Talk and fight: strategy of Taliban in Afganistan

Background

The US in 2018 appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as its chief negotiator and special representative with the Taliban. Trump has thrown Afghanistan into an epic scrum by his logic that great nations do not fight endless wars. 

The ground situation in 2019 is that the Taliban controls 15 per cent Afghan lands, the Afghan government holds 56 per cent, while 39 per cent is contested between the Afghan government and Taliban

Zalmay Khalilzad
 Zalmay Khalilzad

The Taliban and the US reached a deal (in April 2019) that is pregnant with positivity. As per the deal, it is believed that the Taliban will not use Afghanistan to target the US and its allies, while there will be completely foreign troop withdrawal from the soil of Afghanistan. 

USA Taliban Deal

As per the package deal', the Taliban (stated through its negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar) will not develop any links with international terror groups not allow Afghan territory to be used for any strikes against the ost Under the deal, Zalmay Khalilzad stated that there will be a dialogue of Taliban with 'intra-Afghan' forces. This is very important because Zalmay Khalilzad did not use the term 'national unity government NUG-led by Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, a legitimate democratic government) and the Taliban.

                            
This means that the Taliban will not negotiate with NUG (which India favours) but with diverse factions of Afghan society (which Pakistan or ISI favours). This will not only erode the significance of a democratically elected government but also create fissures in Afghan society and the future government will be very hybrid. The problem is that NUG also is not fully united. On top of that, if the Taliban establishes control over any region in the country, it will provide Pakistan with an opportunity to use proxies and unleash strategic depth against India. 

Talk and Fight Strategy

Taliban is trying to convince the US and India (through its spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid) that it is an independent actor and not a creature of Pakistan. However, the future of Afghanistan because of all this remains very vulnerable and volatile. However, the strategy of the Taliban is that at one place it will continue to fight foreign troops and simultaneously talk to the US. This is called the 'talk and fight' approach. 

However, the Taliban has remained steadfast on their demand for not negotiating with the Afghan government and not accepting the ceasefire with the Afghan government. The Taliban and the US have agreed for an interim government where there shall be gradual power-sharing between the Afghan government and Taliban. There will be an interim constitution that will discuss changes to the Afghan Constitution. There will an Ulema Council that shall be created to discuss power-sharing.

Pakistani Jihad 

Taliban is an ideological movement and not a nationalist insurgency. The strength of the Taliban comes from the US and Saudi support for Jihad' in the Cold War period, Pashtun, and opposition to foreign troops (British earlier, to the USSR and the US today). Taliban rose easily in 1994 to recreate the 300-year history that was dominated by Pashtuns but threatened after Soviet withdrawal, because of a fear of dominance of Persian-speaking Tajiks (close to Iran and dominant in Afghan bureaucracy for long). 

Pakistan at the end of the Cold War feared that a Tajik-dominated government in Afghanistan will be the nemesis for Pakistan (as it feared it could be micromanaged by Iran, even giving leverage to India in the long run in Afghanistan), thus, Pakistan was the Pashtuns in the theme of historical recreation and became the progenitor of Taliban. Its objective is to establish a 'pure Islamic government', which is aligned to the geostrategic ambitions of Pakistan. Taliban has always perceived Afghanistan as 'the school of jihad'.

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