Touted as a peace deal, the Taliban celebrates U.S. withdrawal as a victory
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Meanwhile, the Taliban has actually accused the US and Afghan forces of violating the agreement in their operations against them, as well as delaying the release of 5,000 prisoners, which was supposed to occur by March 10. “If such violations [of the agreement] continue, it can create an atmosphere of mistrust, will harm the agreement, and also force the mujahideen to respond which will further escalate the war,” the Taliban expressed in a statement to the Afghan Islamic Press on April 5.

A complete withdrawal certainly increases the threat of violence against the Afghan people…

Not long after, Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, publicly rejected a document entitled the “Charter of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Reports began circulating online on April 13 which suggest a charter has been drafted which frames the future governance of Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, it has been purported to say “an Islamic emirate” will govern Afghanistan, usurping laws and rights (granted by the Afghan Constitution) contravene Islamic values. This would reflect no change in the Taliban’s outlook on Afghan law and society, providing they have not changed their views since their former regime. Thus, there will be no regard for the democratic values of free speech, human rights, or civil rights. A strict interpretation of Islamic law is the looming goal of the Taliban.

As expected, several ‘enemies’ of the Taliban and the ‘puppets’ and ‘minions’ of the Afghan forces and Kabul administration workers have surrendered to and continue to surrender to the mujahideen since the acknowledgment of the purported peace deal. As check posts are persistently under assault, some are being abandoned by security forces. And numerous personnel consisting of army, police and local militia have also joined the Taliban. And in blatant disregard for the common threat of the corona virus pandemic, the Taliban initially rejected calls for a cease-fire in Afghanistan during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (April 23 to May 23). However, the organization subsequently announced a three-day break in violence against the Afghan government near the end of the month. Rewarding the Taliban’s feeble effort, President Ghani continues tore lease hundreds of Taliban prisoners in a drastically uneven exchange for Afghan security forces and other personnel.

The deadliest attack in April occurred in Badghis Province resulting in the death of 88 Afghan forces and 13 local police officers and the capture of eight prisoners…

Moving forward with a clear path to victory for the Taliban, the withdrawal of US and foreign forces from Afghanistan over the next several months, intra-Afghan political factions will have the lofty task of trying to make sense of the terms of the agreement and maintain peace in the region without the support of the United States and allies or, as it appears, the full support of its own forces and government administration. A careful reading of the agreement quickly points — perhaps more appropriately — to the terms of a withdrawal agreement, while throwing countless numbers of Afghans to the wolves.

According to the March 2020 Congressional Research Service report entitled Afghanistan: Background and US Policy in Brief (CRS Report R45122), “US officials generally say that the Taliban do not pose an existential threat to the Afghan government, given the current military balance.” However, a complete withdrawal certainly increases the threat of violence against the Afghani people. On the brink of heightened changes to their current way of life, will another Afghan civil war follow? After all, neither ceasefire nor a RiV can be found in the public terms of the agreement on behalf of the Taliban. Instead, “a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire will be an item on the agenda of the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations.” The Taliban does not recognize the Afghan government as a legitimate government. And as it stands, the Taliban refuses to talk to the 21-member Afghan government negotiating team named near the end of March 2020. Neither a ceasefire nor a RiV has occurred, to date. CRS Report R45122 also indicates that 30-40 Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) have been killed each day in recent months.

According to the New York Times’ Afghan War Casualty Report, no less than 253 Afghan forces and 91 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in the month of March — the month following the so-called peace agreement. At least 350 Afghan forces and 66 civilians were killed in the month of April. And at the time of publication, 285 Afghan forces and 155 civilians were reportedly killed in May. The single deadliest attack in March occurred in Takhar Province, resulting in the deaths of 75 Afghan forces and 12 civilians, while the deadliest attack in April occurred in Badghis Province, resulting in the deaths of 88 Afghan forces and 13 local police officers, and the capture of eight prisoners. A Taliban Red Unit, also known as the Red Group or the Blood Unit, was responsible for the deadliest attack in March. The unit is recognized as the Taliban’s special operations unit. Having recently re-emerged on social media, the unit is clearly training to continue its bloody assaults on Afghan districts, as well as military bases and outposts. In May, multiple deadly attacks throughout the month continued to take the heaviest toll on security forces and police officers.

