Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

US Direct Involvement in Talks with Afghan Taliban & Its Repercussions on Achieving Peace

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US Direct Involvement in Talks with Afghan  Taliban & Its Repercussions on Achieving Peace

Though the United States of American has been involved in peace process since the process of making peace with Taliban began in the twilights of 2000s, most of these involvements had been out of the press or public eyes. Stakeholders in the process have always been the Government of Afghanistan, Government and military establishment of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, some kind of representations from Taliban, People’s Republic of China, neighboring countries including Russia and Iran, the United States and few allied countries from European Union. Efforts of some of these countries had been successful in bringing short-term ceasefire during three days Eid Festivities. Keeping in view the elusive and resilient nature of Taliban organization and their not-so-clear chain / line of command, peace talks with the group have consistently derailed in the past. Recent announcement by the US about their readiness to involve in peace talks directly with Taliban insurgents opens a new chapter in the efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan. Taliban has been asking for direct talks with the US because they believe it was the US who had ‘toppled’ their Government in 2001 and instead installed their ‘puppet’ government in Kabul. Afghan Government had in the past insisted that Taliban insurgents talk to them directly, but Taliban rejected any talks with them.
Taliban organization and the people manning it are completely different than its original form. Most of Taliban leaders have been killed during last two decades of war. In addition, most of their genuine leaders with patriotic mentality toward Afghanistan have either been killed or detained by Pakistani military junta, and this provides grim picture of what will be composition of the team Taliban in ongoing peace process. Though there are few structured teams of Taliban leadership currently existing under the names of ‘Quetta Shura’, ‘Peshawar Shura’ and ‘Qatar Political Office of Afghan Taliban’, it remains to be seen which one of these leadership groups have more leverage on Taliban fighters in the field in Afghanistan. An exhibit of unity of command was at play during three days Eid festivities where both Afghan Government and Taliban fighters agreed to a three days ceasefire. But in the backdrop of repeated failure of peace efforts during last eighteen years, owing to meddling of neighboring countries’ intelligence agencies, it is unclear whether the entire insurgency is supported and structured in one shape, or they might fall in pieces in the event certain demands of countries with vested interest are not met. Those Taliban leaders, who were brought to Qatar in 2013 to open a currently defunct political office in that country, are almost out of touch and not aligned with the present Taliban military command and control structure and political organization, due to them being confined to a small space in different geographical locations, and due to operational changes inside the insurgents military campaign. For example, Taliban fighters were under a central command during the first decade of their military campaign against Afghan Government and international forces, but starting in 2014, Taliban military tactics and their operational organization has been decentralized. Their military commanders have been given autonomy to operate and decide at will across the country in Afghanistan in order to make sure their campaign moves forward. These changes and newly emerged leaders in the insurgents’ ranks pose considerable challenges before the stakeholders to have comprehensive and inclusive peace process.   
There are many interests involved and forces at play to involve the US in Afghan Taliban peace talks publicly. While legitimate concerns and interests of stakeholder countries can be accommodated, it is highly advisable for the US to be watchful about the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s designs, plans, undercurrents and agenda in the process of ongoing / or upcoming peace talks. A lot has been said, written and expressed about Pakistan’s designs, so-called worries and future wishful thinking and it is not in the capacity of this piece to accommodate all of them, but it is for the US, Afghanistan Government and all other stakeholders to rein in Pakistan’s negative perspective and unfounded worries about a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. In the event when the US, China, Russia and all other major world powers guarantee a peace deal and ensure safety and prosperity of Pakistan with a peaceful and stable Afghanistan in her neighborhood, there shouldn’t be any worries for Pakistan.  
People of Afghanistan welcome any and all efforts to bring peace in the country. But keeping in view immense stakes and interests of Pakistan in the affairs of Afghanistan, which has the longest border (more than 2000 miles) with Afghanistan, and supports Taliban insurgents in ongoing war in the form of providing them with safe havens, logistical means, money, military training and mentoring, and rallying points for Taliban commanders and planners, the whole process and related efforts by major stakeholders who genuinely struggle to bring peace in Afghanistan become doubtful and wide of the mark. The people and Government of the United States of America have put their gold and spilled their blood to follow the footprint and search for the terrorists who had been responsible for the attack in New York on 9/11 in 2001, which they eventually located, found, captured and killed right in the middle of a military town inside Pakistan. To put it in a nutshell, all hard data show it, and the people of Afghanistan believe that Pakistan has been responsible for the ongoing destructive war in Afghanistan since last four decades. It is, therefore, pertinent to suggest that this new efforts by the US should keep these concerns at the very top of their agenda to bring peace in the country. The people and Government of Afghanistan have historically proven that all neighbors – including Pakistan – will not have hostile elements against them in any viable political and economic set up in Afghanistan. Afghans have historical records of honoring their words, and befriend with her neighbors. A case in point is the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. Despite not having good relations with Pakistan, the Government of Afghanistan had sent high level delegation to Pakistan to give assurances to Pakistan political and military junta about Afghanistan’s neutral position in the war. The same was true in the war of 1971 for Afghanistan. These gestures were countenanced and practically implemented by the Government of Afghanistan at a time when relations were sour between the two counties, and Pakistan was worried that Afghanistan might provide space and resources to India, with whom Afghanistan has been enjoying historic good relationships since the beginning of time and continues till date.  A stable and stronger Afghanistan will definitely do more good to Pakistan and all other immediate neighbors and the entire globe, than a weak and unstable Afghanistan.
Few words for Pakistan: - instead of supporting destructive elements for advancement of so called ‘national interest’ and ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, it is the people and Government of Afghanistan’s wish to start a new with Pakistan, and begin new era in our two countries relationship. Pakistan and Afghanistan are two neighbors with people of the same culture and belief at two sides of the 2000 miles long border. Pakistan should strengthen positive and friendly relationship with Afghanistan, and terminate support to and patronage of terrorist and religious fanatic groups inside Afghanistan. These groups can only cause destruction and instability in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan cannot deny the deaths and destruction these fanatic groups brought in Pakistan during last fifteen years. There is no logical point behind supporting such groups – either in Afghanistan or inside Pakistan – under a false pretext and belief that they might defend Pakistan interest in ‘enemy’ countries i.e. India or Afghanistan. We can live together in harmony and peace and together we can fly high in the sky of development and better life. It is therefore, expected from Pakistan to keep these points in mind and welcome brotherly gestures of the people and Government of Afghanistan and the entire world community to change perspective. The ongoing peace talks are pivotal and require all parties to be honest and interested in a balanced, inclusive and stable peace deal so that the entire region can take a sigh of relief and let peace prevail.  

The author is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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