Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: Rocket attacks on Kabul hint at shape of things to come

Filed on July 20, 2021

This is the first time in many years that Taleban refused to announce ceasefire during such an important Islamic festival.

The calmness exhibited by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and his team during the Eid Al Adha morning prayers was heroic. His team remained unfazed and continued to pray even as three rockets exploded in areas nearby. But will the Ghani government be able to run the country with the same level of calmness once American forces leave the country? The challenges are stark, and few alternative options are in sight as at now. The Taleban continue to expand their presence in the country and challenge the government’s hold and relevance. The Afghan special forces, which have been trained by the US and are better equipped than the regular units, are unable to defend their country. The limitations experienced by Afghan special forces without the US air support and intelligence gathering programmes have emboldened the Taleban.

This is the first time in many years that Taleban refused to announce ceasefire during such an important Islamic festival.

And even though the extremist group refused to take responsibility for the attack, it coincided with the sweeping offensive launched by the group in recent months. This is yet another event that points at the worsening situation in the country that has been ravaged by war.

Meanwhile, peace talks are appearing to have lost momentum and there are ever-growing risks of a Taleban takeover of the country. The change in Afghanistan will shape the region’s dynamics too. The American forces have been successful at finding and killing the head of Al Qaeda but have been utterly miserable at weeding out extremism from the country and empowering the local population to bring about a change the country truly deserves. Despite having a democratically elected government and two decades of support and training provided by the American forces, the situation in Afghanistan leaves much to be desired.

The Taleban are expanding its authority over districts far and wide. Since the April 14 statement by US President Joe Biden announcing the withdrawal of American troops from Afghan soil by August-end this year, the Taleban have waged a crusade and captured more areas. As per the Long War Journal, the extremist group has over 220 districts under its control. Afghanistan has a total of 325 districts. Turkey, a Nato ally, has shown interest in taking over the mantle from the US, albeit at a small scale. The Erdogan government has shown interest in being a good Nato soldier and securing Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport for enabling diplomatic and military operations in the country. Turkish forces have played a key role in several regional operations, including in Syria and Libya. How far will it be able to succeed in a country that has been infamously referred to as ‘the graveyard of empires’ remains to be seen.

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