The US still finds itself asking the Taliban to play according to a set of rules it obviously has no intention of honouring…

“Martyrdom operations” remain some of the vilest forms of attack to be conducted by terrorist organizations. On June 1, a video uploaded to the Taliban’s official website, Voice of Jihad, Taliban suicide bombers at a graduation ceremony at the Al Fateh Military Camp were lauded by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the “Political Deputy of the Islamic Emirate and head of the Political Office,” and deputy emirs Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub.

The Taliban have said that their attacks on Afghan forces do not violate the withdrawal agreement. In addition, the Taliban’s online platform, Nawai Afghan Jihad (the Voice of Afghan Jihad), publicly boasts their “armed operations [are] ordinary or normal jihadi activity.” While Taliban violence surges against the Afghan people and heavy casualties continue to be inflicted since the confirmation of the ‘peace’ deal, the US-led NATO task force in Afghanistan unconscionably stopped reporting numerical data about the attacks at the start of May 2020.If the number and severity of Taliban attacks is not reported and cannot be abated, the existing Afghan government will soon succumb to the IEA.

The prophetic development of a “fatal flaw”

One year ago, in the 92-page June 2019 document entitled Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan, it was reported to the U.S. Congress that “the United States has a single vital national interest in Afghanistan: to prevent it from becoming a safe-haven from which terrorist groups can plan and execute attacks against the U.S. homeland, U.S. citizens, and our interests and allies abroad.” The estimated cost of the report for the U.S. Department of Defense was approximately $304,528 for the Fiscal Year 2019, including $17,000 in expenses and $304,511 in labor. Twelve months later, the U.S. still finds itself asking the Taliban to play according to a set of rules it obviously has no intention of honoring.

Part two of the agreement pledges, “…the Taliban will take [a number of] steps to prevent any group or individual, including [AQ], from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.” The Taliban facetiously becomes America’s latest asset to its counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, as it supposedly commits to security measures it has no intention to uphold. This is the same Taliban which refused to turn over bin Laden and oust AQ 20 years ago, while at the same time has consistently helped their persistence to re-establish the IEA. While Taliban has resumed an unceasing number of attacks in Afghanistan, not a single effort to stamp out AQ nor any of its affiliates has been made. In fact, as the aforementioned U.N. report (S/2020/415) points out, “the Taliban regularly consulted with [AQ] during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honour their historical ties.”

AQS is one of the largest coalitions to operate not only in Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar…

What is more, in the previously published Jul-Sep 2019 Indian Defence Review article entitled Unveiling the ISI-Terrorist Nexus, Philip B Haney and JM Phelps accurately predicted the “fatal flaw” in US-Afghan negotiations. The authors correctly identified a coalition of at least 14 organizations that have been operating globally for over two decades. Half of these are Deobandi groups, including the Afghan Taliban itself. And the Taliban — one of the seven Deob and groups to pledge loyalty to the 1998 World Islamic Front fatwa — is now expected to guarantee that Afghanistan does not become a haven for terrorists planning to use Afghanistan soil to threaten the security of the U.S. and its allies?

Government officials and national security strategists have failed to pinpoint the reach and scope of such coalitions — which have no intention of extinguishing threats and violence against the security forces of the Afghan government, the US, or its allies. In a previous, revealing example, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on social media in September 2019 that an operation against the Taliban had taken place in the city of Ghazni. “Two of the terrorists’ bases were demolished along with 120 barrels full of explosive materials, around 2,000 kilograms of primary explosive substances…” It was reported by the MoD that AQ in the ‘Indian’ Subcontinent (AQS) “were to use the materials to prepare explosives for attacks in the Capital and major cities across Afghanistan”— which confirms their intentions of violence and destruction.

