Two events recently brought into sharp focus the importance of political awareness and provide valuable lessons into the pitfalls and dangers when political issues are not understood.
Over the weekend of 29 Feb — 1 March 2020 a peace agreement was signed between the US and the Taliban after nearly two decades of war. After 17 months of negotiations between representatives of the Trump administration and the Taliban, agreements were penned.
Not far from Afghanistan in Syria, the end-game is now in full swing as the battle for the last territory — Idlib, has seen al-Assad’s forces backed by Iranian militias and Russian muscle simply by-pass so-called escalation zones, where Turkey has observation posts (military personnel). Residents of Idlib, which consist of many who relocated from other parts of the country after regime forces turned their towns into rubble, were forced to flee to the Turkish border.
Losing When You’re Winning
In Afghanistan, the US is now officially the latest addition to the graveyard of empires who have been humbled by the Afghan people despite its superior military capability. Three presidents have failed to win in the country or strengthen their proxy and ineffective government and security services who barely control anything beyond the country’s capital.
The reason why the US has turned to political talks is for the simple reason it has failed to defeat the enemy, establish an effective loyal regime and security services, and was bleeding to death. Not to mention the significant treasure the US has spent. US officials long concluded they cannot win and as a result, the military strategy was replaced with a political strategy which is to negotiate with the enemy and bring the conflict to an end, whilst still securing America’s strategic goals.
There is simply no need for the Taliban to enter talks when it has the upper hand, it continues to bleed the US on the current trajectory, and it will control all of Afghanistan in a matter of time. It’s the Taliban, not the US that has the upper hand and it’s the US in the position of weakness.
The US deployed all its political cunning to engage the Taliban. It appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as its negotiating official, who has Afghan roots and who grew up with many of the Taliban and Afghan government officials. Qatar, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were pushed to lean on the Taliban to accept negotiations as the way forward. The US used promises of recognising the Taliban as a legitimate movement, removing sanctions against the group and freeing its members as carrots to draw it to the negotiating table.
The Taliban have for long been victorious on the battlefield but failed to translate this into political results due to their lack of political awareness. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have for long implemented US political plans and the Taliban has never been able to see this. The Taliban is also no longer the cohesive organisation it used to be, since the death of Mullah Umar, whose death was kept secret for years from its own members. Divisions have increased and the group has now opened up talks with Russia and Iran!
The Thin Line Between Allies and Enemies
The uprising in Syria will later this year reach its tenth anniversary. The end game appears to be underway as the last remaining territory – Idlib – witnesses full-scale battle in what is the last territory beyond the hands of the Bashar al-Assad regime. It was not so long ago al-Assad begged for help as he struggled to maintain control over the whole country.
The lack of political awareness has cost our brothers and sisters dearly and as a result, they were unable to determine who constituted the enemy and who were allies. Whilst the Ba’athist regime was the oppressor its supply lines extended well beyond Syria. Despite the rhetoric from the West against the Assad regime, Bashar was being wined and dined in Western capitals prior to the uprising. He was being described as a reformer with Hilary Clinton saying al-Assad should be given time in Syria. As a result, many of the rebel groups took Western arms and aid thinking they would support their cause against the Ba’athist regime. In reality, they were looking to thwart the uprising.
The real dagger that broke the back of the uprising was the regional Muslim nations. Each of these countries backed certain rebel groups in certain areas, making sure these groups did not grow outside their areas. The rebel groups were only provided with light weapons, never were they provided with the heavier weapons that would make a difference. This lack of support with heavy weapons eventually forced almost all the rebel groups into truces with the regime as it conducted sieges, used barrel bombs, cut electricity and water and carried out gruesome sadistic atrocities. The truces included relocating to Idlib; which is now being bombed! The more the regional nations got involved in Syria, the more territory the rebel groups lost.
In the case of Turkey in the north of Syria, the sad reality is the day Turkish forces entered into Syria the rebel groups only lost territory and are now fighting for their lives in Idlib. Erdogan cannot look beyond a narrow set of issues such as a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria and the flow of refugees into Turkey. This is despite possessing the capability to end what is taking place in Syria.
These two examples show the importance of political awareness and understanding that the colonialists will never allow our lands to become independent; our rulers despite their rhetoric, are agent rulers for their political plans. Our rulers do not represent our sentiments and feelings and only pay lip service to this. All of this shows that political awareness is a matter of life and death as well as survival, and until the ummah is able to grasp this, our lands will remain an arena for foreign powers using us for their own strategic interests.