Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

The Unending Conflict of Syria

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The Unending Conflict of Syria

“The members of the Security Council looked forward to the early resumption of the intra-Syrian negotiations and encouraged the Syrian parties to return to talks in good faith and to engage constructively and without preconditions on the agenda set out by the UN special envoy when talks resume,” the 15-nation UN body is cited as saying in a press statement. The fourth round of Syrian peace talks ended on Friday with no breakthrough achieved towards reaching a political solution to end the country’s six-year war. They further welcomed the announcement by Special Envoy de Mistura of a clear agenda for future negotiations.

The Syrian conflict, which enters its seventh year this month, has reportedly killed nearly 500,000 people, wounded more than a million, and displaced nearly half the population. This bloody war inflicted indescribable sufferings upon Syrian nations mainly women and children, the rights and dignity of whom were violated in the worst possible way. Syrians bore the brunt of radical ideology of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The UN seeks to bring the two warring sides to the table of negotiation, except for the ISIL and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, so as to put an end to the unmitigated violence and bloodshed going on in Syria. However, the talks have not come to fruition yet and the two warring factions, who are excluded from the peace process, are most likely to act as whistleblowers through intensifying their insurgency and expanding their destructive role. Indeed, all warring parties are in pursuit of a political goal and the factions that are not involved in the talks also want a share in the government in case of peace agreement. Otherwise, they will continue violating human rights and undermining democracy to trigger a sense of mistrust between state and nation and create political turmoil.

Afghan nation has been embroiled in the very political problem following the post-Taliban administration. The Taliban guerrillas inflicted heavy casualties upon Afghan soldiers and civilians and still do so for not having a political share in the government. The government’s struggle for peace remained futile and the escalated militancy has created a wide gap between state and nation.

No wonder, the Arab Spring was the cornerstone of Syria’s conflict as the mainstream suggested that the Syrian freedom fighter would win. There were two blunders with the start of the game: first, the action of the public, who believed to overthrow the Assad’s regime. The teenagers painted anti-regime’s slogans on walls and people resorted to arms as a protest against the regime. Second, the reaction of the regime i.e. using violence to suppress the revolt was really a megalomaniac deed. Hence, it is really sad to see that once a nice and developed country with great universities and historical places has been changed into a graveyard where streams of blood are shed every minute. After all, with the firm foothold of the ISIL and many other terrorist groups in Syria’s soil, the violation of human rights will continue for years the same as Iraq and Afghanistan.

To pave the way for democracy, the warring sides will have to seek peace through holding bona fide negotiation and do not miss the chance so as to protect their rights of the Syrian nation which is trampled upon by the militant fighters, mainly by ISIL.

The outbreak of the ISIL group and its rapid expansion is really jaw-dropping. It also suggests that the group has been strongly supported by a mysterious hand and the ISIL fighters are likely to be pawn in the political game. It carried out deadly attacks in many parts of the world, including Europe and America, since the declaration of caliphate.

Consequently, the US president Donald Trump vowed to eradicate the ISIL group. Last week, American officials announced plans to nearly double their forces in Syria with 400 more troops and the Pentagon is reportedly considering sending 1,000 extra troops to Kuwait as a reserve force. They are also weighing more troops for Iraq, where about 5,000 Americans are training and assisting Iraqi security forces. Though the Americans are not expected to be involved in ground combat, they are moving closer to the front lines. As a candidate, Mr. Trump derided Mr. Obama’s anti-ISIL strategy as a disaster, though offering none of his own. Now, in office, he should not ignore the progress that has been made. Local forces backed by American airstrikes have retaken large areas of Syria and Iraq that ISIL captured in 2014. The eastern part of Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city, was recently liberated from ISIL. On Feb. 19, Iraqi forces launched a battle for the western part of the city, where a million people are trapped in desperate conditions. Last week, an American-backed militia in Syria captured the main road connecting Raqqa to territory the group holds in Deir al-Zour Province, severing the last supply and escape route for its fighters. The group’s claim to legitimacy has rested mainly on holding territory, so losing those strongholds would be a devastating blow.

Meanwhile, many terrorist fighters have been killed and fewer replacements are arriving from other countries. ISIL’ finances – from oil revenues and the taxes it extracts from people under its control – have fallen from about $1.9 billion in 2014 to no more than $870 million in 2016, according to a study by the research organization RAND.

One of the tough questions facing Mr. Trump is whether to arm the Syrian Kurds for the fight against ISIL. American military commanders consider them crucial partners in any campaign to retake Raqqa, where some 4,000 ISIL fighters are dug in. The problem is that Turkey, a NATO ally, opposes arming the Syrian Kurds because it considers them terrorists in league with the Kurds who are waging a separatist war in Turkey. I believe that arming the Syrian Kurds will do more harm than good. The policy of arming locals against the Taliban made no tangible changes in Afghanistan. So, a more cautious strategy is to be adopted so as not to lose the past outcome.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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