AQS is one of the largest coalitions to operate not only in Afghanistan, but also Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. In 2017, the AQS Code of Conduct (CoC), a 20-page sharia-based document (written in English), plainly states the organization’s intentions for the world to see. Helping fulfill one of its objectives for “fighting in Afghanistan for the defense of the Islamic Emirate,” The AQ-affiliated terrorist organization provides key operational support to the Taliban by increasing their capability for terror activity against the Afghan government. According to its own Code of Conduct, AQS considers it a fardh (religious obligation) “to wage jihad in the path of Allah,” identifying one of their major objectives to be “strengthening the Islamic Emirate of Afghani-stan, defending it, and bringing stability to it.” To fulfill this objective, the AQ-linked terrorist group “engages the enemies of the Islamic Emirate outside Afghanistan” and also participates in “fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the mujahideen of the emirate.” Confirmed in the CoC, “the Indian state is [their] top priority, after American and Israeli targets.” In light of the agreement, these objectives beg an important question: has the US actually turned a blind eye to the fact Afghanistan soil will certainly continue — in plain sight — to be used to threaten the security of the United States and its allies around the globe, particularly India and Israel?

…whether US troops are present in the region or not, the Taliban will triumph in the end

In March 2020, AQS devoted the month’s issue of the Voice of Afghan Jihad to the Taliban’s ‘victory’ over the US, then placed India directly in the cross hairs. On the heels of featuring an article entitled Kashmir is the gateway for War against India: Kandjar (Afghanistan) to Doda (Kashmir), The season of Hopes, the online publication claims to be renaming future issues Nawai Ghazwa-e-Hind, promoting a bold shift in its violent campaign to India, specifically Kashmir. One of the reasons India remains an important concern to the Islamic terror group is because, like the United States endeavored to be in Afghanistan, “the Indian state is the fundamental obstacle in the formation of an Islamic India.”

Government officials and national security strategists should be compelled to develop a better strategy — one that would force the Taliban to disavow not only AQ, AQS, the Haqqani Network (supported by Pakistan’s security services), and the conglomerate of Deobandi-linked terrorist organizations emerging from the East. These groups are blending themselves together all across South Asia and beyond. By the terms of the agreement, whether US troops are present in the region or not, the Taliban will triumph in the end — as avowed experts around the world fail to recognize the “fatal flaw” in their Afghan policy and ignore the explicit warnings from the organizations and coalitions involved — those fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the Taliban.

Unabated and as deadly as ever

In March 2020, a London-based report released by Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Centre confirmed that, while the Islamic State continues to be a substantial threat, the Taliban has overtaken the notorious group as the world’s deadliest terrorist organization. There are an estimated 60,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan today. As attacks continue to occur and alliances remain undeterred in Afghanistan, it is naïve, irresponsible, and incredibly dangerous to believe the US and Taliban have entered into a ‘peace’ deal with the world’s deadliest.

Like every other Islamic terrorist group around the world, they yearn to establish a global caliphate — whether it be today, tomorrow, or the decades to come. Their long-term goal must be thwarted, not enabled by the peace-loving countries of the world. With each failed effort to maintain especially those efforts removing the US and other allies from where their presence helped maintain stability, it becomes increasingly easier for terrorist organizations to believe that the way to successfully advance their interests is not through the ballot box but through terrorism and astrict implementation of Islamic law. For the time being, the Afghan government will have to fend for themselves. Capitulation to terrorists has consequences.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Terry Bishop

specializes in a variety of topics related to the strategic influence of terrorism and subversion, counter-terrorism and national security. His many fields of interest and research include armed conflict and violence in South Asia with a specific focus on al-Qaeda in the [Indian] Subcontinent (AQS), the Taliban, and other Deobandi-linked terror groups. Follow him on Twitter @TerryBishopSR.

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