Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 15th, 2021

War against Taliban in Post-Osama Afghanistan


War against Taliban in  Post-Osama Afghanistan

The death of Osama Bin laden has had the effect of rattling the capitals in Washington, Islamabad and of course Kabul. Let us have a look here at what the death of Osama Bin laden means for the war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda and what it holds for the future and prospects of the broader struggle against terrorism and religious extremism of which Afghanistan has long been a victim.

In the U.S., the killing of Bin laden has been a game-changer for its government, people and military. With the news of the feat sweeping across America, the waning popularity of President Obama, who just few days ago began his re-election campaign, has considerably increased. With the "mission accomplished", Obama's presidency has in fact been resuscitated. Discontent has been rising among vast sections of Americans who are critical of how Obama has handled the economy. With the economy in recession and the prospects of an economic disaster looming on the horizon, unemployment and poverty have significantly increased across America. One in every eight American is officially dependent on the government's food stamps for their daily food. The US government's budget is one and half trillion into deficit, not to mention the $14 trillion public debt that seems impossible to be ever repaid unless the dollar is devalued. The devaluation of dollar is exactly what is happening or to be precise, what is being deliberately done. On the other hand, people across America have been highly critical of their government's expensive military involvement in our country Afghanistan which they see as futile and a waste of money at a time when that money is desperately needed back home. In these conditions, the U.S.' ability to finally find and kill Osama Bin laden has served to ease the pressure off Obama and the U.S. military.

The war on terrorism and the struggle against Al-Qaeda and its Taliban affiliates here in Afghanistan enters a new phase. Osama Bin laden, by all indications, had slipped into a secluded life after 2001, living away from majority of his associates and increasingly becoming a mere figurehead rather than the operational commander-in-chief of an Al-Qaeda he once controlled. His death would mean very little if anything in defeating the Al-Qaeda at least in Afghanistan where it has recently found a new stronghold in some eastern parts of the country. The number of Al-Qaeda operatives left in Afghanistan was estimated to be around 100 by the U.S. in 2010. However, as the Taliban and other groups such as the Haqqani network have recently made inroads in some eastern provinces such as Nuristan capturing a few districts, the number of Al-Qaeda operatives who have followed these groups into Afghanistan has increased. As said, the mere fact of Bin laden being dead or alive is immaterial to the future operations and activities of Al-Qaeda inside Afghanistan and abroad. There are countless others in the ranks of Al-Qaeda who are ready to fill the place of Osama and this, no doubt, would require sustained action against the group and their sympathizers.

The war against the Taliban in Afghanistan is set to enter into its decisive phase very soon. When attempts to negotiate with Taliban are being made, it would be pertinent to draw attention to the nature of the nexus between the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda brothers. Hillary Clinton, the U.S.' Secretary of State, has said it is time for the Taliban to relinquish ties with Al-Qaeda and other Jihadi groups that harbor international intentions. This is a good idea but is the Taliban actually ready and able to relinquish their relationship with Al-Qaeda? In the past, we have seen that wherever Taliban have set foot, Al-Qaeda has too moved in thanks to the wide-ranging support it enjoys within the ranks of the Taliban leadership. On close investigation, it emerges that the nexus between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, far from being superficial, extends to the heart of what the Taliban are all about. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda share majority of each other's worldview, peculiar interpretation of Islam and the nexus between the two have only grown in recent years. Therefore, it would be a mistaken notion on the part of those involved in Afghanistan's affairs to believe that Taliban have the will or moral capacity to renounce their very close ties to Al-Qaeda or any other Jihadi group of international reach.

Osama Bin laden, as said, served as a mere figurehead and a legend amongst his followers. He was a mere symptom of an illness that has spread tentacles all over. Removing the figurehead and the symptom may have been achieved with the killing of Bin laden but tackling the root causes of the problem forms the real and the most important part of the struggle. As Hillary Clinton famously said, we will never kill enough insurgents to finish the war against the Taliban. The same is true in the war against Al-Qaeda and those groups which, instead of being confined to their native places, harbor international designs. Tackling and addressing the root causes would include focusing on those aspects that drive these young men into the fold of Al-Qaeda. Offering a reasoned and refined interpretation of religious values of course takes the precedence.

The fate of the war in Afghanistan is therefore critical in this larger struggle against extremism and terrorism. The country's surrender to the dark forces of Taliban would mean leaving the fate of the war to their Al-Qaeda brethren and defeat in this ideological battle of minds. The failure in Afghanistan will not be only a military defeat but also losing the moral and ideological high ground to Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies. Today Afghanistan is the front in the battle against the vicious ideology of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda; the result of defeat will be that this front will further extend to the small and defenseless countries of Central Asia: Takijistan, Uzbekistan and the rest. To prevent this very probable scenario, it is vital that Afghanistan becomes stabilized and the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies defeated. Let the death of Bin laden be a reminder to all that the fruits of success will be difficult and slow to come.

The author is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlook afghanistan@gmail.com

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