BRIGADIER RAJIV MAHNA
All the narratives which are emerging from Afghanistan and about it from the rest of the world present a very grim picture of the ‘Present’ and a dismal outlook for the future. On 10th November, CSABA KŐRÖSI (Hungary), President of the UN General Assembly said, “the situation in Afghanistan is disastrous. Two thirds of the population is hungry. Girls and women are banned from learning, having a job, or getting proper medical care. The country is awash in heroin and opium. Organized crime and terrorist organizations are thriving once again … The United Nations humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan, which requires $4.4 billion, is only half funded”. A very sad commentary on the predicament of 41.7million fellow humans who are citizens of the Afghanistan!
On 13th November, Afghanistan’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada ordered judges to fully enforce aspects of Islamic law that include public executions, stoning and flogging, and the amputation of limbs for thieves. Tweet by Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesperson, mentions that Akhundzada conveyed to Judges,”This is the ruling of Sharia, and my command, which is obligatory.”
Russia organised the fourth meeting of the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan on 16th November, which was attended by the special representatives and senior officials from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Taliban, an essential stakeholder was not represented in this gathering. Post the meeting, a Joint Statement, ticking all the usual ‘boxes’ and some more, was issued by the participants. Wish list of requests addressed to the absent ‘de facto rulers’ of Afghanistan included gentle reminder regarding fulfilling their commitments to eradicate terrorism and drug trafficking emanating from that country’s territory. Requirement of establishing an inclusive government, and a prerequisite for achieving such ambition, intra-Afghan national reconciliation also found mention in the Joint Statement.
This document also mentioned two facets which are not usually expressed in the formal articulations regarding Afghanistan situation. First is an ambiguous statement, “the placement of military infrastructure facilities of third countries in Afghanistan and in adjacent states is unacceptable”.For Russia and some other countries, expression, ‘THIRD COUNTRY (s)’, may have meant, US and West, whereas for India the same expression could have meant, Pakistan. Second statement which was supported by most and not all participants is, “Convinced that the forces responsible for the 20-year military presence in Afghanistan should take on main financial burden for the post-conflict reconstruction of the Afghan economy for the welfare and well-being of common Afghans without intervention in internal affairs of Afghanistan. Noted that all sections of Afghan society have requested in common that the US unfreeze overseas assets and urged to take all necessary steps to release the blocked Afghan national reserves. Most of the delegations agreed to make a call to compensate for the damage caused to the Afghan people during the years of US – NATO presence”. Now, this is a loaded statement with far reaching consequences. It may be quoted as precedence while considering post-conflict reconstruction process in Ukraine; and unfreezing of Afghan National Reserves without instituting mechanisms for ensuring that this entity which amounts to more than US$7 billion doesn’t enter Terror Funding cycle is a dangerous proposition. Though US action of freezing Afghan National Reserves, at the first place, is vulnerable to legal and ethical scrutiny, still, if India is part of that group which has not supported this segment of the Joint Statement, its’ action is farsighted.
Concluding part of the Joint Statement – “Called for the development of common, coordinated approaches to cooperating with the interim government of Afghanistan, including at the United Nations.Participants supported the establishment of the international negotiating group on Afghanistan under the United Nations auspices”, contains a pragmatic and positive suggestion which merits serious pursuit by the world community.
However, it is essential that any proposed process for restoring normalcy be endorsed by all the stake holders and not imposed unilaterally on Afghanistan. Masoom Stanekzai, a former chief peace negotiator for the Afghan government and director of the National Directorate of Security in Afghanistan, believes three historic mistakes were made in the decades-long peace process. First, he said, the exclusion of the Taliban from the Bonn Conference in 2001 that produced an agreement on a post-Taliban government was a “strategic mistake” that resulted in squandering a “unique opportunity” for peace. Second, Pakistan, through its support to the Taliban, played the role of spoiler in the peace process. And third, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 diverted attention away from Afghanistan at a critical moment. It is really an interesting and relevant observation which should be considered while formulating future reconciliation framework.
Signing off for the week, by quoting Khaled Hosseini, “There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”
Brigadier Rajiv Mahna YSM, SM, VSM is an Indian Army Veteran who has chosen to remain a student for the lifetime.
….. see next page for We Said It
“We Said It”
- Addressing a session at the third ‘No Money for Terror Ministerial Conference on Counter-Terrorism Financing’ Home Minister Amit Shah, remarked, “The situation in the South Asian region has changed after the regime change in Afghanistan in August last year, with the growing influence of Al-Qaeda and ISIS posing significant challenge to regional security”.
- This aspect was covered in detail in the article titled; ‘Islamic state Vs Islamic States’ published in ‘Beyond Boundaries’ column on 14th March 2022.