US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad has become a professional in offering condolences to the relatives of the victims of those very terrorists with whom he struck a deal. Sample his latest:
“The attack today on Kabul University claimed by ISIS was horrendous. I condemn it and offer my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. he terrorist perpetrators are not just against education but are pro-ignorance. They want to breed chaos and instability, terror and poverty. They oppose and fear peace, and seek a permanent state of war. This barbaric attack is NOT an opportunity for the government and the Taliban to score points against each other. There is a common enemy here. Deny ISIS or any other terrorist the space to carry out these inhumane acts. Unite for peace, find a path to a ceasefire, and accelerate a political settlement. These steps would be the right response to this unspeakable barbarism”.
Khalilzad is trying to shun the idea that almost nobody believes his subtle distinctions between 'ISIS or any other terrorists” and Taliban anymore. The Afghanistan National Department of Security (NDS) maintains, in fact, that ISIS-K has links with Lashkar-e-Toiba, with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, with multiple regional Talibans, and with the Haqqani network. ISIS-K, according to the same NDS, has become very active with the help of Pakistan.
In effect, all the jobs Taliban will not openly do because of the 'peace agreement' have been outsourced to ISIS-K. Its main goal remains delegitimising the Afghan government in order to install an Islamabad-friendly cabinet in its place. The 'historic' negotiations between Afghan government representatives and the Taliban, like the 'historic' peace agreement between the Taliban and the US, are in fact on the verge of collapse.
Afghan and Taliban negotiators are unable to agree even on the agenda for the talks, while the US and the Taliban are engaged in a row over the terms of a deal to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan—accusing each other of violating the terms of the agreement.
Over the past several weeks, Taliban militants have staged assaults and bombings almost everywhere, killing both government forces and civilians. In a deadlier attack than the horrific assault on Kabul University on 3 November claimed by the ISIS, in fact, the Taliban killed 40 soldiers and police in Takhar on 20-21 October.
On 25 October, a car bomb near the police headquarters in Ghor Province killed 19 people and wounded more than 100, mostly civilians. In Helmand, Afghan forces are still battling a major Taliban offensive to seize the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
He added that the Taliban were committed to “force foreign fighters out and reestabilish an Islamic government”.
But the Khalilzad farce of ‘peace talks’ and the Taliban commitment to join the political mainstream—along with Pakistan’s insincere chant of ‘Afghan owned-Afghan led’ peace process—goes on despite any evidence to the contrary.
The truth is, the ‘peace process’ exists only in Khalilzad’s mind and those of his cheerleaders. The main condition—practically, the only condition—for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, was for the Taliban to cut links with Al Qaida and to ensure Afghanistan won't be used again to plot international attacks.
The Taliban and Al Qaida cadres are training together, along with members of the Haqqani Network and Pakistan-based jihadi groups like JeM and LeT. This seems unlikely to change.
Edmund Fitton-Brown, co-ordinator of the UN's Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Team, told Bill Roggio in a podcast and the BBC during an interview that: “The Taliban were talking regularly and at a high level with Al-Qaida and reassuring them that they would honour their historic ties”.
All the rest is just a smoke-screen to hide a couple of truths and to give some dignity to the shameful agreement struck by Khalilzad. The only Afghans taken into consideration are evidently those who are members of terrorist organisations and the official government was not given the right to decide anything. This agreement, after twenty years of war, will likely change Afghanistan into a jihadi paradise controlled by Pakistan.
The 'pax americana' is likely to cost dearly, very dearly to the whole world in the coming years. The West is turning its back on a powder keg that it has created and fed for years. A power keg likely to have heavy repercussions on the rest of the world.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. She tweets at @francescam63. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quintneither endorses nor is responsible for them.)