State of turmoil
In yet another tragedy, at least 24 people were killed on Monday when two Taliban suicide bombers on foot struck close to the Defense Ministry in Kabul. This attack comes at a time when the Taliban is intensifying their nationwide offensive against the US-backed government. Kabul has been at the receiving end of many militant attacks in the past few weeks. Last month, militants killed at least 13 people during a 10-hour siege on the American University. Attempts by the West to defeat the Afghan Taliban have not amounted to much. But during his recent visit to India, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that his government will hold trilateral talks with their counterparts in Afghanistan and India during next month’s United Nations session to further calibrate counter-terror measures.
This was a significant announcement for numerous reasons. In the past decade, American officials have sought to pressure Pakistan into denying safe havens for insurgent groups involved in destabilising Afghanistan, especially the Taliban and its brutal offshoot, the Haqqani network. But that has not created the requisite incentive for Pakistan to give up its terror apparatus. The script has gone terribly wrong, even though Kerry acknowledged that Pakistan had “acted against” the Haqqani network. Instead of bringing the Afghan Taliban leadership on board for talks, Pakistan has allowed their largest offensive in years to march ahead. In a recent column, noted Indian journalist and strategic expert Praveen Swami wrote: “In effect, it’s (Pakistan) stringing Afghanistan along until the Taliban brings the government to its knees. Islamabad’s compulsions are simple.
Pakistan can’t risk the Afghan Taliban joining hands with the Pakistani Taliban networks and the Islamic State led by Khan Saeed, who want to overthrow the government. That could end in a war larger than the Pakistan army is prepared to fight. It is simply in no position, therefore, to restrain the Taliban.” In past few years, this realisation has dawned on the Americans. Kerry’s announcement for the third round of trilateral talks is yet another indicator of a steady departure from the American policy of facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan through Islamabad. New Delhi, meanwhile, has reaffirmed its support for the US-backed government in Kabul.