Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan
As the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate with every passing hour, diplomatic efforts have been ramped up with active involvement of the US, China, Russia and Pakistan named as Troika-plus to resume the intra-Afghan peace negotiations aimed at reaching a peaceful political settlement to the Afghan conflict that may save Afghanistan from slipping into a bloody civil war.
In this regard, as a last ditch effort, a peace conference was held in Doha last week as part of diplomatic endgame that was participated by the representatives of Troika-plus to find a way out to bring the warring factions to the negotiating table and make them reach a compromise deal but it ended without any meaningful outcome.
Latest reports coming from Afghanistan suggest that Taliban’s conquests continue unabated with provincial capitals falling to them one after the other like dominoes. Afghan security forces are surrendering before Taliban fighters and those who put up token resistance are finally put to rout by Taliban fighters. Seeing the Taliban’s rapid advance and sensing the ultimate fall of Kabul, the US has intensified airstrikes against the Taliban using its most devastating B-52 strategic bomber and F-18 fighter jet that reportedly is causing incalculable collateral damage.
However, Biden administration has declined to provide details about its airstrikes inside Afghanistan, but Afghan officials have cited US airstrikes in Kapisa and Helmand provinces. Pentagon’s chief spokesman John Kirby is quoted as saying:
“We will continue to coordinate airstrikes with and in support of Afghan forces when and where feasible.”
Defence analysts are of the view that the limited airstrikes conducted from a distance thousands of miles away from Afghanistan in the absence of the availability of nearby air bases, can’t go on ad infinitum and are expected to end with the completion of US troops withdrawal by August 31 this year. Biden has reportedly made it clear to Ashraf Ghani that it’s Afghan security forces’ responsibility to fight the Taliban and protect their country. Reports published in “The Washington Post” citing State Department spokesperson Price and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby pointed out that the US has provided the Afghan military with most modern weaponry including air power and has trained the Afghan military for two decades. Now it’s up to them to defend their country. Between the lines, it betrays US intention to see an unending civil war in Afghanistan.
Currently, the security situation in Afghanistan is at the lowest ebb and fast eroding. According to a former CIA officer Bruce Riedel who led a review of US policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan during Obama administration in 2009, “the security situation in Afghanistan is bleak, worse than most expected. The danger is that the momentum of Taliban’s offensive will overwhelm the Afghan government and the defence of Kabul will collapse.”
At present, most fierce fighting is reportedly going on in several cities with Taliban having a clear edge over Afghan security forces. After weeks of encircling provincial capitals, the Taliban seized the first provincial capital Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province a week ago followed by other provincial capitals in a row. As of now, they have reportedly captured 20 provinces including the strategically important cities of Qandahar, Lashkar Gah, Qunduz and Herat, the third largest city of Afghanistan. Local veteran militia commander and warlord Ismail Khan widely known as lion of Herat and Ashraf Ghanis’s last hope who had been putting a tough fight against the Taliban in Herat for the last two weeks has finally surrendered and joined the Taliban fighters. Moreover, fighting is going on in several other provincial capitals. It’s predicted that five to seven more provincial capitals could be under Taliban’s control in the next few weeks. According to intelligence reports, hitherto, Taliban have seized control over more than 80 % of Afghanistan. The rapidity with which Taliban are capturing provincial capitals has come as a huge shock and embarrassment for the world’s lone super power.
The withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan implying a defeat of the NATO military alliance having world’s most powerful military might equipped with the most modern war machinery and cutting-edge technology spearheaded by the US at the hands of a handful ragtag and scantily armed Taliban fighters judged by the modern warfare standards, makes one thing abundantly clear that it’s not the weapons and numerical superiority that plays a decisive role in winning a war but it’s the firm belief in the righteousness of the cause, spirit of sacrifice coupled with unflinching will and dogged determination that brings a decisive victory. When we turn over the pages of war history, we find a striking resemblance between the victory gained by a handful unarmed Muslim fighters numbering only 313 over the infidels of Makkah with a fighting force three times more in number and armed to the teeth in the battle of Badr and the victory of a handful Taliban fighters barely equipped with modern weaponry and sans air power over the world’s super power leading more than 30 NATO countries military alliance.
Having said all that, I want to make a point that by drawing an analogy between the 313 devout Muslims who participated in the battle of Badr and the Afghan Taliban fighters, I just want to bring home to the readers the Talban’s firm commitment to the cause though we may not agree with their rigidity of approach towards Islam and inflexible interpretation of Islamic teachings as was witnessed in the past when they ruled Afghanistan (1996-2001) that at times runs counter to the true spirit of Islamic teachings in certain matters if not all. Taliban need to understand that Islam is a complete code of life with a universal message and teachings that are applicable to all humanity and valid for all times. They need to have a balanced approach and present the true image of Islam in the light of the Holy Qura’n and Sunnah to the outside world free from orthodox and traditional outlook and whimsical interpretation. They will have to understand that they can win the hearts of the people by their deeds and by presenting the true face of Islam to the world as it can’t be won through force and sword. Any act with even a slight tinge of extremism can’t go with the benign message of Islam.
Lastly, in the event of the fall of Kabul, which seems quite likely given the Taliban blitz and easy capture of provincial capitals one after the other, they are expected to declare amnesty for all those who surrender. They should remember and follow the precedent set by the Holy Prophet (SAW) when he granted general amnesty to the infidels immediately after the conquest of Makka.