As the recent events in Afghanistan and the actions of the United States show, resolving this conflict in the country is becoming more and more problematic in the coming years. Unfortunately, we have to admit that none of the powers trying to influence Afghanistan, including players within the country, currently have the capability to create peace in Afghanistan. This can lead to a state in which the situation in Afghanistan and the South Asian region will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future.
Despite previous agreements, fighting continues between the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Taliban soldiers. On August 20 alone, no less than 13 security officials and ANA fighters were killed in the Takhar province in northeastern Afghanistan during skirmishes with the Taliban.
Despite reports that a peaceful prisoner exchange and open dialogue between the two sides are on the way, in reality the process has practically stopped. This is because the Taliban said they would not sit down for negotiations unless the remaining 400 prisoners are released. After 80 of their prisoners were released on August 19, Afghan authorities suspended the process of releasing the remaining 320 Taliban from the list presented by the Taliban (movement prohibited in the Russian Federation), due to their involvement in serious crimes and pending the Taliban releasing 22 Afghan security force personnel held captive. At the same time, Afghani President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani in an interview with the British edition of Times said on August 19 that if the last group of Taliban prisoners were released, a large amount of drugs could find their way into the UK and other European countries, since among them are several major drug dealers. Paris was publicly opposed to the release of some Taliban members, which in a statement from the Foreign Ministry stressed the importance of “the process of getting out of the crisis meets the aspirations of the victims” and criminals pay the price for what they did.
Germany and Austria are also dissatisfied with the release of certain Taliban members in the hands of Kabul, which may have been lined to the fact that European diplomats previously gained access to the personal files of release candidates.
Among those who are not satisfied with the Taliban’s release lists, Afghani officials cautiously name the United States, although they have not yet made any official statements on the issue, and US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad limited himself to harsh criticism of the failed assassination attempt of Fawzia Kufi, human rights defender and member of the Afghani government’s negotiating team in Kabul.
To date, in fact, both the United States and the Taliban have refused to fully comply with the terms of the Doha peace agreement of February 29, 2020, signed by the US Special Representative for Reconciliation in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The Taliban actually refused to cease cooperation with Al-Qaeda (banned in the Russian Federation – ed.) and other foreign groups operating in Afghanistan, as mentioned by the UN in a statement on July 1, as well as the Pentagon in a report to the US Congress.
In addition, the deterioration of the Taliban’s relations with the United States was influenced by the latest anti-Russian propaganda campaign by the New York Times, which is close to the US Democratic Party, on Russia’s alleged support of this group, which was very critically perceived by the Taliban, and then switched to unjustified similar accusations of Iran. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Taliban spokesman Khairullah Khairhwa said that Afghani intelligence and clearly pro-American protégés in the Afghani leadership are behind these hostile allegations voiced in Washington.
The Afghani settlement was was shaken by Washington’s increased pressure on Pakistan because of its ties with China and allegedly with terrorist groups, as well as the annual report on terrorism published by the State Department on June 24. The latter noted that “Pakistan is a haven for terrorist groups operating in South Asia,” and the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Pakistani army have been accused of idly standing by.
The implementing this policy by opponents of President Donald Trump on the eve of the presidential election leads to the situation when in the near future, the United States will be forced to confront too wide a range of external and internal Afghani players, which could push the current American administration to make radical moves in the framework of the Afghani crisis. One of these steps could be the partition of Afghanistan, which was previously discussed in Washington after invading the country in 2001. In particular, we can talk about the formation of the Uzbek and Tajik states in the north of the country as a counterbalance to the Pashtun unification and the strengthening of the influence of the Taliban. This, in turn, may repeat the situation in the country twenty years ago, when the Taliban expelled Tajiks, Uzbeks, Shiites-Hazaras, after which, as certain circles in the United States clearly hope, there may be a precedent Washington to return to Afghanistan.
In the meantime, the United States began to more actively involve the Central Asian countries in solving its problems in Afghanistan, placing a significant bet on Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. At the same time, Washington has recently begun treating Turkey strengthening positions in the post-Soviet states of Central Asia in this regard in the most condescending manner. Not to mention that they previously granted asylum to General Abdul Rashid Dostum, disgraced in the recent past, who is capable of leading the central-northern region (“Dustumistan” with the center in Mazar Sharif).
Thus, although the US President speaks of his intentions to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, as well as from other countries in the Middle East, they leave without much fanfare, having failed to defeat terrorism in the region. Today, even the United States admits that the Taliban conflict is bleeding them dry financially with no legitimate kickback. Especially against in light of Washington’s plans for China announced by Secretary Pompeo, which are very ambitious and costly. For this reason, Washington is ready to Afghanistan’s future to fate by involving its NATO and Central Asian allies in further addressing the problems of Afghan settlement. A glaring byproduct being further destabilizing the situation in Eurasia.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.