Sunday, December 5, 2021

US Needs To Relook Into Talks With The Taliban

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The US has deviated from its resolve to root out terrorism in any form. From July last year it has entered into a dialogue with Taliban. The sixth round of these talks began in Doha, Qatar last week and is still underway. The talks have not yielded any result so far. US Special Envoy for the talks, Zalmay Khalilzad is reported to have said that the talks revolve around withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, guarantees against terrorism, ensuring negotiations between Taliban and Afghanistan government for initiation of political settlement and a lasting cease fire.

Direct involvement of US in Afghanistan dates back seventeen years to September 2001; when terrorists attacked twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. Following this, America had declared a war against terrorism. It vowed to punish Al Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden, whom it considered to be behind the attacks on American soil. It also declared to root out Taliban from Afghanistan for providing safe havens to Al Qaeda and its leader as also to prevent growth of other terrorist networks.

Washington had ever since, repeatedly expressed its determination to end terrorism in all forms. But last year it started to deviate from this commitment for the second time ostensibly on the assumption that there are some “good terrorists”. It has been repeatedly experienced that a terrorist is a terrorist and there cannot be a good terrorist or a bad terrorist. There is a strong feeling all over the world that the distinction between a good terrorist and a bad terrorist is not based on sound ethical considerations and only weakens the resolve to wipe out terrorism from the world. Otherwise too, it has been observed that any such political expediency has only given fillip to radical ideology and only led to more terrorist attacks.

After its decision to enter into dialogue with Taliban last year, the US also announced early this year that it will withdraw half of its fourteen thousand troops stationed in Afghanistan. This decision gave rise to widespread criticism even in America itself and also led to the resignation of American Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis. Again, the criticism revolved mainly around two points that withdrawal should be gradual and that Washington should maintain offensive presence till terrorism is fully rooted out.

The US had succeeded in ending Taliban hold on Afghanistan; even though, Osama Bin Laden continued to be in hiding till 2011. However, the US suddenly and unexpectedly started to shift its focus to Iraq which finally led to the Iraqi War in 2003 and subsequently contributed to rise of IS and its’ Caliphate.

Given this background and with large swaths of Afghanistan still under Taliban influence; without integration of Taliban into the mainstream Afghan society, it will not be conducive for America at this stage to withdraw from the war torn country. This is particularly so when Afghanistan’s immediate neighbour, Pakistan has made terrorism an instrument of its state policy and has a vested interest in the establishment of a favourable dispensation in Kabul. Pakistan will continue to try to fulfil its nefarious designs by any means which will only further destabilize the region. Even though, the listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist has provided Islamabad another opportunity to act firmly against terrorism.

In the light of these facts, Washington should reconsider its deviation and stand by its commitment to wipe out terrorism in all its forms and manifestations from the world. It also is incumbent upon major powers to persuade the UN to strengthen its anti-terrorism mechanism. The World Body has also to adopt the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) proposed by India, decades back. This could bind the nations to take decisive action against terrorism without any geo-political or other considerations.

Script:  J.L.Koul Jalali, Political Commentator

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