Afghanistan’s evolving hopes & despairs | By Iqbal Khan

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Afghanistan’s evolving hopes & despairs


APPARENTLY, two unstoppable actors— Taliban and the United States are on a collision course.

True face of the US shall come to fore once it is done with evacuation. And true mettle of Taliban shall be tested when they fulfil their promises and confront daunting governance challenges.

After the swift fall of Kabul, the US military, its allies and non-governmental groups are evacuating thousands of people out of Afghanistan. President Joe Biden aptly put it: “This is one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.”

He is determined to complete it at the earliest. Resistance in the northern parts of Afghanistan is not likely to go beyond pin pricks. Pygmies propping up for resistance are no match to the military might and political prudence of Taliban.

Since the Taliban took control of Kabul there has been no clarity yet about the new government and its structure

Consultations for formation of government in Afghanistan are complete and a new dispensation shall be announced soon after the last American soldier leaves Afghanistan – that’s the long standing Taliban stance for restoration of sovereignty of Afghanistan.

The Taliban government is likely to be much more tolerant than most of the far right European governments in the West and RSS model in India.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on August 20 that other countries (read America and its camp followers) should not impose their own values on Afghanistan.

“You cannot impose standards of political life and behaviour on other people from outside,” Putin said. “The Taliban movement controls almost the entire territory of the country,” Putin told a televised press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Kremlin.”

These are the realities and it is from these realities that we must proceed, preventing the collapse of the Afghan state… “Russia continues its talks with Pakistan and China over Afghan crisis”, he added “If the logic of the United States is that its military presence might enhance security of Central Asia, the natural response from Moscow is that we can take care of it, we have done it for a long period of time,” said Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, a think tank in Moscow.

America relies on three-legged foreign policy viz multilateral diplomacy, preferential market access and military power.

Having failed to subdue Taliban militarily, the US is now likely to apply the remaining two tools, spearheaded by comprehensive crippling sanctions.

For this the US is likely to use a multilateral world order built and dominated by her, including the UN, World Bank, IMF,  WTO etc. It will deny preferential market access to Afghan products to US consumers.

Americans will also deny military equipment to the Afghan government, which would ensure that whatever is left out of the US raised Afghan National and Defence Forces also dies its own death and Afghanistan remains insecure both militarily and economically.

Fate of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other terrorist organizations like Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) is the primary concern of Pakistan.

TTP has indicated to merge back into Afghan Tehreek-e-Taliban through renewal of allegiance (Tajdeed-e-Bait).

If this happens, and India stops funding the rest, Pakistan’s concerns shall stand addressed to a great extent, However, India is not likely to do that.

Pakistan’s basic concern is that the territory of Afghanistan should not be allowed to be used against any other country and Afghanistan should not, once again, become a hub of international terrorist organizations.

Pakistan has welcomed the assurance given by Afghan Taliban leadership that they would not let Afghanistan become a terror haven again, and would respect rights of all citizens, including women.

Like the rest of the world, Pakistan is also closely following the developments unfolding in Afghanistan.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, in his first press conference in Kabul gave the assurances that the Taliban would protect the rights of citizens, including women.

He also pledged that the group would not let the Afghan soil to be used by terrorist outfits against any other country. Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson told the regular weekly news briefing.

“We have particularly noted his comments about not letting Afghanistan become a terror haven, protection of lives and properties of Afghans and foreigners, respect for rights of all Afghans, including women, right to education and political reconciliation,” he added. “These are indeed positive indications.”

Pakistan feels that the government in Afghanistan should be inclusive, having representation of all groups.

Only people of Afghanistan have the right to make decisions inside Afghanistan but the regional countries can play their role in enabling stability in the war-torn country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has called upon leaders of all the world powers to facilitate achievement of this end objective.

Pakistan is trying to come up with the strategy that decision making is not done in isolation, it should be collective, leading the situation inside Afghanistan towards stability.

Pakistan has tried to create a positive environment and is doing its best to persuade the Taliban and the United States to negotiate.

Pakistan does not control the Taliban and it does not have decision making influence over them.

Pakistan is in touch with all groups in Afghanistan and it has hosted a delegation of Afghan Parliament in Islamabad.

Pakistan’s Ambassador in Kabul has met with the Taliban leaders including former President Hamid Karzai, Dr Abdullah Abdullah and others.

A delegation of political leaders from Afghanistan, representing different ethnic groups and political parties, has also been on a visit to Pakistan.

During all these meetings Pakistan has shared its perspective on the current and evolving situation in Afghanistan and the way forward.

Being an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan, with 2,600 km long border and host to over four million Afghan refugees, Pakistan had an abiding interest and desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

There is an evolving opportunity in the form of the international community’s convergence on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

There is an equally fascinating opportunity in the form of the Afghans’ yearning for peace and prosperity. There is also a feeler of satisfaction that there has been no widespread violence thus far. However, many questions are still thirsty for answers.

—The Islamabad-based writer is a retired army officer and a regular contributor to the national press.

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