The security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, as a double bombing by the Taliban near the Afghan Parliament office compound in Kabul and a government guesthouse in the southern province of Kandahar killed 50 people. The bombing wounded the provincial governor and the visiting ambassador of the United Arab Emirates. As the Taliban issued a statement claiming responsibility for the Parliament bombings, Afghan officials are desperate to end this decades long conflict, by pushing for a radical approach to create a “safe zone” for Taliban insurgents in a bid to wean them away from traditional sanctuaries inside Pakistan.
Peace bids have repeatedly failed and US-backed forces suffer record casualties in stalemated fighting. The controversial strategy is aimed at undercutting Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban, and if implemented, could mean that Pakistan would be relieved of Afghanistan’s unreasonable expectations regarding its role in the conflict. But the strategy is flawed in more ways than one; simply urging the Taliban to leave their hideouts for a place that does not ensure their safety will not work. The Taliban require assurances for their safety, especially from US forces, which are sending 300 of their senior military officials to Afghanistan in March to aid the Afghan forces in their fight against the militants.
Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq, arguably the most powerful commander in southern Afghanistan and long one of the staunchest anti-Taliban figures announced to a gathering of religious scholars and tribal elders last month, “I urge the Taliban to return to Afghanistan. We should make a safe zone for them and their families. We can no longer rely on foreign governments and embassies to end the war. The Taliban belong to this country, they are sons of this soil.” Such a statement holds significance as it signals a shift in the failing policy of the Afghan government as well as a review of its complete reliance on the US to fight its battles.
Many within the Afghan government have dismissed the strategy as “illogical” as the Taliban already control vast swathes of Afghan territory. Prominent Taliban figures have called to make the insurgency independent of Pakistan, “To be able to make independent decisions, our leadership... should leave Pakistan,” the former head of the Taliban’s political commission added in the letter seen by AFP. Pakistan should facilitate this move as it is in our country’s best interest to do so. The Taliban are inherently an Afghan problem and it is only fair that they accept and resolve it as their own.