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Islam and the West ( 4 March 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Will The US And Taliban Divide Afghanistan To Achieve Their Respective Economic And Political Goals?



By S. Arshad, New Age Islam

04 March 2019

The general elections in Afghanistan are scheduled to be held in July this year. For this reason, all the parties involved in the political process of the country have become active. The US, Pakistan, Russia, Qatar and the Taliban have upped the ante.  The US President Trump has started especial initiative to get its puppet government led by Ashraf Ghani elected again as he does not want Taliban to come to power. But strangely enough, the Taliban have shown no interest in capturing the power in Kabul. Instead they just want to retain their hold on the area they hold sway over. According the Russian ambassador in Kabul, Zameer Qobolov, Taliban enjoy control over fifty per cent of the country where the writ of the Afghan government does not run. 

Since coming to power, Trump has given indication that he does not want his forces stay either in Syria or in Afghanistan. He has hinted that the US now does not want to play the role of world policeman. Bush, Clinton and Obama regime had pursued an aggressive foreign policy which devastated the Middle East and Afghanistan. This policy pushed the US into a severe economic crisis which Trump find hard to tackle.  That is why he has shown inclination towards getting his country on track rather than meddling in the affairs of other countries.

Since October 2018, Trump has initiated a peace dialogue with Taliban to achieve ceasefire with them so that the general elections in Afghanistan are held peacefully assuring Ashraf Ghani’s safe return to power.  Happily, the Taliban have also agreed to sit face to face with the US representatives and talk peace.  The representative of the US dialogue team is Afghan born Zalmay Khalilzad who has had a few rounds of talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.  To ensure that the talks with Taliban are fruitful, Pakistan released one of the founders of Taliban, Mullah Biradar who was jailed in Pakistan for the last few years in October last year at the behest of the US. A fourteen member team of the Taliban led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai has held talks with the Taliban in Doha on in the last week of February. But solid outcome of the dialogue have not been reported clearly. However, both the US and Taliban are hopeful of a final agreement.

The US wants Taliban to give the guarantee that after its withdrawal, Taliban will not allow foreign terrorist outfits launch attacks on its forces while Taliban wants the US to withdraw completely from Afghanistan to reach any agreement. These are the bottlenecks in the peace process.  The US has though hinted that it wants to withdraw from Afghanistan but does not want to give any time frame for it. It has also become clear that the US will not withdraw fully from Afghanistan as it has said that the US war on terror will continue in Afghanistan even after its evacuation from the country. And for that, the US wants to ensure the safety of its forces from the attacks of Taliban. Taliban know that the US will sooner or later leave the country and after that they can launch their decisive offensive against the Afghanistan government which they consider a puppet government.

It is also strange that in their recent statements the Taliban have hinted that they do not want to rule entire Afghanistan. Russia has also said that the Taliban have control over fifty percent area of the country.  This gives rise to the speculation that they will support Taliban in their effort to form their government ala Khilafat in the area dominated by it. In recent months Taliban have said that the parliamentary democracy in Afghanistan is an obstacle in the peace process. They know that the US will not allow them to come to power in Afghanistan through elections and so they will not be able to capture power in Kabul.

 Therefore, they want their own government in the area dominated by them. The US also does not want to let Afghanistan go under Taliban rule because of its security and economic interests in the area. That’s why it does not want to leave Afghanistan completely and so wants guarantee from Taliban that its small forces posted are not attacked there. For ensuring the retention of the government of Ashraf Ghani, the US may agree on the division of Afghanistan. One part of it will be under the parliamentary government and the other part will be under the Khilafat of Taliban. This may either be in the form of a federation or in the form of two separate countries.

Russia is also keeping a close eye on the recent dialogue. As the US is inclined towards the Ashraf Ghani government, Russia has shown its inclination towards Taliban. During this month, the Russian government has held talks with Taliban leaders and the opposition leaders of the Afghan government which had nothing to with the peace process involving the US and Taliban. Both Russia and the US have their own economic and political interests in Afghanistan.

Five or six years ago, a huge quantity of mineral was discovered in Afghanistan. The US, China, Russia, India and other European countries tried to win the contracts for mining. China managed to win a large chunk of the mining contracts. A large area of mining fields falls under the control of Taliban. This has unleashed a mineral war in Afghanistan between Russia, China and the US.  The recent developments indicate that the competing countries will agree on the division of Afghanistan so that they can control different parts of Afghanistan without fighting with each other. In other words, Balkanisation of Afghanistan seems on the cards.

As for Taliban, they want to establish Khilafat at any cost. For the last two decades they have been fighting to achieve their goal and have caused a lot of bloodshed in Afghanistan killing and maiming millions of innocent Muslims apart from killing NATO soldiers.  In recent interviews they have also hinted that they have softened their stand on the rights of women in society and politics. They now say that they will not oppose women’s education and they will permit women to work in offices and take part in politics. But they will not allow women to be the President of the country.  They have also hinted that they will allow opposing political factions to take part in the political process of their government and the government will be on the principles of Shura.  However, it will be premature to conclude that they will leave their extremist ideology and their position on women and non-Muslims.

In short, from the developments in Afghanistan and the statements of the US and Taliban leaders, it seems that Afghanistan is heading for a partition so that the economic and political interests of the US, the Taliban and other neighbouring countries can be secured at the cost of the unity of the Afghan people.

S. Arshad is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam.com

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/s-arshad,-new-age-islam/will-the-us-and-taliban-divide-afghanistan-to-achieve-their-respective-economic-and-political-goals?/d/117926

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