KABUL (TIP): The US official policy on supporting a “peace process” in Afghanistan may change. In remarks at Canberra, US defence secretary James Mattis gave clear indication that the US may not give Taliban the space for a political “solution” in Afghanistan. The message from Rex Tillerson secretary of state and Mattis is the same – Taliban is a terror group, and they will be tackled militarily.
Mattis said, “we’re up against an enemy that knows that they cannot win at the ballot box, and you think – we have to sometimes remind ourselves of that reality. That’s why they use bombs because ballots would ensure they never had a role to play…”
Tillerson continued, “our commitment to Afghanistan is to ensure that it never becomes a safe haven for terrorists to launch attacks against the civilized world or against any other part of the world or any of their neighbors.”
Thus far, the US has been pushing the Afghan government to set up a peace process with the Taliban, as the only way to end the war. Although the official US review of its Afghanistan policy is still pending, the remarks are a strong signal that the US may turn up the military heat on the Taliban. Certainly, there is no more the oft-repeated line that the US believes “there is no military solution” to the Afghan crisis.
This used to be the line used by both former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. That gave the Pakistanis the opportunity to set up all manner of arrangements starting with the Qatar process run by Taliban leader Tayyab Agha, who was quickly discredited. This was followed by the ill fated QCG between the US, China,
Afghanistan and Pakistan which ended with two things: the announcement that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died over two years prior, and the elevation of Sirajuddin Haqqani as deputy chief of Taliban, effectively joining the ISI supported Haqqani network with the Taliban. In more recent months, Russia and Iran have both joined the fray, this time using ISIS as a reason for bringing Taliban into the mainstream and power structure in Kabul.
The US accuses Russia of supplying weapons to Taliban. But the horrific attacks in recent weeks by the Haqqani network appears to have made up US minds on how not to look for peace in Afghanistan. While the dilemma in Washington about another troop surge remains, it’s also clear that the US may step in to prevent Russia and Iran from becoming players in this particular conflict.
The recent US MOAB (mother-of-allbombs)+ drop in Nangarhar has been widely seen as a signal for North Korea. But could there be a possibility of it being used again in Afghanistan, against the Taliban?