Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 22nd, 2019

Reginal Pressure on Taliban Likely to Result in Fruitful Talks

US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has visited Kabul and Islamabad to discuss the issue of resumption of peace talks between the US and Taliban leadership after it was called off. Earlier, the Taliban delegations visited some states, including Iran and Pakistan, with the aim of reviving talks.
The two sides are willing to resume the negotiations, however, there are still some ifs and buts. Afghanistan urges being included in the talks and holds out hope that regional stakeholders will put their weight behind the peace process. But it is also feared that the process will be capitalized on.
Pakistan is one of the stakeholders, which has been urged constantly by Afghan administration to put pressure on the Taliban to come to negotiating table with Kabul. Meanwhile, Washington also called on Islamabad to broker the talks. Pakistani high-ranking officials have vowed on multiple occasions to play its role constructively in the talks.
Pakistan is believed to have strong leverage on the Taliban leadership and both Kabul and Washington are of the view that if Islamabad uses its leverage, peace talks will be successful.
Speaking at a think tank in New York, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan talked about Pakistan’s role in training jihadists during the late 1980s and sustaining contracts with them.
In 2015, Pakistan’s Sartaj Aziz said publicly that the Afghan Taliban leadership enjoyed shelter inside Pakistan, which was used as a “lever” to pressure the group into coming to the negotiating table. Express Tribune Newspaper quoted him as saying, “We have some influence on them because their leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities, their families are here. So we can use those levers to pressurize them to say, ‘Come to the table’.” He added that Islamabad had used the threat of expulsion to force the Taliban into the first round of Murree talks. It indicates the fact that Islamabad exercises influence over the Taliban leadership.
With Imran Khan at the helm, the blame game between Kabul and Islamabad stopped and the bilateral relations cemented. Ghani administration held out hope that Islamabad would nudge the Taliban to negotiating table with the Afghan government since Pakistani officials, including Imran Khan, vowed to support the reconciliation process.
Islamabad-Washington relations have also been improved and Zalmay Khalilzad have always traveled to Pakistan before negotiating with the Taliban. Few months back, Imran Khan promised US President Donald Trump, in his first visit to Washington, to meet Taliban leaders and talk to them to support Afghan peace process.
Islamabad has always favored a negotiated end to the conflict in Afghanistan and said that war would not lead to peace in the country.
Notwithstanding all the aforementioned facts, Islamabad has not or could not broker talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government, which has generated a sense of mistrust in the air. With promising statements of Pakistani officials and their commitments to support the peace process, hope re-emerges that Pakistan will persuade the Taliban to reduce violence and sign a peace deal with their interlocutors. Washington is also seeking resumption of peace talks based on this hope as well as Pakistan’s commitment for backing the negotiations. That is, it is believed that if Pakistan dismisses its support to Afghan peace process, neither Washington will continue the talks nor there will be hope for fruition.
It is self-evident that Pakistan has also been a victim to terrorist activities. The Taliban splinter group carried out large-scale attacks in some parts of Pakistan within past few years. If Taliban do not settle the issue through negotiations, they are likely to pose threat to the region and pave the ground for other radical groups to continue their terrorist activities. Therefore, they are urged to join the government through dismantling their group and discontinuing their terrorist activities.
If peace talks are not succeeded and the Taliban continue their terrorist activities, the region will not be immune to the threat. With this in mind, global powers and regional stakeholders, mainly Pakistan, have to support the peace process. They should put all their efforts to stop the conflict and pressure the Taliban to declare ceasefire. Indeed, if global pressure is put on the Taliban and their financial resources are banned, the Taliban fighters will not be able to continue their activities.