Kabul, Jan 10, 2017: Afghan officials are putting effort into creating a “safe zone” for Taliban mutineers in a bid to wean them away from traditional sanctuaries inside Pakistan, in a radical and contentious plan to de-escalate the conflict.
The plan underscores desperation in Afghanistan for out- of-the-box measures to take care of the 15-year insurgency, as peace attempts repeatedly fail and US-backed forces suffer record casualties in stalemated fights.
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If implemented, the strategy – targeted at undercutting Pakistan’s influence and active effect over the Taliban – could, for better or for worse, be a game changer in a strife-torn country where ceding territory to mutineers is seen as tantamount to partition.
“I urge the Taliban to return to Afghanistan. We should make a safe zone for them and their families,” Kandahar police chief Abdul Raziq said at a meeting of religious scholars and tribal seniors last month.
“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,” he added.
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The shock-wave created was amplified by this proposal of Raziq, who is probably the most powerful commander in southern Afghanistan and long one of the staunchest anti- Taliban figures.
“The government shouldn’t be giving safe zones to terrorists,” former Helmand governor Sher Mohammed Akhundzada warned. A number of observers accepted the fact that this strategy can be considered “illogical” as the Taliban already are in control of vast swathes of Afghan territory, mentioned PTI report.
Raziq has not yet responded to the repeated requests for an interview, but a senior security official informed that the government’s agenda “is to bring the Taliban from Pakistan to Afghanistan.”
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“We will separate a territory for them to come with their families. Then whether they want to fight or talk peace, they will be relieved from the pressure of Pakistan,” he stated, speaking anonymously.
Pakistan began backing the Taliban activities of the 1990s as part of its policy of “strategic depth” against nemesis India.
Seen by many Afghans as the biggest hurdle when it comes to lasting peace, Islamabad has been allegedly playing a “double game” in Afghanistan for a long time: endorsing Washington’s war on terrorism since the 9/11 attacks, while supporting militant sanctuaries.
After years of official denial, it was admitted by a top Pakistani official in 2016 for the first time that the a country provides a safe haven for the militant group inside his country, which is used by Islamabad as a “lever” to pressure the group into talks with Kabul.
However, Pakistan has hosted multiple rounds of chats ostensibly to kick start a peace process – without result.
– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang