2015 was a difficult year for Afghanistan in terms of security, and the war between the government and armed oppositions was intensified compared to the previous years. In 2015, the war extended to the areas which were previously rather safer, and Taliban’s war tactics were also changed. Taliban, for the first time, used the method of seizing regions and preserving their domination instead of guerrilla wars. For this reason, a number of districts and one of the country’s major and strategic cities fell into the hands of the Taliban.
The peace process with the armed oppositions, through its various stages, was accompanied with hopes and disappointments. The first meeting of direct negotiation between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan was held in “Murree”, close to Islamabad; however, after the disclosure of the death news of Mullah Mohammad Omar, this process also became postponed to an indefinite future.
Beside the bad security situation and the deadlock of peace talks in this year, the National Unity Government (NUG) faced domestic problems and disputes and still the heads of NUG, in some fundamental cases, disagree with each other.
Security situation of the country
After the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG), the security situation has passed through three stages:
The first stage: after signing the bilateral security agreement with the United States of America (BSA), the security situation deteriorated in the country and several bloody explosions happened only in Kabul;
The second stage: The president Ghani’s visit to Pakistan and efforts to bring peace with the help of Pakistan;
The third stage: after disclosure of the death news of Mullah Mohammad Omer.
Since we have talk about 2015, we will begin with the second stage.
President Ghani’s visit to Pakistan
President Ghani went to Pakistan on 14 November 2014 and talked with Pakistani officials about the revival of peace negotiations. Ashraf Ghani provided Pakistan with a lot of privileges in order to encourage Islamabad to cooperate sincerely in peace negotiations. Ghani’s visit to Pakistan aggravated Taliban’s operations in early 2015, because Taliban have repeatedly said that they are not under the influence of Pakistan and to prove this claim, they began their operations under the name of “Azem” “Determination”, with more intensity.
The emergence of ISIS
ISIS, under the leadership of Abu Bakr-al Baghdadi, announced “Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq on 29 June 2014, and then in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan some people welcomed it and some others announced their allegiance to the group. Therefore, countries in the region particularly Central Asia and the Russian Federation expressed their concerns of ISIS’s influence in Afghanistan.
At first, however, most of the news about the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan was due to the propagandas of the media and practically their activities were not visible, but after a while particularly in early 2015, Afghan government for the first time confirmed the presence of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan. In January, ISIS appointed Hafiz Saeed Khan from the tribal region of Orakzai Agency, as “Amir” “Governor” and Abdul Rawof Khadem the member of military commission of Taliban as “Deputy Governor” of “Khorasan” province.
After official announcement of the governor and the deputy governor of “Khorasan” province more people joined the group; but still it is not clear that how many Afghans and Pakistanis have joined the group.
At this stage the conflict between Taliban and ISIS intensified and the Taliban sent a letter to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi the leader of ISIS, but ISIS was harsh in response to the letter and gradually some clashes between these two groups also took place.
Expansion of War in the North of the Country
National Unity Government was formed at the beginning of the winter and it was expected that in this season the intensity of the war would decrease, but it did not happen, and the severity of the war increased day-by-day and the scope of the war expanded.
Taliban, for the first time, proved their presence in the north and from Badakhshan to Faryab; they collapsed a number of districts, as this situation then paved the ground to collapse of Kunduz.
The death of Mullah Omar
The third stage of insecurity in Afghanistan began with the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar. At this stage, not only the scope of the war expanded but the war tactics of Taliban also changed for the first time. Only in Kabul, several deadly attacks occurred whose one was the bloody attack of Shah Shaheed. However, the Taliban denied responsibility for the attack.
Unfortunate security situations also shed its shadow over foreign policy of NUG and for the first time Ghani’s position toward Pakistan changed. At a press conference, Ashraf Ghani said that Pakistan is engaged in an undeclared war with Afghanistan and that firstly the peace should be made with Pakistan.
At this stage, the activities of ISIS also intensified in Afghanistan. The group began hostage-takings, beheadings, and killings.
