The unending conflict in Afghanistan continues to trudge on and there is no telling when this horrific cycle of death and violence will end for Afghans. For nearly two decades, the world’s mightiest military forces have failed to establish durable peace in the long forsaken country. The 2001 US-led invasion of the country swiftly evolved from a mission against al Qaeda’s head honcho, Osama bin Laden, to one in which the focus became battling the Taliban. Seventeen years and tens of billions of dollars later, the conflict is stalemated — perhaps because the Afghans have never been allowed to negotiate a deal that serves their national interest. According to analysts this year, the Afghan war is on track to inflict more than 20,000 battle deaths. The toll alone could exceed statistics collected during any other conflict, possibly even the war in Syria.
Despite the surge in deployment of foreign forces, certain facts remain constant: the Taliban are not going anywhere anytime soon, especially if they haven’t after enduring 17 years of conflict. The Afghan state will not achieve a level of maintainable stability without adding the Taliban to the peace equation. And the indefinite Korea-style presence of the US forces will remain a threat to any peace deal. As these facts remain unchanged, the war in Afghanistan continues to destroy the lives of Afghans, who have suffered on and off conflicts for more than four decades. But now is the time to reach a negotiated end to this conflict. Perhaps, outgoing US General John Nicholson made some sense as he relinquished command of US forces in Afghanistan by saying it is time for the war in Afghanistan to end because seventeen years of war have shown no plausible theory of success to justify additional US presence and more killings in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2018.