Reeling from the death of Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban elements seek to intensify their attacks. A series of suicide attacks have been occurred recently across the country, mainly in the capital Kabul, which killed and wounded dozens of civilians. Following the deadly attacks in Pakistan, on February 16, which killed and wounded more than two hundred people, the Taliban are likely to come under heavy bombings carried out by Afghan-Pakistan military forces.
Turning down Kabul’s call for negotiation, Taliban are combated strongly. Of late, the Taliban fighters sustained large casualties. Their high-ranking leader Mullah Abdul Salam, a shadow governor for Kunduz, along with his two commanders, Qari Amin and Dr. Husain, has been killed last week. Salam was known as Taliban’s war machine in Kunduz and in the eastern regions. Subsequently, President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani said that the Taliban no longer posed a threat to Kunduz province and hailed the Afghan air force for killing Salam. Moreover, the Afghan interior ministry said the demise of the Taliban group’s main war strategist would inflict a major blow to group’s activities in Kunduz.
The Taliban have been constantly targeting the Afghan forces in the strategic town of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan in its attempts to infiltrate other regions in the north. Under Salam as Taliban war strategist, the insurgents last year, managed to capture the center of Kunduz. The takeover of Kunduz by the Taliban sparked strong retaliation from the Afghan public and political forces.
Afghan-Pak mutual relations have hit rock bottom in recent months with Islamabad and Kabul accusing each other of harboring anti-state militant groups and sponsoring terrorist attacks on their respective soils. Tensions worsened this month when Pakistani leaders blamed militants sheltering on the Afghan side for a series of suicide bombings and other attacks across the country that killed scores of people. The military also handed over a list of 76 militant leaders to the Afghan government following the bloodshed and demanded swift action against them and their extradition to Pakistan. Afghanistan pointed fingers back at Pakistan, handing over a list of 85 Taliban and Haqqani Network militants, including Maulvi Haibatullah and Siraj Haqqani, and 32 training camps. This blunted Pakistan’s offensive to highlight the presence of terror sanctuaries in Afghanistan. A Pakistani writer pointed out, “Tensions mainly escalated this time because of the absence of an effective security cooperation mechanism and our knee-jerk reaction.”
The counter insurgency is a great challenge for both Afghan and US forces and large sacrifices were made in this regard. It is said that an average 20 Afghan soldiers are killed per day in the battle against terrorist groups which is really shocking especially as the government is hardly able to fill their vacuum with recruiting new soldiers. Moreover, the US soldiers paid high sacrifices with ushering in “war on terror” following the 9/11 terrorist attack, about 2247 soldiers were killed and 20,000 more were wounded. It is believed that for rehabilitating Afghanistan, the US spent larger amount of money than rehabilitating the Europe after the World War II but the country still suffers from poverty. However, the outcome of US’s attack against al-Qaeda and the Taliban is aborting any other probable attacks against its country.
The US president Donald Trump has not outlined his policy towards Afghanistan. Taking the office about more than a month ago, Trump said that he battled against “radical Islamic terrorism”, which he pledged to “eradicate from the face of the Earth.” But his first approach which is signing Muslim bans has triggered a nationwide backlash. Since the US forces, along with Afghan soldiers and civilians, have been victimized on a large scale by terrorist groups and a great deal of money has been spent in supporting democracy, it is hoped that Trump will continue the “war on terror” in more effective way and break the deadlock so as to save streams of blood spilt in this regard. It is believed that abandoning Afghanistan will undermine democracy in the country and it is tantamount to disregarding all the human and financial investments.
No wonder, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US have sustained large casualties by terrorist groups and there is a strong need for joint military operations against all terrorists’ hubs – be it in Afghanistan or Pakistan. In other words, the peace deadlock seems unbreakable and since atrocity runs in the blood of the Taliban elements, they will continue targeting combatants and non-combatants. The negotiation, which was pursued tirelessly for about a decade, was proved abortive and the only alternative option is a joint military operation against terrorist sanctuaries.
The Ghani administration stands strongly against warring factions. Afghan President asks the UN to put Haibatullah’s name on the blacklist. Unlike Karzai’s government, the NUG has clear definition for the Taliban and deems it the enemy of nation rather than “discontented brother”. Furthermore, the intensified military operations and bombings against the Taliban reveal the NUG’s strong will for counter-insurgency. The “war on terror” will not come to fruition unless a trilateral military operation is launched against warring factions with bona fide intention for stability. Otherwise, knee-jerk reaction or sporadic operation rooting from a surge of anger in retaliation, as Islamabad does, will not tackle the issue.