Afghan peace talks
AFTER the Doha Agreement signed between the US and the Taliban in February 2019, the talks held a few times between the Afghan government and the Taliban did not make any progress mainly because of non-cooperation of the Ghani administration.
This was happening because the Ghani government did not want to share power with the Taliban, by making a transitional government as per the aforementioned agreement, which could amend the existing Afghan constitution to satisfy all the Afghan stakeholders, and hold the elections.
The talks also did not progress because the Trump administration was not pressing the Ghani government for taking the talks seriously and India was also playing its spoiler role by pressuring the US government to delay the withdrawal programme and India has also supported the Ghani government to continue to stick to power by delaying the talks or keeping those inconclusive.
India also never wanted that the Taliban should share power in Afghanistan, as the Ghani government was tacitly with India in using the Afghan soil for destabilizing Balochistan, Pakistan.
Probably, having frustrated out of Ghani government’s non serious attitude and its delaying tactics being used in holding the peace dialogue, the Taliban had started their military operations, during which they captured many cities and districts.
While launching their operations the Taliban had announced general amnesty that if the Afghan army troops surrender, they will not be punished and same was the announcement for the Afghan people, that all those who cooperate will not be penalized.
After coming to power, and after reviewing the Doha Agreement, in mid April 2021, President Joe Biden also declared that the US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan without any preconditions starting 01 May 2021 to end America’s longest war.
It was announced that foreign troops under NATO command will also withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with the US pullout and the withdrawal of the foreign troops will be completed by 11 Sept 2021.
Later, in June 2021, President Joe Biden said that the US military operation in Afghanistan will end by 31 Aug 2021.
Biden also urged the Afghan government and Taliban, which he said remains as formidable as it did before the start of the war, to come to a peace agreement, adding that, “We did not go to Afghanistan for nation building, and the Afghan leaders have to come together and drive toward a future.”
In the meantime, when the Taliban observed that despite Biden’s stress on the Afghan government to get serious for the talks with the Taliban, the Ghani administration was still not pushed about holding the talks, the Taliban intensified their operations. As a result, since mid-April 2021, the Taliban have made strides throughout the country.
But their most significant gains have been in the northern half of the country, a traditional stronghold of the US allied warlords.
The Taliban has seized major border crossings, in Herat, Farah and Kunduz provinces in the north and west.
Lately, the Taliban has also captured the crossing, in the Spin Boldak district south of Kandahar, the Afghanistan’s main commercial artery connecting with the Pakistani sea ports.
This compelled the Indian government to airlift its intelligence set up in the consulate in Kandahar to India, who were busy in sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan.
The recent control of about ten districts has mostly come to the Taliban without a fight, as hundreds of the Afghan army, police and intelligence troops surrendered their military outposts and fled.
The areas under Taliban control in the north are increasingly strategic, running along Afghanistan’s border with the central Asian states. The Afghan Interior Ministry has said the defeats were temporary.
The Taliban recently claimed that they are in control of 85 percent of Afghanistan with 250 districts out of total 400 being in their control.
Along with the fighting, the Taliban also continued with their diplomacy as recently their delegation visited Russia and their delegation also participated in the talks with the Afghan government representatives hosted by Iran.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement that despite their military successes, the Taliban prefers to resolve the issues through intra-Afghan dialogue.
The participation of the Afghan government delegation led by Abdullah Abdullah in the recently held Doha peace talks on 15 July 2021, indicates that the above mentioned Taliban’s military successes has put the Afghan government under pressure to get serious about the reconciliation talks.
It is also a good sign that both sides have agreed to continue with the negotiations and they have also agreed to a cease fire during the Eid holidays.
With the US and the neighbouring countries being in support of the talks it can be hoped that the Afghan reconciliation process will move further and achieve results.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, it should continue to support all efforts for achieving the peace in Afghanistan.
While working for peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan should keep an eye on India’s spoiler role, as India wants the Ghani government to remain in power to continue to use the Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan and the CPEC.
Therefore, to fail India’s this long term game plan against our country, Pakistan should favour an early peace in Afghanistan, whether it comes through intra-Afghan dialogue or as a result of the military take over of Afghanistan by the Taliban, in case the Ghani government fails to contribute to the success of the intra-Afghan dialogue.
—The writer, a retired Col, is Senior Research Fellow at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.