A last-ditch effort to broker peace in Afghanistan will be made in the Qatari capital of Doha this weekend. A senior Afghan government delegation which includes Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the country’s High Council for National Reconciliation, and former national president Hamid Karzai will engage in talks with the Taleban. Afghanistan’s unending 42-year civil war has predictably intensified with the imminent departure of western armed forces led by the United States.
This week a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist with Reuters, Danish Siddiqui, was killed near the Spin Boldak border crossing between Afghanistan’s Kandahar province and the Pakistani region of Balochistan – he was apparently a victim of indiscriminate Taleban firing.
The Taleban captured power in the country a quarter of a century ago, before being ousted by the US after 9/11. Crucially, the American President George Bush who ordered the military invasion, did not finish the job – obsessed as he was with regime change and removing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. As such, the Taleban were not crushed as they could have been. Also to blame was neighbouring Pakistan, which having consented to fully cooperate with the US in the ‘war against terror’, allowed Taleban members to regroup and receive sanctuary across the border.
Two decades later – encouraged by the Pakistani establishment – the Taleban again pose a serious threat to the incumbent Afghan administration of President Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist. The clock has painfully turned back 25 years.
The West in general and the US in particular were partly responsible for the emergence of Islamic extremists in Afghanistan. As millions of refugees fled to Pakistan after Soviet Union troops intervened to prop up a left-wing government in December 1979, American intelligence members injected the poison of religious fervour into the refugees.