serious mistake. The suggestion of complete US withdrawal is much more dangerous and risky enough to destroy the gradually stabilizing Afghanistan. The US needs to be critical in terms of withdrawal and Taliban ceasefire. Semi-withdrawal and presence of peacekeeping forces must be the first priority of the US in order to avoid any threat to ruling Afghan government and developing national institutions.

Bringing Islamabad and Kabul on one negotiating table must be done on priority basis. Without negotiating with Islamabad, expecting peace and security in Afghanistan is totally futile. Kabul’s serious reservations about Islamabad’s soft corner for the Taliban and influence over insurgent elements must be considered.

On the other hand, Islamabad blames Kabul for supporting Indian cause in Afghanistan which is a divergent threat to Pakistan’s national and regional security interests.

The US must ask Islamabad to pull-back its proxy hands from Afghanistan. And India must be directed to define and declare its presence limiting to economic and infrastructural development. Otherwise, expecting peace, security and stability in Afghanistan is a failed idea right from the start.

China, Russia, Iran and Central Asian Republics are also weaponising militant proxies to avert any divergent threat to their security and political interests in Afghanistan. Reports and Taliban’s local commanders have confirmed that China is the major country supplying weapons to the Taliban to counter the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan. Practicing such hard policy options on one hand and playing role in Peace talks are threats to stability in Afghanistan. The US must ask China to stop its weapon support to the Taliban.

Presence of peacekeeping forces, support to Afghan National Army and accepting the legitimacy of Afghan government led by President Ghani must be prioritized in peace talks. Suggestions on interim government, dissolving the constitution and structure of Afghan National Army will turn Afghanistan into a battle field and complete civil war.

Complete disarmament of all factions of the Taliban, bringing all ex warlords and Afghan top leadership on one page and conducting general election in supervision of UN peacekeeping forces backed by the US are much more important to ensure security, political stability and sustainable peace in Afghanistan. The UN Security Council must play its role to support the US and Afghan government to completely disarm the Taliban and participation in national politics in order to conduct fair and free elections in the country which are prerequisites for stabilizing Afghanistan.

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