Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Involvement of Regional Stakeholders in Afghan Peace Process

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Involvement of Regional Stakeholders  in Afghan Peace Process

The Taliban delegation met with Pakistani high-ranking officials – including the director-general of Pakistan’s prime intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt. General Faiz Hameed – earlier this month to discuss future lines of action regarding peace in Afghanistan.
It has already been reported that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met Taliban chief negotiator and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, their first meeting since Trump declared talks dead. This essentially means that Washington has not only decided to restart the stalled peace process, but has effectively endorsed Pakistan’s complete involvement in this regard.
An oddly lengthy statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office which referred to the visiting delegation as TPC or the Taliban Political Commission, carried only one paragraph from the Taliban in which the latter “appreciated Pakistan’s support for peace in Afghanistan”.
While in the past Pakistan has denied having plausible influence over the group, Khalilzad and the Taliban’s decision to visit Pakistan to hold the first meeting after the collapse of the talks underscores the country’s significant clout over the group and its role in the peace process.
As the Taliban were meeting Pakistan’s foreign minister in Islamabad, the Afghan government in a statement said that “Taliban’s visit to Pakistan will not help in restoring the Afghan peace process and that Islamabad should deny the use of its soil to Taliban and other terrorist groups.” Basically, the Afghan government in its statement equated the Afghan Taliban’s visit to Islamabad with a terrorist group using Pakistan’s soil – a policy line that even the US doesn’t adhere to anymore. Moreover, the statement indicates that the government in Afghanistan is not pleased with the visit as it further undermines the legitimacy of the Afghan government and other opponents of the potential peace deal.
With $780 billion spent in US military operations and economic assistance, the sacrifice of nearly 2,400 US soldiers and countless Afghan lives, the welcoming reception of Taliban delegations is likely to construct Taliban identity as a force that has a critical role to play in Afghanistan’s future. In other words, notwithstanding the Taliban’s ruthless campaigns that have killed and amputated thousands of Afghans over the years, their continued opposition to recognizing the constitutionally elected government(s) in Kabul, and their reluctance to condemn terrorism and groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban have gained recognition and are being dealt with on a par with the Afghan government in some countries.
The head of Taliban delegation to Moscow, She Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, was interviewed by the Kremlin-funded RT network. In this interview, he warned of the Taliban fighting for a “100 years” if the US failed to reach an agreement on Afghanistan peace.
Iranian media, on the other hand, quoting the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi, reported that a “Taliban political delegation” discussed the “latest developments in Afghanistan” with Iranian officials.
While the Taliban’s legitimacy has been challenged by Afghanistan’s political groups, the group continues to benefit by engaging with the world over the exclusive issue of Afghanistan’s nonviolent future.
Arguably, an agreement with the US remains not only a priority for the Taliban, but also one for Islamabad and Washington. For Islamabad, a potential agreement not only helps Pakistan in keeping Washington interested in the issue of Kashmir and diminishing pressure elsewhere, but it also keeps Pakistan’s influence central in Afghanistan in a situation where the Taliban return to power. For Trump, an agreement between the US and the Taliban can offer necessary support domestically as the country prepares for the 2020 presidential election. The Taliban, for their part, want the conversation over their role in Afghanistan’s political future to continue.
In the meantime, Afghan officials have reiterated on several occasions that any peace deal without the inclusion of the Kabul government cannot become successful. Afghanistan’s international allies and regional stakeholders, which host Taliban delegations, have to broker intra-Afghan dialogue. That is, since there are three parties to the conflict – the government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, and the US and NATO – there must be trilateral negotiations and the peace agreement should be approved by all sides.
The peace agreement with the Taliban should be another brick in the current democratic order established at the Bonn conference.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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