Afghan peace: A lost cause?

Iqbal Khan

KEY to final settlement of Afghan conflict lies with the US, this key is presently enmeshed in abundance of its arrogance and scarcity of its prudence. Unless this haughtiness-judiciousness balance shifts otherwise, all international efforts for bringing peace to Afghanistan are likely to continue fizzling out. Nevertheless, there is no shortage of efforts. Apart from a number of high profile America dominated look bust do nothing initiatives, there are numerous feeble but sincere efforts by other states and forums. China is part of a couple of such initiatives, it believes in keeping the pomp and show at arm’s length and focuses on the meet of matter.
In a similar such effort, the Taliban have confirmed that they have submitted a report to their leadership after concluding interactions with officials in Pakistan and representatives from other nations, including China and Qatar, for finding a solution to the Afghan war. On December 26, China hosted the first round of talks between the foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan in Beijing. A follow-up trilateral meeting would take place in Kabul. While President Trump is busy with his ‘tweetonics’, China is busy in a meaningful activity through low profile diplomacy for finding a solution to Afghan fiasco. Activity of Taliban delegation from Qatar was overshadowed by Trump’s new year Pakistan bashing ‘tweetology’.
Chinese effort for Afghanistan has it low and high sides. The low side is that Chinese end objective—peace in Afghanistan is tangential to the US aim of keeping Afghanistan at least simmering enough to justify presence of its around 16000 occupation troops in Afghanistan. And the high side is that China has a reputation of an honest peace broker. According to Stratfor analysis: “China has gone from having minimal engagement with Kabul in the early 2000s, to a more proactive policy… To that end, Beijing has engaged in a wide range of multilateral and sub regional mechanisms… China has maintained discreet ties with Taliban factions, inviting its leaders for talks several times”. Now Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi has said that “China and Pakistan will look at extending their $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan”. The announcement has rekindled another hope of an Afghan peace process could take root before this year’s summer fighting.
In a Pashto-language statement on January 24, Taliban have confirmed that a five-member delegation from the Taliban’s Qatar Office recently travelled to Islamabad and held talks there. Visit took place after the Pakistan government offered to the US to help find a political solution to the Afghan conflict. With the cooperation of Pakistan, it said, “the Taliban delegation later met with officials from China, Qatar and other nations to discuss ways to end the conflict in Afghanistan”. “We have submitted our report to our leadership based on our discussions and will take further steps after receiving instructions from them,” the statement added. Though Pakistan has not commented, diplomatic sources have confirmed that Taliban delegation visited Pakistan earlier this month; it consisted of Jan Muhammad Madnai, Maulvi Shahabud Din Dilawar, Syed Rasool Haleem, Muhammad Suhail Shaheen and Qari Deen Muhammad.
Taliban visited Pakistan at a time when the country was ostensibly under pressure from the US to stop sheltering insurgent leaders, including those of Haqqani Network; while actually, Americans were asking Pakistan to bring Haqqanis to negotiation table. President Donald Trump had, earlier this month, suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Pakistan until the country takes “decisive actions” against the terrorists fighting US forces in Afghanistan. After recently visiting Afghanistan as part of the United Nations Security Council delegation, US Ambassador to the UN Ms Nikki Haley said Trump’s new strategy was working. “They [the Afghan government] are starting to see the Taliban concede, they are starting to see them move towards coming to the table,” Haley said.
After the previous weekend terror attack in Kabul, the US White House demanded of Pakistan on January 22 that “to immediately arrest or expel the Taliban’s leaders and prevent the group from using Pakistani territory to support its operations…Such attacks on civilians only strengthen our resolve to support our Afghan partners. Afghan forces with our support will continue to relentlessly pursue the enemies of Afghanistan who also seek to export terror around the world,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House spokeswoman. Soon after Sanders’ comments, Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said at a think-tank, Pakistan’s military forces have “cleaned out” all terrorists, their “hideouts and sanctuaries and their improvised explosive devices factories” from Pakistan in operations since 2014 and “when somebody turns around and tells us that there are safe havens existing there we say to them please show us where”. He said that while participating in a discussion titled “Broadening the lens beyond security: The next few decades of US-Pakistan relations” at the US Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Pakistan’s foreign office has also rejected “knee-jerk allegations” including drone attack of a refugee camp by Resolute Support Mission.
Pakistan has taken numerous measures to facilitate various Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Pakistan has fully supported international efforts to restore peace in Afghanistan and has time and again emphasized that there is no military solution to this conflict.There is need of robust international government-to-government initiatives for bringing peace to Afghanistan. There is no rocket science involved in achieving it. Solution does not lie in blame shifting, hurling warnings and sending droves to Pakistani territory. Solution lies in convergence of interest, commonality of objective, sharing of actionable intelligence and joint action. But Americans are in no mood to listen all this—at least for the time being; and unfortunate reality is that until then, Afghanistan will continue to simmer. Hence, for the time being, Afghan peace may be a lost cause.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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