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Hunt for Mullah Omer: Afghans allege US of playing double game

Situationer

Abdul Zuhoor Qayomi

KABUL: Afghans have cast doubts over the war on terror and sincerity of the United States as Washington has recently announced that it would not target the chief of Taliban, Mullah Omer or other militant leaders unless the US interests were at stake.

According to media reports, the Pentagon knows better that Afghanistan is facing serious threats from groups, including Pakistani Taliban, loyal to Mullah Omer. Security situation in the country is worsening day to day. Every Afghan province is in grip of violence.

Instead of rooting out the militant groups and putting weight behind the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the US-led ISAF has warned Kabul to remain on toes in the next year as 2015 would bring no good news for Afghanistan, but only bloodshed at large scale.

The insecurity is not only irking Afghans but also became a nightmare for some regional and neighboring countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his concern over simmering insecurity in Afghanistan and said the deteriorating security situation would pose great threat to the Central Asian Republics. Putin told Kremlin that Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was trying to gain foothold in Afghanistan and seize control of many parts.

Moreover, the capital city of Afghanistan is no more immune from terror attacks as bomb blasts in the past who months have puzzled the whole security apparatus. The first response from elite class in the capital city was how to secure Kabul. One could envisage now the how fragile is the security fabric in other parts of the country. As far as security situation at the provinces are concerned, there is little optimism. Over 800 Pakistani terrorists stormed houses of pro-government militiamen and checkposts of Afghan security forces in Kunar province. The public uprising members were on top of the terrorists’ hit list because general public took up arms when Pakistani Taliban started incursions from the Pakistan’s controlled side of the Durand Line despite presence of Pakistani paramilitary troops in the tribal belt. Kunar residents inflicted heavy casualties on the Pakistani militants and asked Kabul to allow them to pursue the terror outfits in tribal belt as violence as touched its peak.

 In the fierce fighting, the coalition troops were missing from the scene and let the militants to do their job. ANSF has not received the required support, but for a short time. Afghan security forces were of the view that as per the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the NATO, they would receive considerable aerial support but their hopes were dashed to ground soon.

At this point concerns of Afghans could not be ruled out as instead of peace they are given violence. The recent stance of Washington on Mullah Omer and other militant leaders has forced the war-wear nation to question the role of the US in the region. They think the BSA has lost its validity as American troops are not supporting ANSF though their combat mission has not been ended completely and the US is bounded to defend the Afghan soil. They are also of the view that Ex-President Hamid Karzai was right when denied to sign the security agreement unless peace and stability was brought to the country.

Aimal Faizi, the former president spokesman, has claimed the US knew about shelter of Mullah Omer. He said the Taliban supreme leader was living in Karachi, Pakistan’s port city, but the American would not arrest him.

Faizi told Pajhwok Afghan News Agency that the US Foreign Secretary John Kerry had informed Karzai that the Taliban chief was hiding in Karachi where he was protected by Pakistani military establishment.

When the Afghan government asked Kerry to catch Mullah Omer, he said when he approached the Pakistani military for action against the Taliban leader; the US state secretary received a blunt response that Omer was under Pak army protection.

Faizi’s interview has caused a stir and Afghans alleged the US of playing double game.

“What happened to the claims of the US officials when they were launching the so-called war on terror? If they cannot take action against the militant leaders then BSA is of no use. Those who supported the security agreement will be answerable to the next generation if the Washington took u-turn. Those who supported and signed the security agreement are now part of the history they cannot present any excuse for the mistakes that have put the national interests at stake,” Gul Nadeem, a political and security affairs analyst said.

Talking to Afghanistan Times, he said that Hamid Karzai was right that the US and Pakistan hold keys to success of Afghan peace process. “One [Pakistan] is sheltering and supporting the Afghan militants and the other [the US] knows about it but doing nothing. I am forced to say that war on terror is just a bunch of rubbish. The American and Pakistani authorities are pursuing same agenda.”

The real victim of terrorism is only Afghans. Their every morning starts with news of bomb blasts and suicide attacks. Afghan citizens are the major target of the Taliban. The United Nation reports say that civilian casualties raised by 24 percent in first half of 2014. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported 4,853 civilian casualties, 24 percent increase over the same period as in 2013. At least 1,564 civilian were killed and 3,289 were injured.

The report said that every five civilian casualties in 2014 accounting for 39 percent of all civilian casualties: 901 in total, up 89 percent from 2013, with 474 civilians killed and 1,427 injured.

Astonishingly, child civilian casualties increased by 34 percent in the first half of 2014. As many as 295 children were killed and 776 were wounded. Women were also in the crosshair of terror-related incidents.

