Changing game theory in Afghanistan
GAME is on and is drastically changing. Due to complex and complicated geopolitical and geostrategic situation in the region, disharmony among the different ranks of Taliban and Afghan government and last but not least, indecisiveness on part of the USA and NATO allied forces exit policy has now further deteriorated law and order situation in Afghanistan which is again unfortunately, inching towards chaos, conflict, conspiracy and massive collateral damage.
A series of peace conferences on the burning issues of Afghanistan could not achieve any substantial success because of unsound exit policy of the USA.
Most recently-held international conference in the the Russian capital, Moscow, all the participating countries sought assurance from the representatives of Taliban not to launch any “Spring Offensive” against the USA, NATO or Afghan forces.
But with the change in the USA exit policy from May 1 to September 11, 2021consequnely, every commitment pledged by Taliban dashed to ground and all main stakeholders again standing on the “ground zero” position conflicting each other for securing a lion’s share in the ongoing power game.
Apparently, the Taliban restarted spring offensive against all competitors on the ground because of unpredictability and uncertainty attached with exit policy of the USA and NATO allied forces.
On their part, they termed it sever violation of assurance of the USA exit policy and US-Taliban Doha peace agreement.
Even NATO supported the new USA exit policy which provoked Taliban to deviate from their earlier assurances and again focus on martial struggle instead of so-called futile peace dialogues and conferences.
It seems that despite rigorous regional reconciliation efforts of Pakistan and Uzbekistan the future of Afghanistan is again dark and bleak.
Hopes of stability and peace in Afghanistan are again entering the red zones of destruction.
Moreover, spirits of discomfort on the issue of post-USA exit scenario, government setup, outcome of grand internal political dialogue, formula of power sharing and conflicting realities based on political association, religious identity, ethnic orientation and geographic equations may be some of the hidden reasons of pulling out from the peace talks initiated by Turkey which has been rigorously and tirelessly working to reconcile the differences among the different political parties, factions, pressure groups and last but not the least, Taliban and the Afghan government.
On its part governments of Uzbekistan and Pakistan have been supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution of Afghanistan now and after the exit of the USA and allied forces from Afghanistan.
Both governments have even established good working relations with Northern Alliance to widen the scope of grand reconciliation to reach a befitting proposition in the days to come.
Most recently, Just ahead of the formal announcement of US President Joe Biden regarding troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who called for “mutual consensus” among all the stakeholders for the peace process.
President Biden after reviewing the Afghan peace efforts has finally concluded that the US forces would have to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, this year.
It means the Biden Administration is not going to meet the May 1 deadline, set in the February 29 deal between the US and Afghan Taliban.
Resultantly, Taliban group, after the US decision, has announced not to take part in any peace talks forcing Washington to postpone a key conference scheduled to begin in Turkey.
The army chief said that Pakistan will always support an “Afghan led-Afghan Owned” peace process based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders.
The US Secretary of State also acknowledged Pakistan’s continuous efforts for peace and stability in the region and pledged to further enhance bilateral relations between both the countries.
Turkey being an important member/ally of the NATO can bring insurgent groups of Taliban to the table.
A letter from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the government of Afghanistan to accelerate peace talks and finalise an agreement through the contribution of not only the US, but also Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and India.
He also talked with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and discussed a just and durable political settlement to the conflict backed by a comprehensive ceasefire.
Moreover, hosting intra-Afghan peace talks in Ankara may lead Washington to reassess the relationship and serve as a reminder of Turkey’s significance in global affairs.
But unfortunately, insurgent groups of Taliban refused to attend the proposed peace talk in Ankara, a great set back to sincere efforts of Turkey for grand regional reconciliation about stability and peace in turbulent Afghanistan.
Intra-Afghan peace talks seem to have various hurdles to overcome between the Afghan government and Taliban.
There is high level of ambiguity between Taliban and Afghan government as the group faces the dilemma of reconciling its values between democracy and sharia.
Stakes of China and Iran are very high in Afghanistan because of many socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic investments, projects and partnerships.
Even Russia wants the early exit of the USA and the NATO forces from the soil of Afghanistan for the further strengthening of its own economic dominance, geopolitical supremacy and geostrategic superiority in the Central Asian region and, of course, Afghanistan.
Being a prominent regional expert of Central Asia and Afghanistan, I personally think that Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkey may play a paramount role in the start of re-engagement of Taliban in the peaceful talks for achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Role of Saudi Arabia has been on the decline and sliding because of its internal compulsions and external disorientations.
In case of Qatar, it may only host the meetings of Taliban and may not play an active role in the current process of peace.
It seems that unfortunately Afghanistan may be again in dirty power game in which everything will be decided through brutal martial means.
Internal peace and harmony among all the internal power brokers/stakeholders and players may be at its lowest ebb.
Northern Alliance may consider to change its strategic priorities. It is estimated that level of violence, sabotage activities and inter-groups enmity may be again exploded and dreams of real and sustainable peace will be again a far cry.
—The writer is Director, Geopolitics/Economics Member Board of Experts, CGSS.