By Owei Lakemfa
AFGHANISTAN, a country that has been at war with the Soviets, internally and with the Americans for thirty eight years is desperately in search of peace. A three-day Eid festival truce between the Taliban fighters and the President Ashraf Ghani-led Afghan government, was unilaterally extended by the latter. Ghani said his government is ready to discuss all demands and issues raised by the Taliban. This is a serious matter for the Americans because a minimum demand by the Taliban is for all foreign troops and fighters to leave Afghanistan.
The Americans who have for years resisted such a move by then Afghan President Hamid Karzai, are this time, more cautious in their reaction. Karzai, who was imposed as Afghan President by the Americans in 2001, was supposed to be the American Man Friday, but they discovered that he was in secret peace meetings with the Taliban who are their sworn enemies. For this, the Americans branded Karzai, insane.
In an effort to stop the Peace moves, the Americans decided to remove Karzai by rigging the 2009 general elections, but that did not stop his re-election. Former American Defence Secretary, Robert Gates in his memoirs, characterized that failed attempt as a “clumsy and failed putsch”.
Karzai is convinced that the Afghan government, even with the backing of American troops, cannot defeat the Taliban who in many parts of the country, has grassroots support. The Afghan situation has become far more critical with the Islamic State, ISIS, setting up bases and taking advantage of the Afghan civil war and the anarchism it has created.
The United States and 31 other countries had invaded Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. The invasion was aimed at pulverizing the al-Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi who had been encouraged by the Americans to sponsor terrorism against the Soviets in the 1980s. By 2001, Bin Laden who had fled his native Saudi Arabia, and been forced out of his exile in Sudan by America, was taking refuge under the Taliban.
Since the allies 2001 invasion, over 31,000 civilian Afghans have been killed and 29,900 injured. In general, over 111,000 Afghans including Talibans and soldiers have perished in the conflict.
On the other hand, the invading allied troops have lost 3,408 troops. The Americans had the highest number of 2,271 soldiers. Their top ten allies who lost troops, are Britain, 453, Canada, 158, France, 88, Germany, 57, Italy, 53. Poland,44, Denmark,43, Australia, 41 Spain, 35 and Georgia, 32.
But the losses, going by Karzai’s analysis, are needless because: “The West wanted to use Afghanistan, to have bases here, to create a situation whereby in the end Afghanistan would be so weak that it would agree to a deal in which Afghanistan’s interests will not even be secondary, but tertiary and worse.”
The earlier war which began in December, 1979, was part of the Cold War. The Soviet Union was supporting the government under the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, PDPA, and American funded and trained an Islamic resistance, the Mujahedeen to overthrow the government. In the ensuring civil war, the Soviet Army rolled into Afghanistan in December, 1979.
The war which ended in February 1989, claimed about 15,000 Soviet soldiers with about 35,000 injured. About two million Afghan civilians lost their lives. However, the rebel Islamist victory did not lead to peace, rather, anarchism ensured until some students (Taliban) rose to clear the various factions and restore law and order. The Afghan Taliban is essentially a patriotic movement which never attacked any organization or country outside its homeland.
In a September, 2017 interview with a writer, Ruchi Kumar, Karzai lamented: “ Currently both sides [the Taliban and the Afghan government] are serving foreign interests. The moment that is gone and Afghans are allowed to sit among themselves, we will have peace ( the Taliban are after all ) from this country too and belong to Afghanistan. They are Afghans. They’re most welcome — they belong to this country.”
To the former President, the Taliban is not the main problem: “The biggest threat to Afghanistan is the U.S. and Pakistan combined…I don’t see them separately. I’ve dealt with both of them. They’ve been cooperating all along.… My opposition has always been to the foreign rule in Afghanistan, as it is today.”
He said an American troop surge would not be a solution and that bringing in mercenaries who the Americans euphemistically call ‘private contractors’ to play a bigger role in the war against the Taliban, would merely result in: “More corruption, more killing! These are merchants of death. America will bring people here who have made killing their business.”
In 2014, Karzai at a press conference said he believed many insurgent attacks in his country are masterminded by their American allies.
When President Donald Trump succeeded Obama and evolved a policy on Afghanistan, Karzai said the Trump policy was merely: “ adding to the flames of conflict in Afghanistan; it’s aimed at creating more war in Afghanistan …They are doing nothing toward a solution! All they have done, all along, is create hurdles….This is an unending war where we die.
We Afghans are being used as cannon fodder, as ammunition. Even when we were fighting the Soviets, the Americans did not want the war to end or, for that matter, the Soviet Union to withdraw…They would say that they want to fight the Soviet Union to the last Afghan. They want to pursue their interests at the cost of every last Afghan.” On the Trump policy, he added: “When the U.S. brings more planes, who are they going to bomb? More U.S. involvement simply means more casualties.”
In response to American criticism that his government was quite corrupt, Karzai said: “Our own petty corruption in the delivery of services was there before, is here today and will continue for some time. The big corruption was designed by the Americans. The contracts were used by the U.S. government to buy influence in Afghanistan. It was designed to corrupt the Afghan political leadership so as to be usable by them.”
It appears that not many listened or are listening to Karzai, but his push for peace makes a lot of sense; with it, the Afghan wars will come to an end; violent attacks will be a thing of the past, Afghans for once, can then begin to rebuild the infrastructure and a future for their country. All foreign troops will depart, and the Taliban and Afghan armies can merge and would be able, not only to defeat ISIS, but any threat to their common sovereignty.