Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Resuming Peace Talk is the Limelight

Resuming peace negotiation between Afghanistan and Taliban is back in the media spotlight after being disrupted with news of Mullah Omar’s death two years earlier was leaked just days before Islamabad was set to host the second round of reconciliation dialogue. In a recent visit to the Unites States, Pakistan’s Army Chief General Raheel Sharif emphasized on the issue.

 “It would have been imprudent to set the timeframe without getting the Afghan government and China on board,” a source said. China, it should be recalled, has been playing a proactive role in Afghanistan and participated in the first round of talks on July 7 as an observer along with the US.

However, the source said it was expected that a “lot of ground would be covered during the Heart of Asia Conference”, which Pakistan is co-hosting with Afghanistan on December 7-8. It is speculated that President Ashraf Ghani would visit Islamabad on this occasion.

Chinese Special Envoy on Afghanistan Ambassador Deng Xijun, who visited Pakistan last week, also offered to facilitate the Afghan dialogue, provided other stakeholders agreed to the proposal. A concerted diplomatic push for resumption of the reconciliation process is clearly afoot.

A delegation of Pakistani Pashtun political leaders met President Ghani on Thursday at the presidential palace in Kabul and persuaded him to meet Pakistani Prime Minister in an attempt to put the acrimonious relationship between the two countries back on track.

The delegation comprised of Asfandyar Wali, Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao. Former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor Shaukatullah Khan and former ambassador Ayaz Wazir are also accompanying them.

Bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan came under strain because of the suspension of the peace dialogue and the accompanying increase in violence. Since, according to Afghan officials, a number of terrorist networks are active in Pakistan; it was believed that militants cross the Afghan-Pak porous border. Moreover, members of Taliban were cured in Pakistan hospitals in the wake of being wounded in battles. Therefore, Afghan officials blamed Pakistan in escalated insurgency in the country and urged Pakistani officials not to treat the Taliban’s wounded fighters and prevent from their open sessions.

Political instability is a matter of great concern for Afghan nation and a major challenge before the National Unity Government (NUG). In spite of the establishment of High Peace Council (HPC) and the state’s tireless efforts to cease militancy in Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgents have mounted their offensive in the country. Similarly, the “war on terror” did not give the desired result and NATO soldiers withdrew from the country except a few numbers who have reduced their role to training and giving advice to Afghan soldiers. Currently, up to 13,000 NATO soldiers serve in Afghanistan of which 9,800 of them are US troops. It is expected that up to 8,000 US troops will continue their mission in Afghanistan beyond 2016.

US Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner from Resolute Support said that the coalition was considering a broad review of the planning process as well as the targeting process at all levels of the command chain. NATO has further asserted that the alliance will take new initiatives to protect civilians during engagements, adding that the alliance’s advisory role and technical support will continue to be given to Afghan troops until sustainable peace and stability is restored in the country.  Irony aside, Pakistani officials persist on resuming peace talk and promise to nudge the Taliban to sit on the table of negotiation – Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, discussed the issue with his American interlocutors in a trip recently. According to them, reconciliation process is the only way that can bring peace in the country. Perhaps, Pakistan wants to regain the trust of Afghan officials and normalize the strained relation through playing a mediatory role.  The Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan Deng Xijun also said this month that Beijing wanted Pakistan and Afghanistan to sit down and remove bilateral differences through talks. Deng met the Pakistani and Afghan leaders during his first visit to both the countries.

According to a report, recently, there was a proposal from British Prime Minister David Cameron that Nawaz and Ghani meet in Paris, however, the latter did not agree. “Consequently, Pakistan has sent the Pashtun leaders to Kabul to persuade Ghani [for the meeting],” according to the report.

However, the question remains that how much the Taliban elements are subject to Pakistani officials? Since the Taliban are at war with Pakistan too and sporadic clashes go on between them, will they give the green light to Pakistan’s proposal to lay their arms down and resolve the challenges in a diplomatic way?