Taliban is expanding again. They got space and time to regroup themselves. This is happening when the world powers are competing to appropriate their maximum influence over Afghanistan. Russia held a conference in Moscow. The Ex- Secretary of State of USA was trying to find support in the region to hold talks. Earlier Afghanistan’s President held a conference in Geneva rolling out a roadmap for the peace process in Afghanistan. The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan was co-hosted by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United Nations, was attended by delegations from 61 countries and 35 international organizations, and representatives of civil society, the private sector and the media. But Taliban does not seem to be interested to enter into any dialogue with the Afghan Government. In their perception American are the occupying force in Afghanistan and they would talk to Americans only. In order to prove the point Taliban overran Ghazni town of Afghanistan. It took Afghan and American forces four days to end the siege. Kunduza and Farah towns are already with the Taliban.
It is important to know as to why Americans failed in Afghanistan? First the American army reached petty late to counter Taliban. It was said that the army would be deployed for a short time only. Moreover, America could send only one Brigade there. NATO States too sent only their limited troops as a token. The night raids and air attacks did not yield much result. America never seriously made an effort to build the democratic institutions in Afghanistan. Even President Karzai had started to believe that the war on terror was moving into some wrong direction. The worst was that an ordinary Afghanistan citizen was slowly realising that the Americans are there not to defeat the Taliban but to take control of Afghanistan and bring it under their dominance. The administrative machinery could not be developed because of the inherent distrust of Americans in local population. Strategically, the Americans were mostly interested to protect the cities whereas Taliban had already started consolidating its position in countryside and getting ready to encircle the towns.
Afghanistan’s army neither has the strength nor the morale to fight Taliban. They are deserting the posts on seeing the Taliban militia. On an average fifty plus Afghan troops are getting killed by Taliban every day. Taliban is relying on its old tactics. They are attacking isolated army posts, blowing off police stations and putting in use their fidayeen squads to carry out deadly attacks with maximum casualties. This time around the administration in the captured areas are different from what it had been in previous Taliban regime. They are not prohibiting girl’s education and also not carrying out public executions. They are also against the civilian casualties and trying to minimise it. There is somewhat of a public support also visible to Taliban in certain areas. In a Hobson’s choice to live either under American army or Taliban, Afghans are likely to prefer the latter.
The reason for this resurgence of Taliban rests on two factors. First, there is no or little strength of Afghanistan army vis-a-vis Taliban and second the American strategy and policy has not gone down as per plans. The Government set up by Americans in Afghanistan has no credibility. President Ghani has married a western Christian lady and he is seen as a stooge in American hands. American strength too is limited to air strikes which often leads to civilian casualties exacerbating the dislikes to Americans even further. As per one UN report in the year 2018 over 313 civilians were killed in the air strikes which is the highest number in the Afghan war since the year 2009.
The Russian initiative led to holding a conference in Moscow between Afghan Govt and Taliban representatives. But Taliban doubts Russia too. Taliban believes that Russia wants to buy peace with Taliban so that it can launch more attacks on ISIS in Syria and control a sizeable territory there. Earlier Russian had proclaimed that their only interest was to defeat the Islamic State. Even Taliban is not in favour of Islamic state and it is fighting a war against ISIS in the Khorasan province of Afghanistan. Here the interests of Russians and Taliban were converging. But at the same time Russians were supplying 10000 automatic assault rifles to Afghan army. Russians were double crossing and that was detected by Taliban.
Indian position is not clear as ever. India needs peace in Afghanistan, but it is too dependent on American strategy and that does not allow the Indian establishment to chart out its independent strategy for Afghanistan. Exactly the same way, in 1980s, India was foot toeing Soviet Union regarding its Afghan policy. That is one of reasons that Indians could never comprehend the Afghanistan’s situation on the ground and could never play an effective role in Afghanistan. At present the only strategy of the Indian Govt is to reduce or minimize the role of Pakistan in the peace process of Afghanistan. But this easier said than done. The new Pakistani Government is said to under the influence of army and Pak army is once again back to its previous mode of supporting Taliban
India stands at 4th position in the five circle policy of Afghanistan spelt out by President Ghani. He went on to facilitate signings a MoU between Afghanistan security forces and ISI of Pakistan. Indian establishment thinking that such steps were essential for the peace talks, did not oppose the MoU. US President Trump after taking over the Oval Office spoke in favour of a positive role of India in Afghanistan’s peace process. But he failed to outline the extent of such role leading to a wide obscurity on the prospective role of India in Afghanistan. The Indian establishment is still in utter confusion as to what should be its role in Afghanistan
As a neighbour state, it is important for India to keep up the morale of Afghanistan Government which is likely to further nosedive once the Americans will start pulling out. The withdrawal of half the 14,000 American troops serving there would reduce the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal. It is a settled position that the Taliban can never be defeated. In such a scenario, India might have to open talks with some groups of Taliban if it has to stay afloat in the future peace process. The only way out is to broker a peace dialogue between the Afghanistan government and Taliban in such a way that the interests and demands of both the parties are catered to and India too has a role in supervising the working and implementation of the agreement. The solution should be aimed at helping the Afghan Govt and Taliban to find an honourable position within the agreed legal framework for Afghanistan. Also the moderate elements within the Taliban needs to be identified, serenaded and be entrusted with bigger responsibility of confidence building between the parties. This all appear to be an onerous task but not impossible nonetheless.