It is almost confirmed that there is no let up to the anarchy in Afghanistan. One war leads to the other. The US-installed government of Hamid Karzai failed to normalise the situation. The so-called elections that brought Ashraf Ghani into power failed to give Afghanistan its share of peace. The longest US stay backed with highly technological military hardware, and war strategies failed too. The relentless rounds of peace conferences could not help either. Even Pakistan’s stance that it wants Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process betrayed the ground realities. And lately, the mothers of all bombs dropped to annihilate the hideouts of the ISIS made no difference with the terrorists’ intentions. Nothing worked. The result is that each day is just another day of killing and mayhem on Afghan soil. The question is: Is there any solution to the Afghan war?

In the ‘Kabul Process on Peace and Security Cooperation’ meeting held on June 6, 2017, in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani blamed Pakistan and others for being part of the problem. The accusation on Pakistan of waging an “undeclared war” against Afghanistan was borrowed from the usual tirade of supporting the Haqqani network blamed to have conducted the recent attack at the diplomatic enclave in Kabul resulting in the killing of 150 people. The international community was admonished for following their “own paths” to restore peace in Afghanistan. Ghani threw anger at almost everyone for sponsoring terrorism other than his people. He tried to look into the flaws of the regional stakeholders but not of his government and the Afghan political process. Even when he was inviting the Taliban to open its office in Afghanistan, his tone and tenor was hardly that of a conciliator but of an aggressor who would retaliate if his advice were not heeded. All the while that Ghani was hurling accusation and pleading peace, a rocket landed outside the house of a diplomat, and protesters hunkered down on the street not far from the presidential palace where the dialogue was taking place, changing slogans, “Death to Ghani and “Death to America.” A question running through each mind in the conference was whether the Afghan government and the US were part of the problem or part of the solution.

So who will answer this question? Who will make Afghanistan come to term with its domestic needs and prospects? Had it been in the hands of the US or the international community war would have been done with years back. But what we are seeing is that, according to the Afghan official estimate, almost 11,000 foreign fighters have joined the Islamic State in Afghanistan over the past two years. Not to forget 40 per cent of the land under the possession of the Taliban. This regression requires the Afghan government to take the ownership of the Afghan turmoil.

The Taliban, whether we like it or not, are the main stakeholder. Almost every country assisting Afghanistan in getting on its feet have maintained relations with the Taliban even Iran, which had both religious and political differences with the group. Mullah Mansoor, who was killed by the US drone, was caught crossing into Pakistan from Iran. The Chinese had engaged the Taliban so did the Russian. But the US is reluctant to accept Taliban’s role of being a major and crucial partner. The US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had rejected Ashraf Ghani’s overture to the Taliban to open an office in Afghanistan saying the Taliban cannot be part of the political solution. He further said that the Taliban could not win at the ballot box. The US is also planning to send in 5,000 more troops.

How did Mattis arrive at the conclusion that the Taliban could not win at the ballot? The protest in the aftermath of the attack at the diplomatic enclave reverberated with both anti-government and anti-American slogans. Evidently, there is confusion here. The public sentiments, the state’s interests, and the US policy have no correlation whatsoever. In this situation how a solution could be reached to end the war. To making matter worse, the part of the Afghan government in the hands of Abdullah Abdullah does not want reconciliation with the Taliban.

Unless the US is intended to leave Afghanistan and subsequently the region war would keep stalking the Afghan nation.

A mechanism could be achieved to bring the Taliban into the political process through elections in the presence of the US. Other regional powers having cordial relations with the Taliban could be used to persuade the Taliban to allow US to spearhead the election process given the presence of the ISIS in Afghanistan. Let the ballot box and not speculations reject or accept the Taliban. Any government formed from this arrangement would have the approval of the people and the multiple Afghan political groups. In case the Taliban wins then ISIS could also be easily routed. And in case the Taliban loses the US would have the legitimate authority to eliminate both the ISIS and the Taliban, which means neither Russia or China or any other country would support the Taliban either through the provision of arms or haven, during their elimination process.

Wars have never achieved peace. Eventually, an inclusive political arrangement will have to be worked out. Let it be now to end the vicious circle of one war leading to the other in Afghanistan.