On April 17, the Afghan security forces, with the assistance of NATO troops, conducted a series of counter-terrorism operations, which, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry, "eliminated the Taliban 38, seized ammunition, artillery shells and explosive devices of handicraft." The sweeps were carried out in several provinces of the country - Kunar, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kandahar, Zabul, Ghazni, Paktiya and Nimroz.
The reaction of the opponents of Kabul was not long in coming. On the same day, in the northern province of Jowzjan, the bodies of four soldiers of the Afghan army, previously captured by the Taliban, were found, as well as the body of another hostage, a Turkish citizen, engaged in the transport of goods. 19 In April, in the province of Ghazni, 13 was killed by local residents who were in some kind of anti-Taliban militia. Representatives of the Taliban movement claimed responsibility for the attack. 22 April, they announced the seizure of a helicopter company Horasan Cargo Airlines, which made an emergency landing in the province of Logar. A team of foreign engineers on board, as well as pilots - citizens of Russia and Afghanistan, were captured.
Undoubtedly, any escalation of tension in Afghanistan, where the conflict has been going on for more than thirty years, is always alarming. But it is doubly alarming that civilians, including foreigners, are increasingly becoming victims of the fighting. Moreover, many experts believe that things will only get worse. For example, the current deterioration of the situation in the country gives grounds for observers to assert that the departure of the Americans and their allies will inevitably lead to an aggravation of the internal political struggle in Afghanistan, as it happened in the 1990s.
Similar views, by the way, are shared by high-ranking military of Western countries. Thus, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, General Martin Dempsey, at the beginning of April called the Taliban a long-term threat to the security of Afghanistan. “Even after ten years, they may be able to control certain territories of the country,” he believes. General Joseph Dunford, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, agrees with him. He stated that he "doubts the idea of including the Taliban in legal political activities for the 2014 year."
The Pentagon report, released last December, points to another serious problem - the combat effectiveness of the Afghan army and police remains at an extremely low level. The unreadiness of the Afghan law enforcement agencies to independently and effectively solve security problems was clearly demonstrated by the events in Afghan Badakhshan. During February and March of this year, militants terrorized the local population and the authorities of Badakhshan County Varduj. Hundreds of families were forced to flee their homes for fear of aggression by militants, among whom, according to Kabul officials, were members of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Taliban. Only in early April, the Afghan military with aviation NATO managed to drive the militants out of the villages of Varduja, but by the middle of the month some of them had returned.
All this makes you think about what will happen to Afghanistan and its society after 2014, when the main forces of the United States and NATO leave the country. What form will the civil conflict take? Will it move to a qualitatively new level, as happened after the Soviet troops left Afghanistan in 1989? Who and how will control the country, where more than one generation of people who can only fight grew up? Will Afghanistan become the center of propagation of religious extremism and political radicalism in the region?
The latter is particularly relevant given the fact that in the north of the country, in the province of Badakhshan, as assured in Kabul, international terrorists from various organizations are operating. According to Russian experts, the Taliban and their supporters from the “IMU” and “Al-Qaeda” organize a springboard for a breakthrough to the countries of Central Asia or, possibly, China. In this sense, Afghan Badakhshan really occupies a unique geostrategic position, adjoining simultaneously with Tajikistan, China and Pakistan. If the Afghan security forces fail to take control of these areas of the country, no one will give guarantees that the militants will not be on the other side of the border.
And this can be a serious problem not only for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but also for those regional and world powers that are somehow involved in the process of inter-Afghan settlement. That is why the military-political situation in this country today attracts the attention of the whole world.
The difficult situation and events of twenty years ago, when tough domestic political, intercommunal and inter-ethnic competition between Pashtuns, on the one hand, and Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Shiite-Hazaras, on the other, tore apart Afghanistan into parts, do not allow making rosy forecasts for further development situations. At the same time, in some countries the Taliban are considered as part of the solution to the Afghan problem, in others - as the main obstacle to a peaceful settlement. For example, in Russia they are sure that Washington should by all means finish the work it began in 2001 to destroy the Taliban. Moscow is suspicious of the fact that the United States is trying to establish a dialogue with these most irreconcilable and consistent opponents of the West and President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai, in turn, is also worried about the future. He has repeatedly made it clear that the current democratic regime with him or his successor can repeat the fate of the pro-communist regime of Najibullah, who, having lost the support of Russia, instantly lost power.
Meanwhile, it is clear that Washington and its European allies are not interested in a radical change in the situation in Afghanistan after the 2014 year and will try to prevent the country from slipping into chaos. That is why the United States and NATO are insured and plan to leave thousands of troops in the country from 8 to 12. Their main function in the future should be the training of law enforcement officers - the army and representatives of law enforcement agencies in Afghanistan. But at the same time, Americans are focusing on the need to integrate temperate groups from the Taliban into the political process.
Apparently, the Western coalition proceeds from the Iraqi experience and is trying to repeat it on Afghan soil. Indeed, the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, despite the security problems there, did not lead to the elimination of the social and political system that was created after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime with direct American participation. Perhaps the whole point is that before the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, Washington formed a well-established and so far successfully operating system of balances of the main political groups of this country, consisting of Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. In one form or another, it takes into account the needs of almost all elements of society, and this state of affairs at the present moment quite suits the Iraqis. But the most interesting thing is that the system of checks and balances can work effectively only with the mediation of the United States, which guarantees the preservation of the balance of power.
