Pakistan’s pivotal role in US-Taliban agreement

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Mohammad Jamil

ON Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said: “Pakistan played a pivotal role in the historic US-Taliban agreement and helped construct a roadmap to peace in Afghanistan”. In a statement, he said the peace process was a complex issue as there were certain elements that could benefit from continued fighting in Afghanistan. The deal will be signed on 29 February in the presence of Pakistan because it was impossible for it to happen without our efforts.” The entire world including the US is praising Pakistan for its efforts, and Islamabad is confident the peace process would now move forward to an intra-Afghan dialogue. On Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the US and Taliban had reached an agreement to reduce violence across Afghanistan, with a deal set to be signed after one week. The initial deal gives the Taliban seven days, from Friday night onwards, to refrain from all violence.
If the condition is met, the US and Taliban will move forward with a broader, permanent agreement. Last year, the US and the Taliban had reached a deal, but one act of violence in which one American soldier and eleven others were killed, President Trump had called off the secret talks that were to be held with the Taliban. In fact, there are many elements that are against peace in Afghanistan, as they are likely to lose the clout and will have to share power with the Taliban. In fact, the spoilers are in northern alliance elements and the Afghan intelligence agency NDS, over whom India has tremendous influence. Though broad contours of the agreement have not been disclosed, exchange of prisoners, time-table for withdrawal of American troops and a roadmap for intra-Afghan dialogue as well as Taliban’s share in the future setup, which is indeed a difficult task.
Last week, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is not seeking a permanent military presence in Afghanistan after the Taliban said they are close to finalizing a peace agreement with the United States. The Afghan conflict has cost more than 2,300 American lives and hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars. As the war approaches its 18th year, 14,000 US troops are still in Afghanistan, and senior intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that the country remains fragile and could once again become a terrorist haven. Anyhow, Pakistan’s position has been vindicated, as it always said that the matter should be resolved through dialogue, as use of force would not bring peace in Afghanistan. It is heartening to note that international community has admitted Pakistan’s positive role in reaching a peace deal between the US and Taliban, and many countries are all praise for Pakistan.
Last year, the United States, China and Russia had jointly welcomed Pakistan to a four-party consultation process that sought to end the 18-year-old war and decades of blood-letting in Afghanistan, said a joint statement issued in Washington. “China, Russia and the United States welcomed Pakistan joining the consultation and believe that Pakistan can play an important role in facilitating peace in Afghanistan,” said the statement issued by the US State Department last year. Having that said, the agreement would be signed after one week, as the Taliban leadership must have taken the field commanders on board. Secondly, influence of spoilers in the form of Indian influence over Afghanistan agencies has waned, especially when the northern alliance elements and President Ashraf Ghani are at loggerheads. Whereas Independent Election Commission has declared Ashraf Ghani as officially elected, Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory in the election.
After the Election Commission announced the election result, European Union congratulated Dr Ashraf Ghani on his election as President. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has sought EU’s clarification on election stance. Gulbudin Hekmatyar, a presidential candidate and leader of Hizb-e-Islami, in a Press conference rejected the result announced by Independent Election Commission declaring incumbent Ashraf Ghani country’s next president. He said: “We do not support the parallel government (as announced by Abdullah Abdullah), but we support an inclusive government where all see themselves represented including the Taliban.” Former President Hamid Karzai has also in a statement rejected the election results. He reminded that he had informed the people that circumstances in the country were not suitable for holding transparent and credible elections. “The election process fundamentally serves foreign agenda in Afghanistan, which is aimed at weakening the sovereignty and creating division among the Afghan people so that foreigners can implement their plan”, he added.
Abdul Rashid Dostum, first Vice President spoke at a gathering at Jawzjan rejected the election results and said: “From the bottom of our heart, we are supporting the inclusive government of Abdullah Abdullah”. He called upon the people to be ready as governors would be appointed for the northern provinces of the country. When Northern Alliance, Hizb-e-Islami and others have rejected the result; and the situation is akin to 2014 presidential election, when the US had played the role in formation of unity government. But now, the US can play its cards and push both Abdullah Abdullah and Dr Ashraf Ghani teams to agree to the measures that would give a due share to the Taliban that represents the majority population ie Pashtuns. The question is when there is so much polarization and also there are parallel governments, with whom the inter-Afghan dialogue can take place?
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.