‘Waiting for Godot’ is a brilliant play, written on the existential theme by Samuel Beckett. The play opens with two characters, Vladimir and Estrogen conversing under a tree on a countryside road while they endlessly wait for someone called Godot.
While Vladimir and Estrogen amuse themselves with wit and repartee, two other characters, Pozzo and Lucky, enter the scene and add activity to the play. At the end of each act, a boy enters the scene and tells Vladimir and Estrogen that Godot would not come. He would come the next day. Each act ends with: ‘well, shall we go?’ ‘Yes, let’s go’, and they do not move. Curtain drops.
Both the acts end in inaction, and nothing happens, twice. It is, however, the exhausting effort of Vladimir and Estrogen to fill an endless void with their conversation. ‘Well, let’s go’ ‘we can’t’ ‘why not’ ‘we are waiting for Godot’.
Just like the play, Afghanistan today seems a wait for Godot.
Seventeen years long intense war on terror, on which billions of dollars have been spent, hasn’t brought an end to terror. Thousands of U.S troops have died. Thousands of Afghanis have lost their lives. Not to forget Pakistan which has lost thousands of civilians and military personnel. Yet nothing happens in Afghanistan, and no end to the war is in sight.
The war in Afghanistan is futile. American has exhausted every option to defeat the Taliban. Commenting on America’s choices to use in the battle to inflict a defeat on Taliban, Bret Stephen writes in The New York Times “When it comes to Afghanistan, we’ve tried everything. The lesson is: Nothing works”.
The Taliban still govern a considerable area in Afghanistan. Every year the spring offensive by the Taliban brings new anxieties to the Afghan, U.S and the allied forces. The harsh winters give enough time to Taliban to gather up resources and hit back. The sneak peek between the U.S and the Taliban continues.
Much like the play, there is repetition in Afghanistan too.
The Taliban attack the military instalments, hospitals, banks and hotels; mostly in and around Kabul. After every strike, the Afghan officials condemn the act of violence and resolve to fight back. In response to Kabul the Taliban vow to fight the ‘invaders’ and the Kabul government backed by them, till the end. Kabul then habitually overlooks the ubiquitous corruption of its security agencies and blames neighbouring country Pakistan for supporting the Taliban. Pakistan rebuffs the allegations and shows the list of innocent Pakistani lives lost, billions of dollars lost to the economy and the sacrifices made in the war on terror. Lastly, Washington, 6000 miles away, adds more drones, more troops and yet another new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. This has been on the repeat.
Wastage and void haunt Afghan soil. So far there are but few quantifiable gains in fighting extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan. The Bush administration and later Obama resolved to destroy the Taliban. That hasn’t happened. There is something even worse now, ISIS.
The ISIS, after its operations in the middle east, has found new franchises and now operates both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It poses a threat to both states, their security forces and mainly targets the Shia Muslims, Sufi shrines and non-Muslims in both countries.
The long war on terror, with repeated drone strikes and complex shadow wars, has not been able to bring peace to the region. However, over the years more terrorist groups have sprouted, and more terrorist organisations have found safe havens in Afghanistan. Jamaat ul Aharar, TTP and ISIS are to name some. Hence, more violence and more confusion.
The causalities as a result of war have been surging and so have been the U.S troops. Meanwhile, ISIS and its franchises lurk in the shadows of the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
During his presidential campaign, President Trump had said that he would pull out troops from Afghanistan. That’s not the deal anymore since he has become the president. The U.S military wants to continue in Afghanistan, and any confrontation with the army would make President Trump look weak. Clearly, he doesn’t want that. Result: the war goes on.
Everybody in Afghanistan is waiting for ‘Godot’. The Taliban are waiting for the U.S and allied forces to pull out so that they rule Kabul again. The Kabul administration, whichever it is at any point of time, waits for more funds to fight the Taliban. The Afghan warlords wait for more proxy wars, funds and wish it continues forever. Pakistan, disinterested in U.S strategy in Afghanistan, if there is any, now looks away and waits for more lucrative deals with China. The people of Pakistan and Afghanistan wait for peace. While the Trump administration is waiting for, we don’t know, Godot?
The writer is an Islamabad-based TV talk show host with an interest in Foreign Policyand International affairs.