Evolving situation in Afghanistan | By Prof Dr Muhammad Khan

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Evolving situation in Afghanistan


DELIBERATELY or otherwise, President Ashraf Ghani opted for a wrong strategy for maintenance of peace in Afghanistan.

Rather ensuring peace through a reconciliation process with Taliban, Ghani Administration maintained a rigid and confrontational path with Taliban.

There was sufficient time with Kabul regime from February 29, 2020 to-date for constructively engaging the Taliban towards a broader peace and stability of Afghanistan.

Ghani wasted a lot of time which could have been used for “an inclusive, broad-based, and comprehensive settlement” with Taliban.

Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah could have projected and visualized the ground realities in Afghanistan which clearly dictated that, if the super power and its NATO allies had to finally come to the terms with Taliban through a peace agreement, how a fragile Kabul regime could sustain the pressure of Taliban.

Unfortunately, the happenings in Afghanistan are very disturbing, uncertain and messy. In last two months, Taliban have taken control over bulk of the country.

As per independent sources, Taliban are controlling over 70% of the country. At this critical time, President Ghani is requesting them for a negotiation which goes against the rule of power politics.

Seeing the ground realities, the regional states and major powers have already started negotiations with Taliban. Very recently, China invited the Taliban leadership and had a detailed discussion with them.

his act of a rising global power indicates a tacit recognition of the Taliban authority; considering them as a government in waiting. Otherwise there is an elected Government in Afghanistan under President Ashraf Ghani and China could have opted to engage them as well.

Earlier, Russian Federation invited Taliban in Moscow for detail discussion, which included future format of Afghan Government.

Russia had hosted many meeting with Taliban since last few years. In way, this resurgent power has a tacit approval and recognition for the Taliban as the future Government in Kabul.

Besides these, Taliban delegation also visited the Tehran, the Iranian capital where they were welcomed by a theological state, whose ideology contradicts the Taliban in essence.

Nevertheless, there have been frequent interactions between Taliban and Iranian Government in last one decade.

Taliban are also maintaining a close liaison with bordering Central Asian states and Pakistan from the perspective of geographical contiguity between these states and Afghanistan.

Taliban’s engagement with regional states and major powers is an indication that, they will not pose threat to any of them and in return ask assurance for their recognition upon taking over the power in Afghanistan; a win-win situation.

The regional states, China and Russia are fearful of a hardliner regime taking over in Kabul which Taliban leadership is trying is dispel and resolve through a hectic diplomacy and political engagement.

Indeed, Afghanistan is home to many militant organizations like; Al-Qaeda, IS Khorasan, Pakistani Taliban (TTP) and number of other organizations. All these organizations have larger agendas with objectives, spreading outside Afghan territory.

IS Khorasan is an off-shoot of the ISIS, the militant organization, raised and operated in Middle East. It is said that, its operations are mainly brutal and terrorist in nature and acts as a cause for the American strategic objectives.

This organization could have operated widely in Afghanistan ever since its entrance in the country after 2014; however Taliban acted a strong force against them. Indeed, it was to eliminate the Taliban from Afghanistan but ridiculed and countered at the hands of Taliban fighters.

Al-Qaeda was earlier supporter of Taliban; however it is not in a form to sustain since it may have just few operatives in Afghanistan. Other militant organizations may not be effective, in case Taliban takes over the Kabul.

The dilemma facing Afghanistan is that, there is a rapid deterioration of central authority. While the Taliban are fast advancing and capturing the major population centres and key areas, the Ashraf Ghani Government is in a fix.

The Ghani Government was totally banking on US and NATO military support which will end by the end of August 2021. The huge Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and provincial and district administrations are rapidly losing and surrendering to Taliban.

There is widespread scare and fear among the Afghan masses that, Taliban may treat them inhumanely as they did earlier from 1996 to 2001.

Indeed, in some of the areas, there have been demonstrations of Taliban brutalities while dealing with the masses. Taliban fighters were found irrational, harsh and brutal while taking control of some villages and town areas.

Despite promises for a peace plan, Doha outcomes and reconciliation processes, there are no tangibles indicators which guarantee a central authority in Afghanistan.

Losing a central authority at Kabul will push Afghanistan towards a chaos, uncertainty and anarchy. Such a development may not be appreciated by any regional states and the major powers like; Russia and China.

As a way forward there is strong need for a flexible reconciliatory approach at both ends; Ghani administration as well as the Taliban leadership. China, Russia, Pakistan and other regional countries must facilitate a peaceful transition through a political process.

For a broader regional and global recognition of their authority, the Taliban must avoid a forceful military takeover of the country.

Besides, Taliban needs to create acceptability for them among Afghan masses which is possible only through a philanthropic behaviour, moderate attitude and all encompassing approach.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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