The dilly-dallying in recognising the Taliban government proved to be costly. It may prove costly because of the knee jerks of the US and its allies. Without a foothold in Afghanistan, and the Taliban sidelined, mired in Panjshir resistance, the US attacks on Afghanistan would only further weaken the emerging Taliban government.
The Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State, ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K), claimed responsibility for the attack.
They claimed that a suicide bomber from the Islamist militant group “managed to reach a large gathering of translators and collaborators with the American army at ‘Baran Camp’ near Kabul Airport and detonated his explosive belt among them, killing about 72 people and wounding more than 143 others, including Taliban fighters”.
The IS statement also boasted the bomber got around US security measures and that the camp that was targeted was where US forces were gathering paperwork for those who have worked with the military.
The IS regards the Taliban as traitors
The extremist IS group views the Taliban as traitorous for agreeing to a peace deal with the United States. Taliban have condemned the attack. But it underscore the truth that security situation in Kabul is porous. The Taliban termed the explosions outside Kabul airport a “terrorist act”.
The US is on the Horn of Dilemma. If it carries out unilateral attacks against what it perceives to be the IS targets, the Taliban writ would be debilitated. Already, Panjsheer is fetter to the Talban’s feet. A sensible strategy would be to continue efforts for an inclusive government at Kabul and strengthening the Taliban’s hands willy nilly.
Avoid piling up mistakes
The current situation in Afghanistan is because American guesstimates gone awry. The expectation that the US trained Afghan forces would l hold back the Taliban onslaught for at least six months did not come true. The forces took to heels without firing a shot.
The Taliban estimated between 30,000 and 75000 could be a formidable force, provided US trained Afghan join them. This force is a factor to be reckoned with in neighbouring countries.
To meet the IS challenge the US may bankroll the Taliban but with a modicum of accountability. The history should not repeat itself. Karzai fled with US$169 million. And now the Americans are crying over the split milk.
The US knew that the Afghan governments were thoroughly corrupt. They pilfered money allocated for troops. The trainees themselves were kleptomaniac. They used to steal whatever lay unguarded, even fuel. The Afghan government was a kleptocracy while the Afghan troops were kleptomaniacs. Besides devouring US funds, the government functionaries earned a lot from poppy growers.
Only a feeble effort was once made to hold the Afghan government accountable.
Mistake of overfeeding
During2001 to 2020, the US spent about $144 billion on training the Afghan forces through its 10,000 contractors. The NATO established trust funds of about $3.4 billion to overfeed the trainees, police and security personnel. The USA banked on its contractors to train the Afghan forces. These contractors had a limited vision of emerging situation. The Taliban sneaked their men into the ranks and files of trainees to get information. The US wanted to win the war through contractors rather than through its solders. At times, the number of contractors exceeded the number of Department of Defence Personnel. That totaled 85,600 as compared to 117,227 contractors at cost of US$891 million (Blackwater, KBR, and Boeing Company)
The translators enjoyed Special Immigration visas. In 2008, about 198 visas were issued. In 2017, about 4120 visas along with 12050 for dependents were issued. About 360 visas along with 1626 for dependents were issued in 2021. They were the IS target in Kabul blast.
Fall of Kabul into Taliban hands has introduced a new dimension into the Afghan situation. The Kabul blasts make the situation even more complex. The IS who claimed responsibility for the attacks calls the Taliban “traitors”. To muzzle the IS, the US should strengthen the Taliban.
Without dejure recognition, the Taliban will find it increasingly difficult to deliver the goods.
If the Taliban fail to get over the Panjsheer resistance early, pockets of resistance may develop in other places. The rustic Taliban appear to be good negotiators. They negotiated peace terms with the US well. They are likely to win over hostile leaders. So all stake holders should realise need for a central authority in Afghanistan.