Some nine million Afghans have registered to vote in national elections taking place in their nation at the weekend, and that are doing so indeed speaks volumes of their faith in a parliamentary system that is beset by serious issues across their troubled land. The elections themselves are being held three years behind schedule, and are taking place against a background of renewed terrorist activity by the Taliban.
Late last week, a carefully orchestrated and executed attack in Kandahar claimed the life of a senior police chief and intelligence officer, leading to the suspension of polling across that province as security forces attempted to come to grips with the Taliban’s ability to strike at times and places of its choosing. And that it occurred shortly after the commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in the country left a meeting there speaks to the audacious nature of the Taliban assault. And as polling got underway, there were a series of attacks on polling places, with attacks in Kabul leaving at least three dead, scores wounded and, significantly, the integrity of the delayed election in question. This renewed Taliban activity comes at a time when the administration in Kabul and elsewhere had made overtures to the extremists, offering the prospect of negotiation, attempting to bring these militants into the mainstream and extending the ambit of civilised discourse to these extremists. Clearly, the Taliban’s answer to this is a resounding no, one reinforced by their murderous attacks on the people of Afghanistan who crave peace and stability.
As it stands now — more so after these attacks that undermine the fragile backbone of Afghan political discourse — and after a concerted campaign that has been waged relentlessly for the past two decades, the Taliban have no interest in being part of any efforts to build a better future for their nation.
These terrorists prefer instead to rule through the barrels of their Kalashnikovs and by virtue of their bombs — and as such they have proven time and time again that they have no interest in talking. The reality is that they are a murderous menace to Afghanistan and have eroded the peace and stability in neighbouring Pakistan too. The Nato mission to Afghanistan is now in its 16th year. Clearly, given the ease now with which the Taliban strike, that mission’s work is far from over. If there is a lesson now for Nato commanders and for the political leadership of the national forces there, it is that the mission needs a renewed focus and energy to be able to eradicate the Taliban. That was the mission 16 years ago, it has yet to be accomplished. Now, more than ever, Afghans crave stability.