Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, May 20th, 2019

The Peace Agreement Appears Closer than Ever Before

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The Peace Agreement Appears Closer than Ever Before

On Monday, American diplomats led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation, and a Taliban delegation, including one of the group’s co-founders, began the highest-level negotiation so far in Qatar. The discussions in Doha marks the fifth time Taliban militants met with American negotiators to put an end to conflict in Afghanistan, which has lasted for about 40 years, may finally be genuine. More than 70 percent of Afghans were born in war but it seems that chances of seeing the light of peace in the country have never been greater than these days. If this dreams come true, the Afghan people will restart a warmer friendship with US because peace was and is the No. 1 priority for Afghans — no development and economic agenda has any meaning without sustainable peace and security.
President Donald Trump, in his recent State of the Union address, reiterated his administration’s commitment to ending America’s 17-year involvement in Afghanistan by reaching a peace settlement with the Taliban. Optimism about a breakthrough was voiced by Zalmay Khalilzad, the US peace envoy, in a tweet just hours before the latest round of talks began. According to Khalilzad, the Taliban now have a more authoritative negotiating team, particularly with the inclusion of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the group’s deputy leader, who traveled from Pakistan to join the talks in Qatar. Baradar’s participation has increased expectations as he has long been known as a supporter of peace talks.
Hence, the US seems to show more flexibility in regard to fulfillment of Mr. Trump’s peace pledges for Afghanistan. In recent days, according to US media reports, America wants to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan over the next three to five years under a new Pentagon plan. The plan, which was supposed to help talks between the US and Taliban, by halving the 14,000 current American troops, The New York Times reported. However, some Political thinkers, especial liberal, believe that weak countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria can be sheltered by terrorist groups in absence of United States forces.
Therefore, it is stressed that until the final withdrawal, several thousand American forces has to continue strikes against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. And after the U.S. forces withdrawal, Taliban has to ensure that Afghanistan will not harbor international terrorists, including its ally al-Qaeda and rival the Islamic State. Meantime, the US will try to arrest key al-Qaeda members, including Hamza Bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be close to the leadership level of this group. Few days before, they announced a $ 1 million prize for arrest of Hamza bin Laden.
Anyway, the plan, which has reportedly received broad acceptance in Washington and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, stipulates that the 8,600 European and other international troops stationed in Afghanistan would focus on training the Afghan military, shifting US forces’ task to counterterrorism operations. However, Pentagon spokesman Kone Faulkner though made it clear that no decisions have been made as peace talks were ongoing, and the US “is considering all options of force numbers and disposition”, the NYT report quoted.
Generally, peace in Afghanistan is in the best interests of all countries in the region and beyond. The ongoing conflict serves no one’s interests and destabilizes the entire region. A peaceful Afghanistan would offer economic opportunities for neighboring countries in the form of business, trade and serving as an energy corridor between Central and South Asia. About a week before the ongoing talks, Khalilzad met the Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov to discuss the contours of the Afghan peace negotiations. An inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue was agreed by both sides. The US and Russian convergence on some basic principles is a positive step and will strengthen the international consensus on peace in Afghanistan.
Besides this US-Russian consensus and support, the role of the Islamic world, particularly Saudi Arabia, is important. Last July, Jeddah hosted a conference of Muslim scholars from around the world to discuss the Afghan dilemma. The scholars pleaded for peace and stability and described the ongoing conflict as being against the principles of Islam, which stands for peace, tolerance and reconciliation. King Salman met with the participating scholars and called for an end to the suffering of the Afghan people. Jeddah’s conference for Afghan peace was no ordinary event. Saudi Arabia is considered by a majority of Muslims as the leader of the Islamic world. Thus, a peace call from the Kingdom was full of meaning and an enduring message for all parties involved in the conflict.
Taliban and their supporters also seem tired of longstanding war and war expenses. In early February, the Taliban and some prominent political figures from Afghanistan, consisting mainly of the opposition, held talks in Moscow. Among the participants was former President Hamid Karzai. The Afghan government was not part of the conference and rejected the talks as having no executive authority. Although many Afghans were critical of the Moscow meeting, the move was significant politically, as it was the first time that the Taliban had sat around a table with some of the figures they had been fighting for more than a decade. Most of the delegates spoke positively of the talks and indicated that the Taliban were more inclined to a settlement than ever before.
Hence, most Afghans are optimistic about the US-led peace initiative. Any formal deal between the US and the Taliban would be an important first step and would lay the foundation for a comprehensive peace settlement. Nonetheless, not everything can be agreed unless the Afghan government becomes part of the negotiations. It is time both the Taliban and the government showed their true commitment to peace by responding to the aspirations of millions of Afghans, who have been eagerly waiting such a day for the past four decades.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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