US flies F-16s over Kabul as Taliban reneges on Afghan peace
The US Air Force Central Command is using heavy-duty B-52 bombers and AC-10 Spectre gunships to attack Taliban positions in Pashtun strongholds of south and east Afghanistan.
With the Taliban going rogue over its peace assurances to the US, the Qatar based Central Command has stepped up combat air patrolling of Kabul with F-16 fighters and bombing of east and south Afghanistan to prevent the military objective of the Islamist Sunni Pashtun force from capturing political power. The US Air Force Central Command is using heavy-duty B-52 bombers and AC-10 Spectre gunships to attack Taliban positions in Pashtun strongholds of south and east Afghanistan. US planes have also bombed Sheberghan in Jowzan and Lashkar Gah in Helmand. The US forces are to exit Afghanistan on August 31.
According to diplomats based in Kabul, it is evident that the Taliban, despite public assurances from neighbouring Pakistan, is in no mood to share power through negotiations and the entire western strategy of the US and the UK has gone to pieces. A peace process meeting scheduled to be held in Islamabad from August 17 to August 19 now stands postponed indefinitely. Primarily, the Islamabad meeting was the brainchild of UK army chief General Nick Carter and the US-Afghan Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.
Also watch | 'Stop Taliban or...': Afghanistan warns world as US, UK ask citizens to exit
Now efforts are being made to call Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on a state visit to Islamabad and have a discreet one to one meeting with the Taliban military council on the sidelines. While the dates of the state visit have not been finalized, Taliban leaders like Mullah Yaqoob and Sirajuddin Haqqani are expected to attend the deliberations. The Afghan troika meeting is also scheduled on August 11 at Doha with the UN, the EU, Qatar, Turkey and Iran joining the confabulations as special invitees. Pakistan with the Taliban as its key leverage has ensured that India is not part of the troika deliberations.
Also read | 'Closest neighbour': Pakistan on India's snub at UNSC meeting on Afghanistan
While the Taliban is on a military expansion towards Kabul, the Afghan leadership continues to have differences within despite the US trying to get them on the same page. It is in this context that the US is asking Afghan leaders like HCNR head Abdullah Abdullah, Hezb e Wahdat leader Ustad Mohaqiq, Ustad Sayyaf, former vice president Yunus Qanooni, Haji Bator as representative of Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ismail Khan and Ustad Atta Noor to join hands and defend the Republic. Marshal Dostum is already on the ground in northern Afghanistan and is giving a fight to the Taliban with his son leading the fighting.
Also read | Deterioration in security situation in Afghanistan is serious, says Jaishankar
However, the military situation is increasingly fluid with fighting going on in Kunduz, Sar-e-Pul and Jawzjan provinces in northern Afghanistan and the Taliban having an upper hand. The Taliban after capturing Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province, has started looting public property and freeing prisoners.
Even though the Taliban’s weapon supplies, cadre and medical aid supply lines are continuing unhindered from Pakistan, Islamabad is feigning ignorance and has ostensibly washed hands from the Sunni Islamist force in public. Clearly, in the Af-Pak region, more the things change, the more they remain the same.