As the date for the quadrilateral meeting between Afghanistan, China, US and Pakistan is nearing, the suspense seems to be rising as what will happen; as the previous efforts for peace talks between Taliban and Afghanistan could not bear any fruit. After Pakistan’s willingness to host talks between Taliban and Afghan government, this is going to be a preparatory meeting as the first meeting hosted by Pakistan in Muree, Pakistan could not be pursued after increasing distrust hampered the talks. However, since the Heart of Asia Conference, a new commitment has been developed between Islamabad and Kabul to restart the process.
For Afghanistan it is going to be a great opportunity to start a peace process with Taliban and end the ongoing fight with them through peaceful ways. Though, Afghanistan has been doubtful about Pakistan’s role regarding the efforts for the talks, this time it may not be disappointed as US and China are also a part of the effort directly.
For US it is a matter of honor now, as it would like to see a comparatively peaceful Afghanistan, after its troops completely leave it. While, for China, it is really important because of the regional peace as it, itself, has been influenced by religious extremism as well.
US has confirmed that it will be part of the meeting next week. US Department spokesman John Kirby has said, “We plan to participate in this quadrilateral meeting next week. No Taliban are going to be participating in this coordination meeting.” He also added that the meeting is aimed at coordinating Afghan, Pakistani, Chinese, and U.S efforts to set the conditions for peace in Afghanistan.
For Afghanistan the most important factor is the conditions that it is going to set. One of the greatest achievements will be to convince Taliban insurgents to lay down their arms before the next fighting season starts. Currently, Taliban have increased their attacks in the capital Kabul, which clearly shows that they want to acquire a stronger position in the talks before they start. However, these attacks are also taking the lives of innocent civilians. Therefore, it is necessary that a ceasefire should be agreed upon even before the talks start.
On the other hand, Afghanistan would require to convince Pakistan for a better role regarding dealing with the extremist elements in future. According to an op-ed in Newsweek from Zalmai Khalilzad (former American ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S permanent representative to the UN) and James Dobbins (US diplomat), “Washington and Kabul should focus less on fostering talks and more on persuading Pakistan to take action against those engaged in terrorism and violence. While opening peace talks could be a positive step, it will only yield fruit if Pakistani authorities also begin to close down Afghan Taliban military operations. Without Pakistani initiative, talks with the Taliban are unlikely to succeed. Perhaps with Pakistani consent and support the Taliban will continue to push their advantage on the ground. Alternatively, given ground realities, the Taliban might demand that the United States and Afghanistan cede provinces in the east and the south to them.”
At the same time Kabul must also consider that in the last some years, Afghanistan has been able to achieve certain milestones regarding human rights and particularly the rights of women. There are evident fears that Taliban would not readily accept that Afghanistan should retain these gains as they want to implement their self-styled Shariah law, which does not have room for some of the basic human rights and particularly no tolerance for women rights. Their reign in Afghanistan clearly depicted their attitude and behavior towards women.
Emphasizing on the same, the Rights activists on Saturday, Jan 09, called on the Afghan government to consider the gains the nation has made over the last 15 years when drawing up the framework for peace talks with the Taliban. They reaffirmed their support for the meeting next week but they also called for the protection of women rights and other achievements made after the downfall of Taliban. They also emphasized on the Afghan government to consider what is best for the nation and not forget the sacrifices made by the nation and different individuals.
Afghanistan’s fate largely depends on the decisions that are going to be made in the few years to come. Particularly, the nature and the outcomes of the peace talks with Taliban would be of great importance (if they are held at all). Prudent and wise decisions and conditions set by Afghan government would not only result into a peaceful Afghanistan but a better Afghanistan as well. So many soldiers of the country, different individuals and the nation as a whole have given numerous sacrifices only to make this country a better place to live for the generations to come and we have to respect all those sacrifices.