The fall of Kunduz
On September 28, 2015, Kunduz, one of the major cities of Afghanistan fell in the hands of the Taliban. The news was widely reflected in the national and international media and the collapse of the city was raised as a serious threat.
The fall of Kunduz was thought to be the beginning of new tactic of the Taliban to seize even more territories and the Taliban leadership also ordered to its fighters to preserve their seized areas.
The Afghan government launched a massive operation to recapture the city of Kunduz, but still the reclamation of the city lasted 15 days. Since the overthrow of Taliban regime in 2001, this was the first time the group seized a city and confronted security forces in a city in Afghanistan.
Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah, during their campaign, had made great promises to bring peace in the country. After the formation of the NUG, Ashraf Ghani in order to achieve peace, firstly headed to china and then for the same purpose tried to improve relations between Kabul and Islamabad and gave some privileges to Pakistan that Pakistan even did not expect it.
After improving relations between Kabul and Islamabad, Pakistan also made some promises to Afghan authorities and determined the March to hold the first sessions of peace talks. But Pakistan failed to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table in this month. After March in which Pakistan failed to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table, the doubts about the sincerity of Pakistan were growing.
Murree Talks and Fate of the Peace Process
The first session of peace talks with the mediation of Pakistan, was held on 18 July 2015, in Murree, Islamabad and the Taliban as a result of pressures by Pakistan were forced to send their representative to the Murree Talks. Thus, representatives of the Afghan government for the first time faced official and face to face talks with the Taliban. Representatives of China and America also attended the meeting as observers.
Official representatives of the Taliban attending the direct peace talks with the Afghan government also left a deep impact on the Taliban. That’s why between the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar Tayyib Agha and Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, disputes took place and finally because of hiding the death of Mullah Omar and selecting Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor as leader of the Taliban within Pakistan, Tayyib Agha, the Chief of Qatar’s Office resigned.
Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban became stopped after the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar announced and the change occurred in the leadership of the Taliban; a new wave of insecurity began in the country in the meantime, the bloody incident of Shah Shaheed caused the Kabul-Islamabad relations to become deteriorate again.
From November on, regional and global diplomacy, including China, the United States of America and United Nations, started moving in order to start the peace process of Afghanistan and encouraged Afghanistan and Pakistan to revive the stalled peace process. On the other hand, after the incident of Shah Shaheed, military and political leaders of Pakistan have several times spoken of Islamabad’s readiness about the starting of the peace process with the Taliban. But the Afghan government did not respond to them. Eventually, during a visit of Pakistani Pashtun Parties’ leaders to Kabul, the diplomacy of “language” was used to improve relations between the two countries, and to start the peace process. Pashtun Parties’ leaders brought with them the message of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif which contained request of meeting Ashraf Ghani at the sidelines of the Paris Conference.
Ashraf Ghani met Nawaz Sharif in the Paris Conference on Climate Change and Nawaz Sharif invited him to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad, and he also mentioned the proposal of quadrilateral peace talks, after that General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s chief of army stuff, in a video conference, also promised Ashraf Ghani to cooperate in the peace process of Afghanistan and invited him to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference.
In meetings of Ashraf Ghani with the Prime minister and Chief of army stuff of Pakistan on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference, they became agreed on the plan of quadrilateral talks for peace. According to this plan, the first quadrilateral meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States of America and China will be held in Islamabad from 10 to 15 January.
Whether how much will this quadrilateral meeting be fruitful, is a question whose answer will become cleared in the next few months. But there is no doubt that the real representatives of the Taliban would not participate and the result will be the same as the result of Geneva Talks on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
Internal Disputes of the Government
The heads of the NUG in this year had deep disputes on various issues and as a result the cabinet is still incomplete and many governors serve as supervisors. The dispute over the Electoral Commission still remains and the distribution of the Electronic IDs are yet to be allowed. In addition, domestic disputes of NUG have had deep impacts over foreign policy of Afghanistan.