Afghanistan represents one of the world’s darkest geographical landmasses. Warlords called the shots for long years in most parts except in capital Kabul; today it is the Taliban, former rulers for a period, which runs larger parts of the nation. Ashraf Ghani as president in the past five years was more of a disaster and he’s seeking a new term in elections finally slated for September 28, while former president, India-friendly Hamid Karzai, is keeping a close watch.

Violence by Taliban is the order of the day and over 4,000 people were killed this year alone. There arose hopes about a truce between the Taliban and the US; and a date had been fixed for signing the truce. However, President Donald Trump has declared the negotiations with the Taliban “dead” after more terrorist attacks took place in Kabul and elsewhere this past week. President Trump has a point to stress: “If you cannot guarantee peace days before a truce talk, what is guarantee that you would ensure peace after the truce?”

Ashraf Ghani had started his term with two wrong steps – one, to cozy up to scheming Pakistan and its generals who remote-controlled a set of the Taliban in Afghanistan; and two, to put on the backburner the ties with traditional ally, India. Ghani’s logic was that, for peace to return, he had to try and build bridges with those who inspired violence from Pakistan. The generals played their game, and the scenario in Afghanistan turned worse in the past five years. Later, Ghani distanced himself from the Pakistani establishment, but the damage was already done. In the past five years, the specter of violence was more horrendous than at the time of Hamid Karzai – who ruled the nation for 14 years until 2014 with able Indian and US support. Indications are that elections are unlikely to take place in Afghanistan as planned. The dates could again be deferred.

The US promise was that it would effect a phased withdrawal of its troops which landed there in 2001 to oust the Taliban regime immediately after the Al Qaeda attacks at the World Trade Centre in the US. Some 15,000 US troops remain there, and the offer from Trump was to withdraw 5,000 troops, in response to the Taliban demand that the US exit from Afghanistan. This plan has now been called off. It is important that the US keeps its troops in Afghanistan for some more time; else the chaos there would only turn worse.

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