Hopes were high for restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan following two decades’ deadly war. The US-Taliban Peace Deal concluded in Doha on 29th of February this year that would end America’s longest military intervention in any country in which USA has suffered 2400 military casualties and has spent an amount of 137 billion US dollars. The cost of war for Afghanistan has been unimaginable. As many as 10,000 civilians were killed or injured in the year 2019 alone. Therefore, in one of his Op-Eds Published in a America’s leading newspapers, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Afghan Taliban’s second-in-command, expressed his desire for peace and an Afghan society that is inclusive of all Afghan factions in a post US withdrawal scenario.
However, the bombings at Barchi Maternity Hospital Kabul and at a funeral prayer of a local police commander not only shook the world with intensity of their brutality but also blew the possibility of establishment of peace and security in Afghanistan in the foreseeable future. However, Taliban denied their involvement in the attacks and President Ashraf Ghani ordered an offence against Taliban in the wake of recent bloodshed. It may be mentioned here that Local Islamic State, known as Islamic State-Khorasan Province or ISKP or IS-K is opposed to Taliban and has targeted Shia minority on many occasions. Possibility of its involvement or any other regional players who are against peace in Afghanistan cannot be ruled out.
Zalmay Khalildzad, the US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation met Pakistani military leadership and left for Doha recently to pursue the peace deal with Taliban’s political office at Doha. Pakistan had played a positive role in making this peace deal happen. Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar, the Taliban’s chief negotiator, was in the custody of Pakistan who was released by Pakistani authorities to facilitate talks between Taliban and the US. It was for the first time that US had by-passed the Afghan Government and had directly engaged in talks with Taliban. Perhaps it is the frustration with Afghan National Defence and Security Forces which has not been able to achieve the ideal of peace despite its numerical strength of 273000 personal. US has appropriated 86.4 billion dollars for Afghan security forces between the FY2002 to FY2019. Against this, the Taliban have an estimated 60,000 combatants. Currently there are around 13000 US forces who were to be withdrawn over a period of 14 months.
Peace in Afghanistan has a meaning not only for the Afghan people but also for the neighbouring countries and for the oppressed nationalities therein. There are about 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan along with 1 million unregistered refugees. Stability in Afghanistan is directly proportional to stability in Pakistan. It will also have a positive impact on the economy of Pakistan’s two most affected provinces, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that have hosted the Afghan refugees for the last forty years and have suffered many bomb blasts claimed by various militant factions so far. True, the brutality of recent attacks cannot be justified but peace must be given a chance as there is no alternate to peace and in case of Afghanistan all the alternates have failed.