Cycle of terror: on the many deadly attacks in Afghanistan

The multiple terror attacks that killed at least 200 people in Afghanistan last week has set alarm bells ringing in Kabul. That the attacks occurred at a time when the United States was putting to work its new strategy to stabilise Afghanistan underscores the resolve of the militants to stay the course of insurgency. Most of these attacks were carried out by the Taliban. On Friday, bombings in two Shia mosques killed more than 80 people, mostly Shias, for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. The security situation in Afghanistan is increasingly worsening. If the government faced only one major armed insurgency till a couple of years ago, now it has to fight on many fronts. While the Taliban, which control almost half of the country, are focussing largely on government buildings and security personnel, the IS’s local branch, known as the Khorasan Province, is waging a bloody sectarian war. Friday’s was the sixth major attack this year on Shia shrines. While the Afghan government has issued a strong statement reiterating its resolve to fight terror, such words will not inspire confidence unless an international coalition strengthens Kabul’s capacity to enforce the rule of law. Civilian war-related deaths have risen since 2012, when 2,769 people were killed. Last year the toll was about 3,500, according to the UN.


The U.S. has made several promises vis-à-vis Afghanistan. But after 16 years of war, the world’s largest military force appears to be as clueless as the Afghan army on how to put an end to the conflict. One option, as many diplomats have pointed out, is to engage the Taliban directly, while continuing the fight against other terror groups such as al-Qaeda and the IS. The Obama administration had expressed the willingness to talk. But such attempts did not take off amid problems including the Taliban’s ambitions, the American drone campaign against their leaders and Kabul’s inability to pursue a bold deal, let alone Pakistan’s dual play. The latest wave of Taliban attacks occurred days after officials from four countries — the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan — met in Oman, seeking ways to revive peace talks. The attacks are a message from the Taliban that they are least interested in talks. Why should they be, at a time when they are on the offensive? An outright military victory in Afghanistan appears remote, given the Taliban’s swelling networks and the support they enjoy in rural areas. But an outright victory looks impossible for the Taliban too as long as the U.S. remains committed to Afghanistan. This makes peace talks the only practical way forward. But Kabul and the coalition should first restore Afghan confidence in the government’s ability to govern, before reaching out to the Taliban.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 4:03:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/cycle-of-terror/article19901783.ece

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