Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Khalilzad: Tasked to Bring Peace to His Birth Place

Zalmay Khalilzad, the veteran US diplomat has been tasked with leading efforts to end the war in Afghanistan. He is a blunt negotiator with a history of hawkish foreign policy views. He has decades of experience in the region.
This mission has brought back Khalilzad to focus on the country of his birth and childhood, and the place where he has served as US ambassador from 2003-2005 under President George W. Bush in a period of the history of Afghanistan that he had to guide regime change in the messy aftermath of the fall of the Taliban. Indeed, he was instrumental in setting up the government structure in Afghanistan and helped Afghanistan through the first elections in 2005.
Challenges and Opportunities for Peace in Afghanistan
If we consider modern Afghanistan as a country characterized by low level of modernization and development, then there is sufficient historical evidence that the government in Kabul has been ineffective in terms of exercising power in Afghanistan. As a matter of bitter fact, politics and power in Afghanistan are strongly influenced by the country’s ethnic complexities. Therefore, the deep ethno-linguistic divisions and the decentralized nature of the Afghan polity provide convenient fault lines ready for exploitation. After the fall of Taliban in 2001, a basic problem has been the failure of the Afghan government institutions to provide good governance and socio-political development to many parts of the country that could act a s a means to close the ethnic gaps.
Correspondingly, there are different layers of geopolitical complications with far-reaching strategic implications in Afghanistan. The presence of the erstwhile Soviet Union, and the United States, in today’s context has only served to legitimize the activities of the insurgents and jihadists across Afghan territory. And Russia’s and Iran’s contrasting positions have only exacerbated the complexities of the conflict. All parties are inclined to escalate military campaigns in the hope of persuading their rivals to negotiate on more suitable terms.
Some political scholars hold that   Ghani’s earnest appeal to the parties involved thinking of ending the war in Afghanistan, instead of winning it, does not seem to bring results under present circumstances of Afghanistan.
Another important factor is the annual production of some 9,000 tons of opium in Afghanistan which contributes to the creation of employment in many Afghan provinces. It is crystal cut that the opium trade generates profits for the Taliban, local warlords, and criminal networks; as a result, there are vested interests in prolonging the conflict in Afghanistan.
Thus, drug money is not the Taliban’s sole funding source; they also mobilize finances from diversified sources including extortions, “protection tax” from Afghan telecom companies, donations from Gulf-based individuals, and covert support from states amenable to their strategy.
The Afghan security forces, after nearly two decades of extensive US military aid and training, continue to be plagued by serious operational problems that have enabled the Taliban to contest more than half of Afghan districts.
For many Afghans and international community members, the Afghan Taliban is merely Pakistan’s proxies who are being exploited to weaken the Afghan state from within. They   argue that Pakistan’s asymmetrical warfare formula has created a Frankenstein that can no longer be expected to create a modern state structure.
Considering such context of conflict in Afghanistan bringing peace seems nearly impossible. However, there are other influential variables that can change the conflict equation in the country; involvement of new peace broker players like China, and South Asian countries can play a significant role in the peace process of Afghanistan. Further, Saudi Arabia which is believed to have a great influence on the Taliban is now more committed to help the US and Afghan governments to bring long conflict in Afghanistan to an end.