Madness goes on

The madness goes on in Afghanistan. In the biggest terrorist attack since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 soon after 9-11, 41 people were killed and 150 wounded on July 7 when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a diplomats’ vehicle at the gate of the Indian embassy in Kabul. As a result, the embassy’s military attache and a political

counsellor were killed, along with two Indian guards. Many of the dead were Afghans collecting Indian visas. While the needle of suspicion is being directed at the Taliban, the Taliban, on its part, has denied any involvement in the blast, instead blaming it on regional rivalries, including elements inside Pakistan. But Pakistan has denied any role. The attackers and their motives may well be established soon, but there seems to be no end in sight to the descent of Afghanistan into chaos, even after the Soviets left in 1989.

In November, the US invasion and the fall of the Taliban will complete seven full years, but peace has not returned to that war-battered country despite the heavy operations of the NATO forces and spending of billions of dollars. Meanwhile, the Afghan people have suffered too much. Not long afterward, the US invaded Iraq, too, on grounds that were much flimsier, but instead of ushering in the promised peace, democracy, and prosperity, America has fallen into a quaqmire itself, and Iraq has already suffered a high scale of death and destruction. The foreign troops have either to stay in much longer than expected or go away. As the latter course may signify resignation, the former is much the likelier. That also means the suffering of Afghans and Iraqis will continue for an indefinite period of time.

Till Just a year ago, NATO countries had expressed optimism, saying that the Taliban was on the run. But this is no longer so, as suggested by more recent Pentagon reports, independent sources, and statistics. At present, more US soldiers are getting killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq. Civilian casualties have risen 50 per cent on the previous year. There has been disagreement in Pakistan’s ruling circles over how to tackle the Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries inside Pakistan’s borders. The insurgents also appear to be exploiting this and other weaknesses, including those outside Pakistan. In fact, Pakistan itself has increasingly become targets of terrorist attacks in recent years, including attempts on the life of its president Musharraf and assassination of political leaders, Benazir Bhutto being the most prominent of them. The rise in insurgency is also blamed on the entry of fighters from outside, particularly Central Asia, Iraq, Chechnya and Kashmir. Some quarters are urging the US to order its forces deep into western Pakistan without regard even for Pakistani sovereignty to smash the militants operating from there. But it will not be an easy option because of its various serious implications. Others advise talking to the Taliban, a step the US may consider a comedown. However, it is sad but likely that as long as foreign forces remain in Afghanistan, insurgency will continue, and the outrage at the Indian embassy may not be the last.