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Afghan Peace Process: Lasting Peace Requires Round-the-Clock Readiness for War

By Mohammed Gul SAHIBBZADA

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani’s order to the armed forces to break with status of ‘active defense’ and enter into ‘active military operation’ against the Taliban and other military groups  in the wake of military attacks by the Taliban and other armed groups on Afghan Defense & Security  Forces (ADSF) personnel and civilians during the month of Ramzan, was a positive move towards bringing lasting peace and stability in the country. In the aftermath of US-Taliban agreement in Qatari capital, Doha, Afghan Government was pressurized to stop military attacks on the Taliban to ‘let efforts for peace a chance’ with the group. The Taliban and other armed groups allied with them, purportedly exhibited gestures and clearly expressed that they ‘did not agree to a ceasefire with Afghan Government, and that their peace agreement was with the United States…’ and continued their unabated military campaign against ADSF during the period of ‘active defense’ declared by Afghan President, which took immense toll on both ADSF personnel and civilians. Military campaign ordered by Afghan President two weeks ago produced tangible and positive results. It debunked the Taliban calculus that without the US support, they ‘could easily defeat ADSF’ in the battlefield, and their botched strategy to ‘divide and destroy…’ – referring to their tactics during ‘peace negotiation process’ in Doha which was based on ‘breaking the US alliance with the Afghan Government and leaving ADSF on their own in battlefields’ could bring them military victory, which would leave little or no room for any intra-Afghan peace negotiation, agreed in the US-Taliban accord.

Military campaign unleashed by ADSF a couple of weeks ago inflicted huge casualties on the Taliban and their comrade groups in the battlefields. Hundreds of Taliban fighters were reported dead or injured in Kunduz last week when the group attacked Kunduz city from multiple directions surrounding the city. This defeat in Kunduz crippled the group’s ability to recruit and stabilize their military might for a foreseeable future. The same is true for the group in other provinces including Uruzgan, Ghazni, Hilmand and Nangarhar provinces. Afghan Government was asking for a long-term ceasefire with the Taliban to build trust and facilitate the release of more than five thousand Taliban prisoners, and to make arrangement for ‘intra-Afghan peace negotiations’ with the group. But the Taliban took this request as a gesture of ‘weakness and fear of Afghan Government’ in the battlefields and continued to shun ceasefire requests offered by the Afghan Government repeatedly and pushed their military campaign at times when ADSF were in ‘active defense’ status. Mr. President’s order to respond to Taliban attacks and be on ‘active offensive’ against the group has changed everything. The Taliban faced their ‘moment of truth’ in the battlefields, fearing debilitating defeat across the county, the group announced three days ceasefire during the Eid celebration – which was reciprocated by Afghan Government. This change in attitude by the Taliban should be considered a positive sign – both in term of their ‘moment of truth’ about their real military power in the field, the strength of ADSF, and the genuine desire of the people and Government of Afghanistan for long-lasting peace in the country.

War begets misery, destitution, destruction and complete annihilation of the entire nation and national institutions in all fields of life in a country, including in economic, social and political arenas. It is a man-made scourge that results in self-destruction, so no sensible human thoughts can go for it unless it is for a ‘sacred cause’ of defending the present and future of a nation under attack from an enemy motivated by greed and desires to enslave the people, destroy the future and exploit the riches of the country. Modern history is filled with texts narrating sacrifices of the people of Afghanistan for securing their identity, culture, future and their abundant riches. Cases in points include struggles of Afghans against the Mongols centuries ago, three Anglo-Afghan wars in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, campaign against invasion of the then-USSR in 1980s, all of which resulted in the defeat of invaders. Defending the freedom and securing the future has become the agony of Afghan nation and will remain so for centuries to come, and this is what the Taliban and other groups operating under obscure agendas should understand. Continuation of hostilities is NOT in the interests of the people and the country. Afghan Constitution and centuries old tradition allow for, and provide space for peace and negotiation among Afghans to reach logical consensus on social, political and economic issues. Democracy provides legitimate platforms and opportunities for all parties vying to be at the helm of affairs and these platforms are freedom of expression, political campaign and fielding candidates for Parliamentary and Presidential elections, which periodically take place in the country under the formidable umbrella of Afghan national constitutions. Even bringing changes in the Constitution is on the table under the present democratic system in the country, so there is no room for violence.

In the backdrop of continued onslaught by the enemy, and numerous challenges the country faces, Government of Afghanistan should remain vigilant and ready to respond to any hostile movement by the enemy  – be it around the negotiation table or in the battlefield – to assert its standing on peace without foregoing national interests and defend the nation’s interests at all cost. Peace does not come by begging for it – ‘lasting peace requires round-the-clock readiness for war’.

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