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ARTICLE: On September 11, 2001, nineteen years ago, humanity at large witnessed one of the most gruesome and heinous crimes in history. The wanton attack on twin towers of World Trade Centre of New York, symbolizing the financial might of United States of America, shocked the entire world. In the wake of this ghastly event, for nearly two decades, occupation of Afghanistan by foreign forces, led by America, wide scale bombing killing innocent civilians besides combatants, attacks by Taliban and other resistant groups, and numerous incidents of terrorism, not only in the country of conflict, but in various parts of the globe changed the world beyond imagination. In the name of "security" and "war on terror", international and national laws underwent marked amendments snatching civil liberties of even peace-loving citizens. Although a handful of terrorists, their financiers and supporters have "hidden agendas" and "masked faces", but controlled and influential media in United States (US) and elsewhere, portrays a distorted picture without actually exposing them.

On February 29, 2020, in Doha, Qatar, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar signed a "deal" with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a witness. In a speech, Pompeo urged the militant groups: "Keep your promises to cut ties with al-Qaeda". Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said that he hoped Afghanistan could now emerge from four decades of conflict, adding "I hope that with the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan the Afghan nation under an Islamic regime will take its relief and embark on a new prosperous life". Both the parties after signing the "deal" avoided to call it a "peace deal" or "peace accord".

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in a report of September 7, 2020, said that the "deal" paved the way for the next stage of the process (talks between the Taliban and Afghan government or "intra-Afghan negotiations"). The report says that these talks will revolve around an actual "peace deal". It means uncertainty still prevails regarding "peace" in Afghanistan as many political groups and social activists have expressed their reservations about the "deal". They claim that the "deal" will ultimately lead to recapturing of government in Afghanistan by Taliban.

The BBC in its report of February 29, 2020 noted:

  • "Within the first 135 days of the deal the US will reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600, with allies also drawing down their forces proportionately.

  • The move would allow US President Donald Trump to show that he has brought troops home ahead of the US presidential election in November.

  • The deal also provides for a prisoner swap. Some 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners would be exchanged, when talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are due to start.

  • The US will also lift sanctions against the Taliban and work with the UN to lift its separate sanctions against the group".

The "deal" before the forthcoming presidential elections in the USA has given basis to President Donald Trump, nominated for second term by his party, to make tall claims of achieving "historic and landmark" development towards "peace" in Afghanistan and fulfilling his promise of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. After the "deal", speaking at the White House, President Trump claimed that the Taliban had been trying "to reach an agreement with the US for a long time". He said: "US troops had been killing terrorists in Afghanistan "by the thousands" and now it was "time for someone else to do that work and it will be the Taliban and it could be surrounding countries". He further said: "I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we are not all wasting time," and added: "If bad things happen, we will go back with a force like no-one's ever seen."

In Kabul, soon after the "deal", a very strong reaction came from various circles, especially 28-year-old activist, Zahra Husseini, who told AFP that she feared "the deal could worsen the situation for women in Afghanistan". She said, "I do not trust the Taliban, and remember how they suppressed women when they were ruling". According to her, "Today is a dark day, and as I was watching the deal being signed, I had this bad feeling that it would result in their return to power rather than in peace".

The "intra-Afghan negotiations were to begin in March this year, but were held up for months by wrangling over a prisoner exchange plan. As per a report by BBC of September 7, 2020, talks between Taliban and the Afghan government "are now set to begin in Qatar this week, aiming to put an end to two decades of war and the loss of thousands of lives".

The report by BBC international while saying that "coalition ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 and forces were there only to train Afghan forces", admitted that despite US continued its own, scaled-back combat operation including air strikes, Taliban "continued to gain momentum in 2018 and were active across 70% of Afghanistan". It says, according to the US-Taliban deal, all US forces "will leave by May 2021, if the Taliban fulfil their commitments on al-Qaeda, and begin talks with the government". It adds: "The withdrawal, in other words, is not contingent on a settlement being reached between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Ahead of elections later this year, US President Donald Trump has repeatedly signalled his interest in bringing home American forces as soon as possible. He has already promised to reduce the number to 5,000 by November, the lowest levels since the invasion began in 2001".

It is worthwhile to recall that without admitting and investigating massive security lapses, George W Bush decided to attack and occupy Afghanistan in 2001. It was alleged that the Taliban regime was adamant to protect the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden-once a staunch supporter of Western-sponsored "holy war" against Soviet infidels and later killed on May 2, 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by US Navy Seals and CIA operative, according to statements of then President Barack Obama and Vice-President, Joe Biden, now candidate for 2020 elections against Trump.

Since 2001, many books (e.g. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001), written by investigative journalists and scholars, provide reliable evidence that the champions of 'Free World' have been clandestinely supporting terrorist organisations. The real beneficiary of 'war on terror', many authors believe, is the military-industrial complex. The rulers in America and the West are captives in the hands of tycoons of war and oil industries. Arms manufacturers earn billions by selling weapons to different governments, militants, criminals and drug barons.

According to US government figures, between 2010 to 2012, when the US for a time had more than 100,000 soldiers in the country, the cost of the war went as high as around $100 billion a year. It later came down when the US military shifted its focus away from offensive operations and concentrated more on training Afghan forces. According to official figures, between 2016 and 2018 annual expenditure was around $40 billion. According to the US Department of Defense, the total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) was $778 billion and additionally, the US State Department, along with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other government agencies, spent $44 billion on reconstruction projects. Besides colossal money spent on the most costly war in history, the USA since 2001, has lost more than 2,300 soldiers with 20,660 injured in action.

According to BBC, "it is difficult to say how many Afghan troops have died-the numbers are no longer published. However, in January 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said: "45,000 members of the security forces had been killed since 2014". Nearly 3,500 members of the international coalition forces were killed since the 2001 invasion. The figures for Afghan civilians are more difficult to quantify. The annual UN report of 2018 said: "more than 32,000 civilians have been killed and around 60,000 have been injured". The Watson Institute at Brown University says: "42,000 opposition fighters have died". The same institute says conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have cost the US $5.9 trillion since 2001".

It is a matter of record that long before 9/11, America and its NATO allies decided to invade Afghanistan. The 9/11 attack was just an excuse for invading Afghanistan. The real cause was apprehensions regarding Turkmenistan Gas Pipeline Project in which powerful corporate entities had financial interests. It was not the existence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that led to the invasion of Afghanistan, but corporate interests of America and its allies.

(To be continued on Sunday)

(The writers, lawyers and authors of many books and articles on terrorism, arms-drugs-trade, are Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS))

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

Dr Ikramul Haq

The writer is a lawyer and author of many books, and Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of management Sciences (LUMS) as well as member of Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). He can be reached at [email protected]

Huzaima Bukhari

The writer is a lawyer and author of many books, and Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of management Sciences (LUMS), member of Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). She can be reached at [email protected]


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