It is not excluded that it is from these very considerations in Afghanistan that the Americans are trying to find a common language with those who today are called the Taliban. For Washington, it is extremely important to find a place in the Afghan political system for representatives of influential opposition Pashtun tribes and organizations, so that in the future they will not act as competitors and rivals of the central government. First of all, of course, we are talking about the Taliban, who at first glance represent the main threat.
The problem, however, is that the Taliban in their usual form has not existed for a long time. The movement was formed with the direct participation of Pakistan to solve very specific geopolitical problems. For example, to open trade roads to Central Asia. Therefore, the rapid destruction of the Taliban troops in the fall of 2001, was largely due to the fact that Islamabad refused their previous support due to pressure from Washington. The United States, in return, promised Pakistan the investments necessary for its economy, recognized it as a nuclear state and strengthened military-technical cooperation with it.
It was the absence of the organizational structure of the Afghan militants, the amorphous nature of the armed resistance that all this time allowed Kabul and the command of the international forces to call the Taliban certain opposition Pashtun leaders and at the same time come into contact with them. For example, in 2008, the British actually transferred several cities and towns in Helmand province under the control of the so-called Taliban. At various times, the Taliban movement linked the former Prime Minister of the country Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, as well as the Haqqani family from a small, but rather militant and influential tribe bullied.
Meanwhile, after 2001, Pakistan continued to forge informal ties with Pashtun field commanders and tribal leaders, which often irritated Washington and Kabul. Therefore, the opening of the Taliban’s representation in Qatar, which has been referred to in recent months, may indirectly indicate the existence of some agreements between Washington and Islamabad. It is possible that the Americans consciously go on increasing the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan, in exchange for the fact that it will support their efforts in an inter-Afghan settlement and their measures to stabilize the situation after the 2014 year. For the Pakistani leadership, this is a real chance to influence the Afghan situation or part of Pashtun society. Thus, Islamabad can restrain the growth of Pashtun nationalism or prevent a situation in which the new Afghan authorities could raise the painful question of the “Durand Line”, which in Kabul is not recognized as a state border.
Naturally, the existence of such agreements limits the maneuvers of Kabul itself. Therefore, Karzai is very critical of Washington’s attempts to bring him to the negotiating table with the Taliban, and in fact, with those opposition Pashtun tribes that may have ties with Pakistan. Hence the constant attacks against Islamabad, which, in his words, "continues to support the Taliban."
It is significant that in the middle of March Karzai sharply opposed Washington’s initiatives. However, after 26’s unexpected March visit to Kabul by US Secretary of State John Kerry, he suddenly changed his position. Moreover, on April 1, Hamid Karzai flew to Qatar, with whom he discussed, among other things, the opening of the Taliban in Doha. It is also curious that before meeting with Karzai, Kerry held talks with the head of the Pakistani army, General Ashfaq Kiyani, in Jordan, during which security problems in Afghanistan and the South Asian region as a whole were raised.
It is difficult to get rid of the feeling that Karzai was simply confronted with the fact and offered to play the role assigned to him. Hence, it is not surprising that upon returning from Qatar, he not only spoke about the possibility of a truce with the Taliban, but also stated that even “Mullah Omar can stand as a candidate for the presidency in the elections” to be held next year. It is clear that this possibility looks the least realistic, but, most likely, the words were addressed to those who may be behind the armed opposition of Kabul, for example Pakistan.
In this regard, the most intriguing is the fact that the escalation of armed confrontation in Afghanistan coincided with the efforts of external parties to resolve the conflict. There is no doubt that the revival of the military-political situation did not happen by itself, but is a reflection of the hidden political or geopolitical processes that are taking place in and around Afghanistan. Surely Karzai, on his own initiative or with US support, wants to raise political stakes before the start of the negotiation process. This can best be done by maximally weakening the position of the enemy. Therefore, in April, stripping operations were carried out at once in several provinces of the country.
Probably the armed opposition was guided by the same considerations. This may explain why the clashes were observed not only in the southern and southeastern provinces, where the supporters of the Taliban movement are traditionally concentrated, but also in the northern regions of the country, where mostly ethnic minorities live. But the most interesting thing is the fact that some anti-Taliban militias appeared in Ghazni province and, possibly, in other places. Their creation and formation requires certain political and financial efforts on the part of Kabul. However, it cannot be excluded that this is also part of the strategy of the West. Thus, he can, on the one hand, give Kabul guarantees of continuity of the regime, and on the other, he can somewhat limit the activity of disloyal to the center of Pashtun tribes and the activities of Islamabad in the Afghan sector.
But then it is most logical to assume that today in Afghanistan, with the assistance of Washington, an important stage is beginning to form the rules of the game that the state and society should adhere to after 2014. This is a difficult task, but quite doable. Unless, of course, any force majeure or other external forces happen to want to interfere in big geopolitics.