A Gesture of Reconciliation…

My op-ed on Daily Outlook Afghanistan, August 21, 2011

“We attacked the buildings [of British Council] because we want to remind the British that we won our independence from them before and we will do it again…It was signal for the British and their allies on the Independence Day that invading forces are to be doomed to destruction as the British Empire had been destined to failure 92 years ago.”

The above lines are from the statement released by Taliban’s Al-emara propaganda cell online, after the early-morning attack on the compound of British Council in the heart of Kabul, in a street in Karte Parwan. It was Friday and the Independence Day of Afghanistan when a group of six paradise-seeking suicide bombers entered the gate of the compound after an explosion that killed two poor road-cleaners of Kabul Municipality. The terrorists besieged the building for about 9 hours, killing 12, mostlyAfghans.

They were trying to find out two panicked female teachers—one British and the other South African—inside the safe room of the building. These teachers teach English and help Afghan students get scholarships in UK. It’s not important to mention the nationalities of those killed, or being inside the compound, or the purpose and timing of Taliban attack. The fact is that militants continue terror and there is no sign of change in their brutal tactics.

The Taliban statement said,

“The enemy claims that the civilians, too, have been killed in the martyrdom operation aimed at the Brits as is usual for the invading forces and their puppet to do, can be fully denied due to the fact that the attack came at about 4:30 am, the timer there was no civilians within the facility and the surrounding areas.”

They are denying that any civilian was killed. If forces of evil have any concern at all, families of the two poor Municipality workers should be visited. They cleaned drains and roads of Kabul early in the morning, but this Friday proved their last duty. They were the first victims of this brutal act of cowardice. With the first explosion blast at the gate, there were two bodies of Municipality workers lying down on the road. No wonder Talibani logic says the greater cause of killing infidels is more important than taking lives of only bread-winners of poor families. Their children might have been waiting that morning for their fathers, but only to receive dead corpses.

A day before the attack on British Council, the UK Ambassador in Kabul Sir William Patey tweeted a photo with former Taliban Ambassador to Islamabad Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef at the Iftar dinner organized by the British Embassy. With the Flickr link of photo, he said, “at Iftar I hosted. Good to see former TalibZaeef leading prayers—a small gesture of reconciliation.” I was reading this when the statement of Taliban, which I have quoted in the beginning, appeared on my twitter timeline. I thought the international community, and more importantly our leading allies in this war the UK and US, are too much optimistic about the ‘reconciliation’. Earlier this week, Sir William Patey expressed support for Taliban participation in the Bonn conference. In a press conference he was saying the Afghan Government can invite Taliban in Bonn conference, it is up to them, not the world community.

It was indeed a welcoming stance, supporting Taliban participation in Bonn. But militants responded with a deadly attack on the British Council. It was not a gesture of reconciliation. The government, peace council and the international stakeholders were beating the drums of talks and reconciliation so loud, but do we know of any progress so far? Actually there is no progress at all! According to recent reports, SayedTayed Agha, the purported Taliban negotiator who is the secretary of Mullah Omar has gone missing for the past three months. With this, the proponents of talks about talks with Taliban are also mute.
What if this ‘process of reconciliation’ and talks with Taliban fail to mark a political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan? What if Taliban continue terror, with deadlier tactics and increasing pace, until 2014 when a big number of the US and NATO troops will withdraw from Afghanistan? The problem is that the international community has put all efforts and focus on the ‘reconciliation’, without a Plan B for the post-withdrawal situation. What is the alternative?

Even if talks with Taliban make success and an eventual deal made with the Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura, it will not bring ultimate peace in Afghanistan. There will be many militant groups that the Afghan national security forces will have to fight with, even if the internationals leave and forget Afghanistan. President Karzai has stopped calling Taliban ‘brothers’ after the death of his brother, but with his lack of will during all this period; it will be a difficult situation ahead, when he is gone from the Place but his ‘angry brothers’ still shedding blood. The Afghan security forces have to get prepared for a long fight.

After the transition and transfer of security to Afghan forces, there have been several attacks in Kabul, where Afghan Special Forces have failed to control the situation. From the similar attack on Intercontinental Hotel to the latest one on British Council, without help of ISAF troops, Afghan forces have not proved themselves, giving us little hope for post-2014.
The Administration of President Karzai label the problem as international community’s failure to defeat militants, but actually it is lack of competence, political will and honesty in the Afghan leadership to fight militants. What the international community has to be blamed for is their ignorance of real supporters and roots of terrorism.

Unless the militants are not effectively targeted in all their safe havens and roots in the Af-Pak border region and serious action taken against those who support terrorism as state-policy, there will be Jihadi militancy in Afghanistan and South Asia. No matter how many gestures of reconciliation be tried by the international community and Afghan Government, it is very obvious that militants are not going to stop terror.

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