Women civilian casualties jumped by 24 percent as 148 lost their lives and 292 were left injured.

“Ground engagements took the lives of 112 children and injured 408, with the total 520 child casualties, an increase of 110 percent over 2013. Ground engagements killed 64 Afghan women and injured 192, with the total 256 women casualties, up 61 percent over 2013. In 2014, the fight is increasingly taking place in communities, public places and near the homes of ordinary Afghans, with death and injury to women and children in a continued disturbing upward spiral,” said the report.

According to UNAMA, the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the anti-state elements is the second leading cause of civilian casualties in the current year. The IEDs are responsible for 1,463 civilian casualties (increase of 7% from 2013). The use of remote controlled explosive devices went up by 13 percent with 205 incidents causing 637 civilian casualties including 150 deaths and 487 injuries.

“Of utmost concern, the use of indiscriminate illegal pressure-plate IEDs experienced a resurgence in 2014, killing 161 civilians and injuring 147, with a total 308 civilian casualties, a 33 percent increase over 2013. Suicide and complex attacks by AntiGovernment Elements, the third leading cause of civilian casualties, killed 156 and injured 427, with the total of 583 civilian casualties. In the first half of 2014, the Taliban publicly claimed responsibility for 147 attacks that resulted in 553 civilian casualties with 234 civilians killed and 319 injured. While Taliban fighters appeared to direct 76 of these attacks at military targets that indiscriminately harmed civilians, 69 attacks deliberately targeted civilians including tribal elders, civilian,” the UNAMA said in its report.

Despite the grim security situation, the US President Barak Obama has announced end of his military combat mission and termed it a successful. His statement was aimed to throw dust into eyes of Americans. The ground situation is totally different from what the American authorities project as the fight between ANSF and insurgents is intensifying with each passing day.

Security has not returned to the homes of Afghans. Every Afghan family is living with fear of terrorism.

They neither celebrate New Year nor Eids, as the insurgents attack civilians every day. For the foreign-supported terror groups religious festivals are normal days to continue subversive activities.

Wish the US citizens knew that Afghans are made fuel of the Washington launched war on terror when they are celebrating Christmas and other festivities in a calm and peaceful environment. They are peace because of the sacrifices rendered by the ANSF.

The trust deficit between Afghans and the US and its NATO allies is increasing rapidly.

They believe that still ANSF needs modern weapons in fight against insurgency, but their necessities have been deliberately ignored by the superpower. Air and modern ground forces are the need of the hour but the Afghan troops are built on simple lines.

Afghan security officials have time and again voiced their concerns over lack of modern aircrafts to target the militants in all parts of the country, but their calls or request fall on deaf ears in the US.

Member of the Internal Security Committee of the Wolesi Jirga (WJ) Shekiba Hashemi told Afghanistan Times that the US is using Afghanistan as a tool to achieve its strategic goals since 2001.

“Signing the security agreement was aimed to occupy important military bases in Afghanistan to control Asia. Americans are using Afghanistan as an observatory. They are not interested in the war on terror but it was a pretext to land in Afghanistan,” she said.

Ms. Hashemi is of the opinion that US is not interested in bringing security and stability to Afghanistan while Afghans need more support of the international community, especially of the United States. She hoped the US would honor its promises and support the Afghan-led peace process wholeheartedly.

Farooq Majroh, an MP from Herat, said the recent news about the US stance against Mullah Omer and other Taliban leaders made him surprised though he knew that Americans are seeking only those who threaten their national interests.

“The US will not target the Taliban if they promise not to attack its troops in the country. It was duty of the Afghan officials to ask Washington to ensure security before signing the security agreement. Washington has to accept that the Taliban are their enemies as well,” he said.

He said the recent stance of the Pentagon would deteriorate security situation in Afghanistan further. He asked the Afghan security officials to take measures to thwart terror bids and massive-scale attacks without relying on coalition troops.

Atiqullah Amarkhail, a retired military General, said that considering the US as friend is a big mistake of Afghans. “Earlier, Americans were saying that the Taliban and al-Qaida are posing threats both to Washington and Kabul. But now they have changed their views and are not ready to hunt down leaders of the Afghan militant groups,” he said.

He added that Washington was now dancing on the tunes of Islamabad and had same objectives—to have major role in Afghan politics. “It is job of the US to ensure security of Afghanistan. The United States shall review its policies as the new approach will prove harmful for Afghanistan.”

Chief of the Internal Security Committee of the WJ, Iqbal Safi, alleged the US of playing double game with Afghanistan.

Despite murky security situation and lack of support, morale of the Afghan security forces is all-time high.

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