27 May 2018
Writer: Mohammad Reza Gulkohi

Who holds key to peace?

Once again, the flames of war are spreading, imposing a tough and painful situation on the Afghan people.
The fires are not restricted to one area, province or village. "No place is safe in the country," social media commentators say.
If a part of Farah province fell to the Taliban, the province of Ghazni is also under threat and the provinces in the south and the north even the capital Kabul are not any safer. If there is a risk of attack and conflict in the provinces, Kabul and other safe Afghan cities are exposed to suicide and bomb attacks.
What is sure, according to experts, is that the current war is becoming more of a proxy war for country's outside and around Afghanistan, and their divergent interests make the war unending.
As a result there are fewer countries raising the banner of peace for Afghanistan and the end to conflict between pro- and anti-government forces.
What is apparent is the emerging role of Russia, in cooperating with Iran and likely support of the Taliban. This turn of events is a subject of serious discussion among local and central authorities, along with Pakistan's role.
The signs of advanced war equipment and the obvious huge expenses of running a war show that there are strong economic and military hands from abroad behind the undefeatable front. Research done by Equity for Peace and Democracy recently show that the expenses of one day of war in Afghanistan are 24 million USD and it rises to 9 billion USD in one year.
The research has drawn these estimates after studying reports on security, immigration, health, education, disability and the cost of destruction of infrastructure, and impact on development in the country, including what it costs the armed anti-government forces.
The huge cost involved in the supply of equipment and logistics cannot be just from the smuggling of narcotics. More fingers are pointing at Iran and Russia as well as Pakistan.
Experts believe that the widening role and power of the West in Afghanistan caused Russia, which had been keeping out, to change its policy. Meanwhile, Iran has a different motive for interference in Afghanistan since it is trying to gain physical access and redraw the map of the country.
Freshta Shahab, a civil society activist, believes, "Participation of Russia in Afghanistan's rehabilitation is one of its new policies for Afghanistan. Waiving loans to Afghanistan was another step. Selling military equipment and Russia's readiness of Russia to counter terrorism in Afghanistan were other instances that show that Moscow would not remain passive regarding Afghanistan. Russia was not happy to be a watcher in Afghanistan, which it believes is trying to export terrorism from Afghanistan to countries in Central Asia."
Russian interference became more serious after the US-Afghan security pact and the agreement that US troops would remain in the country.
Noor Agha Habibi, journalist and political analyst, says, "For Russia the Afghan security pact with the US and a permanent US military base were very sensitive issues as it feels threatened (by US proximity). This is why it is closely watching the situation here, and trying to improve relations with its neighbour. The dangerous and sensitive aspect of the role of Russia for Kabul is the use of Taliban to counter ISIS because Russia thinks that ISIS is a western project for widening violence in Central Asia, a region that is under the influence of Moscow."
Iran's attack on Farah
Water is at the source of the bilateral strain in relationship. Samir Bedrood, political analyst and water issues expert, believes, "Our problem is over two rivers: Harirod, where there is no specific agreement with Iran, but about Helmand river, there is an agreement. So there is no ground for legal discussion over Harirod river and the only problematic issue over water is the issue of Helmand river water."
Iran claims that the water from the Helmand river has decreased and this would create a serious crisis for it when Hamoon lake dries up.
The government of Iran also announced that if the issue is not taken up seriously by their Afghan counterparts, Tehran would be forced to take "practical steps".
Kabul responded to remind Iran that it does not have any dams on the river to prevent the water flow, and drought in recent years has caused the decrease of water in Helmand river."
Local officials in Farah have frequently complained about Iran's interference. Attacks by armed opponents, who are believed to be supported by Iran, have increased. Their complaints have fallen on deaf ears – the government did not take them seriously.
One year ago, Sarwar Osmani, Member of Parliament (MP) from Farah, asked, "Why is the government silent?" Abdul Jabar Qahraman, another MP, declared, "Iran gives ammunition, weapons, money to the armed opponents specifically in the provinces such as Farah, Helmand, Herat and Ghor."
Moreover, during the war in Farah, postings on Facebook of photos of Iranian weapons and Iranian soldiers who fought in the war in Farah and were members of Sepah Pasdaran (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).
The Afghan Ministry of Defence did not reject the reports of links between Iran and Taliban and spokesperson Najib Danesh spoke about an investigation into the reported intrusions.


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