The Taliban have denied responsibility for the May 31 deadly car bombing in Kabul which killed some 150 people and injured thrice that number. Of course, as usual, President Ashraf Ghani has blamed Pakistan for the tragic happening – only to be forcefully rebutted by Islamabad. Instead of blaming Pakistan and issuing threats, the government in Kabul should look inward and identify the real issues – that’s the message for the Afghan government leadership from Pakistan’s military high command. One such issue is the growing presence of the Islamic State (IS). The Afghan government admits a significant presence of IS militants, putting their number at 11,000. The Americans, however, believe that there are about 3,000 militants in Afghanistan even after the use of the Mother of All Bomb against them. This set of militancy is as much committed to ousting the Ghani-Abdullah duo from power as it is committed to defeating the Taliban and emerging as the main opposition to government in Kabul. So even when President Ghani does not openly concede an attempt on his part to win over Taliban and join hands with them to defeat Daesh militants it seems to be working on that. He wants to talk with Taliban at a “mutually agreeable” place, subject to three preconditions, including Taliban’s acceptance of supremacy of the constitution, respect for women’s rights and renunciation of violence. A positive response from the Taliban is predicated by its call for “expulsion of foreign occupation.” Now that the Trump administration is considering dispatching “a few thousand” additional troops to Afghanistan to tilt the battlefield balance in favour of the government forces President Ghani has made the offer to Taliban for peace talks. This may well oblige Washington to wait and see how his offer of peace talks plays out. As a matter of fact if the Trump administration’s principal concern is misuse of Afghan soil as safe haven for terrorists then its target should be IS, and not the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban are in contention for power to rule Afghanistan, and in that they are also at odds with both IS and al Qaeda.
President Ghani may be a very articulate speaker but he cannot gloss over ground realities as these tend to obtain in the war-ravaged country. For as many reasons as one can think of his government has failed to revive peace and stability in his country. The enormity of challenge the Taliban pose to his administration cannot be the product of some kind of a proxy outfit as he wrongly thinks and alleges. Ghani must not lose sight of the fact that it was their forefather Jalaluddin Haqqani who fought the Soviet invaders. At the ‘Kabul Process’ moot, Ghani asked: “What will take to convince Pakistan that a stable Afghanistan helps them and helps our region?” The answer to his inquiry is simple and time-tested: Pakistan wants a stable Afghanistan mainly because of the fact that it doesn’t really want to provide for a two-front costly deployment. In olden times even when Kabul wasn’t very friendly but was at peace with itself, Pakistan didn’t have to deploy nearly one-third of its forces on its border with Afghanistan. President Ghani is required to switch off his phone links with New Delhi and Washington as a necessary first step towards achieving peace in his country – with New Delhi because an Afghanistan-in-turmoil fits in its regional hegemonic designs and with Washington because a secure and peaceful Afghanistan doesn’t fit within its worldview and impulse to ‘democratize’ the world, so recklessly imposed on Saddam’s Iraq and Qadhafi’s Libya.