US and Taliban are talkin’ and whackin

Published: July 11, 2019
File photo of US-Taliban talks in Qatar. PHOTO: REUTERS

File photo of US-Taliban talks in Qatar. PHOTO: REUTERS

File photo of US-Taliban talks in Qatar. PHOTO: REUTERS The writer is a political analyst. He can be reached at Twitter @Imran_Jan

The seventh round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States are ongoing in Doha right now. Positive news coupled with positive body language and tweets are raising expectations for achieving peace in Afghanistan and ending America’s longest war. Following six days of direct Taliban-US talks in Doha, the Taliban met face to face with Afghan politicians and members of the nascent civil society who had come to the meeting as mere Afghan citizens ‘on equal footing’ rather than representatives of the Afghan government. This condition of the Taliban was ensured to be met by Germany and Qatar who had sponsored this two day ‘All Afghan Conference’. About 50 Afghan delegates including females attended the meeting with the Taliban and calls for peace and reducing ‘the civilian casualties to zero’ were made by both the sides.

However, these calls sounded more like a recommendation to the other side rather than a pledge. This call came after 18 people were killed and more than 180 wounded in a Taliban attack aimed at the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the premier intelligence agency of Afghanistan. While the peace talks between the Americans, led by Trump’s envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Taliban were ongoing, the NDS attack happened without seemingly registering a blip on the radar of the Doha participants. Truth be told, it was noticed and paid very good attention to.

That is why we saw more attacks demonstrating that the Americans and Afghan forces are able to create mayhem too. On Tuesday, the ‘All Afghan Conference’ was concluded and two days after the Taliban attack, an airstrike in the northern province of Baghlan believed to be conducted by the United States killed seven people, six of them children. The same day, Afghan commandos raided a hospital in central Afghanistan killing four people. The urge to show lethality was stronger than the urge to minimise ‘the civilian casualties to zero’.

The Taliban know full well that it was their ability to give bloody noses to the Americans in the battlefield that brought them to the table and will keep them there. They know that for as long as they can keep the pressure on the Americans in the form of taking American lives and continue to make Afghanistan an unmanageable, unwinnable, and an endless war for Washington, they will eventually come out as victors because Washington and the American people would get absolutely tired of this mission creep. That Washington would have no option but to withdraw just as the Soviets had done.

The same mindset of having a knife at one’s throat is at work in Washington. The UN quarterly report found that US and Afghan forces killed more civilians than the Taliban did in the first quarter of 2019. That is when the talks have been in full swing. Just like the crippling sanctions that hurt the Iranian economy to the extent that the Iranian leadership, including the Supreme leader Ali Khameini, had to agree to talk to the ‘Great Satan’. The purpose was to end the sanctions by coming to an agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear activities. Finally, an agreement in the form of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear deal was achieved between Iran and the P5+1, meaning the US, Russia, China, France, England, and Germany.

Ironically, it took the terrorist of the erstwhile to be themselves rather than be peaceful and civilised, as the West likes to label itself, in order for the Americans to choose to negotiate with the terrorists. Even more ironically, the so-called civilised side is showing more barbarity than the branded terrorists. Sadly, demonstration of lethality is driving the peace talks. Peace isn’t driving the peace talks.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2019.

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