Govt deal to keep Taliban out draws flak in Baghlan
PUL-I-KHUMRI (Pajhwok): The Afghan government has signed a deal with tribal elders in northern Baghlan province seeking to keep the insurgents from attacking security forces and emplacing landmines in two districts, but local residents, members of the provincial council and civil society activists say the accord amounts to glorifying militants.
The agreement was signed about 13 days ago between a government delegation appointed by the Presidential Palace and tribal elders who spoke on Taliban’s behalf amid ongoing clashes between security forces and Taliban militants in Dehna Ghori and Dand Ghori area near Pul-i-Khumri.
Headed by Border and Tribal Affairs Minister Mohammad Gulab Mangal, the delegation comprised representatives from the National Directorate of Security or NDS, the spy service, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG).
The delegation has said 25 civilians, including women and children, were killed during the clashes that continued for two months, raising concerns about the deteriorated security situation in Dand Ghori and Dehna Ghori areas. The conflict enabled the Taliban to expand their control in Dand Ghori and capture some villages in Dehna Ghori.
The delegation stayed for ten days in Baghlan investigating the security situation and holding meetings with people from various districts and finally reached an accord with tribal elders who represented the Taliban in their talks.
The nine-point agreement, a copy of which is available with Pajhwok Afghan News, carries signatures of Mangal, Baghlan’s acting Governor Sultan Mohammad Ebadi, the provincial NDS chief, the provincial Peace Committee chief, the Provincial Council chief, the police chief and representatives of people.
The agreement affirms that the Taliban would not carry out any type of attack or plant landmines in areas from Balakona area to Cheshma-i-Sher falling in the limits of Dand Ghori district along the Pul-i-Khumri-Mazar-Sharif highway. The agreement will also be in effect in Dehna Ghori’s areas. In return, the Afghan security and intelligence officials would not arrest or imprison someone without the permission of tribal elders. The document says anyone trying to create trouble would be handed over to security organs by the elders.
The deal sanctions the creation of a joint council of elders from Dand Ghori district with representatives from the Governor’s House, the High Peace Council, the police headquarters, the NDS, the provincial council and religious scholars. The council will continuously work and will make decisions until peace is completely restored.
The sides agreed that hundreds of people displaced by the clashes would be facilitated to return to their homes and Taliban militants would leave their areas. The bottom line warns that the entire tribe would take a joint stance against violators of the agreement that has angered some provincial council, civil society members and local residents.
Civil Society Groups Network chief executive Mohammad Atif Arifyan said the agreement was against all of the Afghanistan’s laws as it defined “red lines” for Afghan security forces, specified Taliban-controlled areas and gave them legitimacy. “Right now no media reporter, civil society activist and security personnel can go to these areas,” he said, calling the agreement as government’s weakness. He said the deal amounted to glorifying the insurgents and endangering the lives of innocent and defenceless residents.
“When I came to know that the government delegation is back, I contacted them several times, but failed to convince them that the move is against the country’s laws.”
Mohammad Nadir, a resident of Pul-i-Khumri city, said Dand Ghori had been insecure for the last four years and so far the Taliban had killed more than a hundred security personnel. He said the Taliban had previously also agreed to such ceasefire agreements under pressure from government, but later they violated the accords under various pretexts. “There is no guarantee that clashes will not take place in future in Dand Ghori and local residents will no longer be harassed.
The tribal elder said the Taliban had entered Baghlan-i-Markazi district from Dand Ghori and had captured the largest security base there called “Norozak.” “Do Baghlan officials consider these areas out of the province geography?”
Strongly criticising the agreement as destructive for the people of Baghlan, he said it had been observed that the insurgents used to extend their sway to other areas under the garb of such agreements. “We urge the government to sign no deal or protocol with the enemies of Afghans. If the government lacks the ability to vanquish the Taliban, it should seek assistance from the people.”
A member of the provincial council, Mohammad Hanif said the agreement was a shameful act on the part of the government and said the government was acting on advices from tribal elders who worked under the government structure but held Talibanic thoughts.
He said it would be better if the government identified and arrested those working for the interest of the Taliban, believing that peace and security could be achieved only when the government talked with the Taliban from a position of power.
Pajhwok Afghan News tried to seek comment from the government officials who signed the agreement, but they did not appear for interviews.
Gulab Mangal, the border and tribal affairs minister who headed the delegation, had previously told Pajhwok Afghan News that their meetings and investigations about the security situation in Baghlan were underway and they would present their findings to the unity government leaders.
Haji Nazir, a tribal elder from Niazallah village in Dand Ghori area, told Pajhwok Afghan News he met the government delegation. He said the clashes in Dand Ghori had been ongoing over the past two months. He claimed hundreds of people’s houses had been destroyed as a result of the conflict. Artillery, mortars and rockets were used during the clashes, he said. “We are tired of these clashes and want security so that our people live in peace.”
But others were skeptical of the delegation’s investigation, saying previous such delegations had never been seen again after concluding similar agreements in the past. They said such accords had never brought relief to the people, but instead aggravated the situation.
A local elder, Mohammad Sardar, said: “I ask the delegation and the president to either conduct strong military operations or surrender Dehna Ghori and Dand Ghori to the insurgents so that residents could get a sigh of relief.”
The Dand Ghori area near Pul-i-Khumri has been in Taliban control over the past two months. The warring parties and civilians have suffered casualties during the clashes for control of the areas.
Two persons, including a child, were killed and more than 10 people sustained injuries after the Taliban fired a dozen rockets into the area on the outskirts of Pul-i-Khumri. At that time, the provincial council and residents had called for clearing the area of insurgents by launching security operations in order to prevent the violence from reaching Pul-i-Khumri.
“The government should conduct search operations in areas under Taliban control and deploy a military unit in Dand Ghori,” said the provincial council chief, Safdar Muhseni.
While expressing his concern over the provincial government’s weak performance, he said the Taliban had strengthened to the extent that they had penetrated a number of areas in the limits of the fifth police district of Pul-i-Khumri city.
But deputy police chief Col. Abdul Rashid Bashir said they were planning operations against the insurgents to strengthen security and that the security forces had the ability to subdue insurgent activities.
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