The assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani is another message from the Taliban. The group is proclaiming that it is not ready to begin either dialogue or negotiations with the Afghan government and the American forces in Afghanistan.
The Taliban stated their refusal to peace initiatives and reconciliation strategy initiated by the U.S. two years ago by assassinating the president of the Afghan Peace Council that was established in October 2010 in a bid to promote dialogue with the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.
This is the real picture of what is happening in Afghanistan in its bare truth; the Taliban returned to the Afghan scene, pushing the allies to retreat to square one and accept the movement as a partner in power, after 10 years of a bloody war. However, it is the Taliban who refuse this partnership and speak the language of victorious firmly maintaining their stance that “we will not start dialogue before foreign forces retreat.”
About a year ago, the International forces were highly disappointed and embarrassed when they discovered after months of talks with whom they thought to be Mullah Mansour, a Taliban leader, that they had been deceived. In fact, the person they were talking to was impersonating Mullah Mansour and he was just a grocery seller in the Pakistani city of Quetta. He was paid a great deal of money, which granted him a new life; thanks to the international community’s money allocated to Afghanistan.
The Taliban has been affirming before this incident, as well as in the days to follow that they are not involved in any dialogue with the Afghan government or any other party. Recently, the group’s military leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, reiterated this position and asserted that he is in complete coherence with the stand of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban leader. This statement came as a setback, especially for Afghan officials and the Allied Forces, as well as Pakistan, which assured that it was capable of bringing the Haqqani network to the negotiation table.
Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, whom I met more than once in Pakistan and Afghanistan during my work in this region over the last 15 years, was one the most seasoned Afghan politician. He had a fair judgment of the Afghan political landscape and the changes taking place in the region. He was a calm yet dynamic person who gathered around him people with strong standing in politics and military like Ahmad Shah Masoud. He played a major role in the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and visited the Kremlin 11 years after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for this purpose.
But he was always unwelcomed by the main player in Afghanistan, then Pakistan, being from the Tajik ethnic group while Hekmatyar being from the Pashtun ethnicity was favored by the premier Pakistani intelligence agency known as the ISI. Hekmatyar, not satisfied with his share in power following the fall of the communist regime in Kabul in 1992, attacked Kabul with all his might.
All those who visit Kabul can see and hear from the people that Hekmatyar’s missiles which hit the city in just three years of civil war destroyed Kabul much more than the 11-year old war with the Soviets and the communists.
With the Taliban control of Kabul in 1997, Rabbani moved to Faizabad his hometown and the capital of Badakhshan province, north of Afghanistan. There he continued his contact with the world as the President of Afghanistan, where as the Taliban who were controlling more than 80 percent of Afghanistan were recognized by three counties only.
Rabbani was sidelined after 9/11, while his students and party members like Abdullah Abdullah, Younis Qanouni, Fahim Qasim and Wali Shah Massoud brother of Ahmed Shah Masoud rose up and became part of Karzai Government. Rabbani was undesired not only by his students but also by the United States, until the day Karzai along with the allies in Afghanistan turned toward him in October 2010 asking him to head the Afghan Peace Council, with the goal to start a dialogue with the Taliban.
The Taliban’s message to the president of the Peace Council was deadly. After assassinating him politically when his students and the Allied Forces marginalized him, the Taliban actually killed him. Any observer of the Afghan situation would not expect Rabbani to succeed in his mission or to achieve anything substantial as the President of the Peace Council, as he was considered an enemy by the Taliban and therefore incapable of contacting them let alone reaching a peace agreement with them; a decision that cost Rabbani his life.
Rabbani’s assassination revealed once more the vulnerability of Afghanistan and the short-sightedness of all parties. The doors for dialogue with the Taliban are closed and the Allied forces’ military operations failed to restore security in Afghanistan. Furthermore, admitting the return of Taliban and trying to contact them to start dialogue means that all military efforts exerted during the past 10 years failed to eradicate Taliban while the country kept on suffering from financial corruption, drug trafficking, bad governance and poor economic condition throughout those years.
From their side, the Taliban claimed to have formed what it called a shadow government in 30 out of 33 Afghan provinces. However, the Taliban has no vision regarding the post-U.S. withdrawal period, whenever it happens. In fact, the group is ready neither for dialogue, nor for power sharing. At the same time the Taliban also seem to be incapable of controlling all parts of the country after the U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
It seems that the future scenario in Afghanistan will take us back 10 years to the days when the Taliban controlled 80 percent of the country under the support of Pakistan, while the Northern Alliance lead by Rabbani and supported by the International community was enjoying power only in 20 percent in the north and northeast of Afghanistan.
It is difficult to predict or speculate the future of Afghanistan under such circumstances; the international strategy in the country has not achieved peace and stability, in fact it brought a deadly war that claimed tens of thousands of lives and Rabbani will not be its last victim.
Perhaps recognizing the failure of the current Afghanistan strategy, would be the first step in analyzing the Afghan situation and a step forward to device better strategy and a viable solution that serves first and foremost the interest of Afghanistan.
Baker Atyani is Alarabiya Bureau chief in Pakistan and South East Asia.