A recent wave of violent terrorist attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul has not only claimed dozens of lives, but also left the country in panic as growing chaos could undermine new diplomatic opportunities. Kabul is preparing to host a conference — called 'The Kabul Process' by President Ashraf Ghani — in which 20 nations including the US, Saudi Arabia, India and China will participate. The conference — that kicks off on Tuesday —is going to be the first of its kind, bringing fruit to Ghani’s diplomacy with regard to ending the Afghan conflict. During his tenure, Ghani has been successful rallying support for Afghanistan from critical stakeholders involved in the ongoing violence in the country.
Ghani has successfully proved to the US and the world that Pakistan is continuing to use coercive means through the Taliban in order to dictate its terms to the Afghan government. Even Saudi Arabia, one of Pakistan’s closest allies since the 1970s has been slowly distancing itself from Pakistan. The US Senate and government have already been debating declaring Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism. Even China, Pakistan’s all-time patron, feels threatened by Islamic fundamentalism being nurtured by the Pakistani military. The Eiffel Tower turned its lights off to mourn the Kabul attack and the Australian Parliament stood in a moment of silence for the victims of the attack — an unprecedented international mobilisation for the Afghan cause.
Even though Ghani has been successful in his foreign policy, there are major lapses within the Afghan government that have not been addressed by him. For example, the security sector is the major government institution that has suffered badly from corruption. Due to unprofessional leadership, Afghan forces lost a record number of soldiers in the ongoing war last year. Former Mujahideen and ethnic leaders have continued to dominate the military, intelligence and police, hence failing to foil basic warfare tactics and terrorist attacks. The US too has repeatedly reiterated how corruption in security apparatus could cause immense harm. That grave challenge has seriously undermined the government’s efforts at entrenching stability and prosperity for the people.
On the other hand, some warlords who were former high-ranking officials in the government, pose serious threats to the government should they be sacked. They keep threatening the government unless given privileges and authority. That indicates that Afghanistan is still individual-centered, and as a nation over the past 16 years, has not been able to build government institutions that would defy individuals threatening law and order. Following the bombing in Kabul on 31 May, people were protesting against the government that failed to ensure the security of the people.
Some Jamiat-e-Islami leaders like Ahmad Zia Massoud also participated in the protest against the government that turned violent. The protest was hijacked by a few individual to inflict strain on the government and further the tension in Kabul in their struggle for power, according to one of the main organisers of the protests, but their protests were aimed at democratic demands not toppling the government.
However, the peace conference on Tuesday will be a great opportunity for Ghani to get the participating nations to place sanctions on Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism. The Kabul attack was carried out by the Haqqani Network, based in Pakistan, according to the Afghan government. Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born American diplomat, tweeted:
— Zalmay Khalilzad (@realZalmayMK) May 31, 2017
— Zalmay Khalilzad (@realZalmayMK) May 31, 2017
Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah too should take advantage of the current political and security chaos, and bring radical reform to the security sector — which is only possible if they support NATO. Rank promotions in the police and military should be halted until a transparent bureaucratic channel is created; former officers that maintain ethnic loyalties should be gradually removed, and new officers with no political allegiance to any party should be promoted. Ghani called the interior ministry the most corrupt in Afghanistan. Now is a chance for him to undo that corruption.
It is critical for Ghani to curb domestic loopholes in order for his foreign policy to be successful. On the other hand, the US should take a lead role in the conference to mobilise support for 'the Kabul Process' and reaffirm its pledge to Afghanistan by supporting major reforms and eradicating corruption.
The fight against terrorism cannot be won if countries continue to distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' terrorists. Afghanistan is under a direct attack from terrorism that is subsidised across the border, an insurgency that is armed, trained, equipped and funded from across the border. The US and world must not only recognise the struggle of Afghans that are at the forefront of a war that is imposed upon them, but also support the Afghan government in stopping the countries that proliferate insurgency in the region.
The ongoing war is no more just an Afghan war, it will have regional and global repercussions if not tackled at its roots.
The Afghan nation has been through worse calamities, but it stood its ground. However one cannot solely count on Afghans' resilience. If the US and allies fail to address the root cause of terrorism now, it will push Afghanistan into further chaos and instability and by the same token, people will raise questions over the status of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the US. Therefore, Washington must push Pakistan to stop using terror and fundamentalism as its foreign policy tool.
Aziz Amin Ahmadzai writes on political and security in South and West Asia. He is a Chevening Scholar and a former Afghan government official. He tweets @azizamin786.
Samim Arif is a Fulbright scholar and researcher. He tweets @samimarif
Updated Date: Jun 06, 2017 07:52 AM