Endless battle for power in Afghanistan
Seventeen years after the US invasion of Afghanistan, the war-torn country remains in the grip of Islamist violence. A string of deadly attacks in the last year suggests militants are stronger than ever.
Repeated attacks in Afghanistan in 2018 and 2019 have killed and wounded hundreds of innocent Afghans, and shown the world the fragile and worsening state of security in the conflict-stricken country. The incidents have plunged war-weary Afghan citizens into a state of despair and highlighted the limitations faced by the government in Kabul in ensuring public security.
A long series of attacks
The violent incidents have made Afghanistan once again a staple of international headlines. Outfits like the Taliban and the "Islamic State" (IS) have claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Afghan government is under heavy pressure to restore security and take back territory controlled by a number of insurgent groups, including the Taliban and IS.
In 2018, the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive, dismissing an offer of peace talks by President Ashraf Ghani. The militants, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law to Afghanistan, said their campaign was a response to a more aggressive US military strategy adopted in 2017, which aims to force the militants into peace talks.
Trump's Afghanistan policy
US President Donald Trump unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan in 2017, vowing to deploy more troops to train and advise Afghan security forces. Trump also pledged to support Afghan troops in their war against the Taliban and maintain US presence in the country for as long as there was a need for it. In 2019, he reversed course and promised a troop pullout.
Afghan peace process
Despite President Ghani's offer in February 2018 for peace talks "without preconditions," the Taliban had until 2019 shown no interest, dismissing the peace overtures as a "conspiracy."
Pakistan has been under pressure from Kabul and Washington to stop offering safe havens to militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies and insists that its influence over the insurgents has been exaggerated. Kabul and Islamabad regularly trade accusations of harboring the other country's militants and the harsh language has underscored the strains between them.
Role of the warlords
Apart from the Taliban, Afghan warlords exercise massive influence in the country. Last year, Hizb-i-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul after a 20-year exile to play an active role in Afghan politics. In September 2016, the Afghan government signed a deal with Hekmatyar in the hope that other warlords and militant groups would seek better ties with Kabul.
An inefficient government
In the midst of an endless battle for power, President Ghani's approval ratings continue to plummet. Rampant corruption in the Afghan government and a long tug-of-war within the US-brokered national unity government has had a negative impact on the government's efforts to eradicate terrorism.