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Terror isn't subsiding in Afghanistan

Terror isn't subsiding in Afghanistan
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Twin suicide blasts in Kabul on last week have, once again, shocked Afghanistan. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed at least 25 people. The security situation in Afghanistan is getting murkier with time. And, unfortunately, there's all the reason to believe it is going to get worse in the coming days. It appears as if the recent calls for peace were nothing but hogwash.

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The Taliban and the Islamic State were never serious about the peace initiatives. Apparently, the U.S. policymakers don’t know that they don’t know this plain fact. The idea of peace talks is great, but this back and forth rhetoric based on peace initiatives and direct strikes just doesn’t serve the purpose.

With Afghan parliamentary elections already postponed up until October, the terrorists and the insurgents in Afghanistan are going to up the ante to ensure the government in Kabul comes to the negotiation table with everything to lose. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani earlier offered an olive branch to the Taliban, but just last month, the Taliban announced the start of the Spring Offensive, and that the group intends to cause more mayhem than ever.  

With the current security situation being fragile in Afghanistan, there are three aspects that the United States needs to look into in order to stand a viable chance to wipe the terrorists out.

  1. Relationship with Pakistan

It has now become clear that Pakistan won’t budge under U.S. pressure to combat terrorism in Afghanistan.

Tensions are notable. Pakistan continues to hold in custody a jailed doctor believed to have helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden. For its part, the United States cut military aid over speculation that Pakistan shelters Taliban militants fighting U.S. and Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan.

If human security in Afghanistan is to get any better, then the United States and Pakistan need to work in unison. A tall order, yes, but certainly worth giving a shot.

  1. Passive, not active, warfare

Afghanistan is one country where non-kinetic warfare appears to be the only way out. Conventional warfare plans might help in attaining tactical-level gains, but it will make achieving strategic gains even harder. The U.S. forces in Afghanistan needs to disrupt the terrorists from within.

The results conventional attacks and direct bombings have had in the recent past don’t provide for anything significant to write home about. Psy-ops and decimating the terrorists from within are options that can help the American ground troops get rid of the terrorists. Engaging in active warfare, rather than passive, is the primary reason terrorism isn't subsiding in Afghanistan. As I stated in an earlier column, conventional military strikes only adds to the possibility of collateral damage, which in turn, plays into the hands of the terrorists in Afghanistan.

  1. Focus more on Afghanistan

The United States needs to focus more on Afghanistan rather than the Middle East more broadly. ISIS has been on the run after they've been hit hard in Levant, and their first preference in terms of relocation is going to be Afghanistan. From Zawihiri to Bin Laden to Zarqawi, Afghanistan is one country in the region that appears easier for terrorists to infiltrate. Islamic State might be on the run, but if left unchecked, it can wreak havoc in Afghanistan and beyond.

There’s still time to play with. There’s still enough room to maneuver. There’s still a chance to wipe the terrorists out from Afghanistan. There’s still a ray of hope for the Afghan people. But, is the most appropriate counter-terror policy in place to get the job done?

Shazar Shafqat is a counterterrorism and security analyst for the Middle East Eye, Middle East Monitor and others. His research focuses on South Asian security, Middle East politics and security issues, counterterrorism strategies, and military-related affairs. His commentary has been published by World Policy Journal, Asia Times and RealClearDefense, among others.