Whatever the eventual contours of the deal between the United States and the Taliban, the fact that Afghanistan is ever so dangerously poised on a powder-keg was reaffirmed yet again on Sunday, incidentally the eve of the 100th anniversary of the country’s independence.
The irony of the massacre at a wedding in Kabul could scarcely have been more cruel. The bombing by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has killed 63 people and injured 200 till Monday morning. There is a direly ominous ring to the current “peace talks” in Doha; the deal, if any, is yet to be disclosed several days after the talks were wrapped up. The blast comes at an uncertain juncture in Afghanistan as Trump’s America and the Taliban are inching towards a deal to end the nearly 18-year war, with the Ashraf Ghani government far away from the negotiating table in Doha.
The Afghan government has been sidelined from the discussions, and is waiting to hear the outcome of a meeting of Donald Trump and his national security team about the negotiations. The major issues include the withdrawal of US troops and Taliban guarantees not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for global terror attacks. The reality of such a launching pad has now been demonstrated with hideous effect, however.
But even as the talks appear to be nearing a conclusion, Isis is now emerging as the greatest threat to Afghan civilians. Perhaps to keep itself in the clear, the Taliban has condemned the attack as “forbidden and unjustifiable” and denied any involvement. However, President Ghani said on Sunday that the Taliban could not escape blame for the “barbaric” attack. “The Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame for they provide a platform for terrorists,” Ghani said in a post on Twitter.
The enormity of the tragedy has yet again highlighted the dangers of US withdrawal from the embattled country. The stark message has been iterated ~ Afghanistan cannot be left to the devices of its security network, such as it is. On closer reflection, the Shia-Sunni strife and the virtually intractable ethnic conflict has now devastated a wedding ceremony, with the Isis bomber ripping off his explosivesladen vest in the midst of the ceremonial grandstanding.
Markedly, the bomb went off in a wedding hall situated in a part of Kabul that is home to the minority Shia Hazara community. The wedding was a gathering of Shia Muslims, who are frequently targeted in predominantly Sunni Afghanistan, most particularly by the Sunni Caliphate. Isis has claimed responsibility for many deadly attacks against the Hazara community since the militant group emerged in Afghanistan in 2014.
Its fanatical fury chimed horrendously with the wedding bells, confirming the truism that laughter and tears go together. The bloodshed has compounded the grief, almost overwhelming.