Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, June 17th, 2019

The Role of Regional Players in Afghan Peace Process


The Role of Regional Players in Afghan Peace Process

As from several decades ago, Afghanistan has been involved in violence and civil war which sometimes has been increasing but sometimes decreasing. May of post-colonial African countries and Latin America have experienced civil war, but there are some features in violence and conflict of Afghanistan that distinguish it from many other types of violence exist in the rest of the world. This violence and conflict in Afghanistan have been affected by several basic factors such as regional geopolitics, the Cold War, and later the new world order, Islamism - religious radicalism and Afghan ethnic- nationalism. This paper addresses the regional geopolitical role of Afghanistan in conflict and violence, and later in the peace process in the country:
Geopolitically, Afghanistan plays a central role in linking the South Asian geopolitics, Middle East counties and Central Asia. At the culmination of the Cold War, the Soviet Union considered the establishment of a communist system in Afghanistan as an appropriate option, in order to infiltrate South Asia and reach the Indian Ocean. On the other hand, during the Cold War, Americans felt that if the Soviet Union secured its base in Afghanistan then the influence of the capitalist world in South Asia and the Middle East energy would be compromised. For this reason, the Americans tried to support Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan in cooperation with regional actors such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.  Afghanistan is among the mountainous countries in the world, which has proven its importance in the guerrilla war with the communist government of Afghanistan (the Soviet Union).
With the help of Pakistan’s geopolitical position, the United States was able to send its military and financial assistance to Mujahideen and therefore the long border of Afghanistan with Pakistan was a serious problem to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Given the geopolitical position of Afghanistan, Beijing was also in the ranks of Mujahideen supporters and helped them through Pakistan. The geographic location of Afghanistan made it impossible for the Soviet Union to win a quick war, and on the other hand, the Soviet economic crisis did not allow them to continue war in Afghanistan.
After the collapse of the communist government of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the most important regional players that played in Afghanistan were Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran. The formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan was defeated in the 1990s while the main reasons was lack of adequate knowledge of the Mojahedin in governance and the lack of authority on the part of regional actors. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported jihadist groups in the south and east of the country but Iran supported jihadist groups in central and northern Afghanistan.  Given its geopolitical position, Pakistan was the most important foreign actor in the 1990s, in Afghanistan.
After fall of Mujahideen, the Taliban terrorist group came to power but it was with comprehensive cooperation of Pakistan. Given the Pakistan’s border challenges with India, they supported the radical Islamist groups in Afghanistan because they consider these groups as a preventive tool for the expansion of India’s influence in Afghanistan, and on the other hand, Islamabad could use it in the Kashmir war. After the September 11 terrorist attack, the regional players regained their importance in Afghanistan’s political affairs.  The US pressure on Pakistan has made it apparently relinquish support from Taliban and other terrorists and through this it received millions of dollars.
At the Bonn Conference and its subsequent political events, most of regional actors were involved in Afghanistan. The Russia and Central Asia intelligence cooperation and even Iran with the United States in Afghanistan was due to a geopolitical position that compelled these countries to cooperate in removal of the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. The Bonn Conference had some shortcomings that could not root out the battles from Afghanistan.  Of course, the United States has also made some mistakes in state-building and also fighting against terrorism in the country. The US’s delay in the attack on Afghanistan, and later sending insufficient forces, gave the opportunity to terrorists flee to Pakistan and then return to battlefields at a proper time.
After 2014, the terrorists have unprecedentedly strengthened themselves, especially in the south parts of Afghanistan. The most important factor behind Pakistan’s support for the Taliban could be widespread influence of India, the regional rival of Pakistan in Afghanistan, as India considered being a major contributor to state-building and development in Afghanistan.
In the early day, Iran thought removal of the Taliban from Afghanistan could be in the interest of that country, but the subsequent policies of the United States during the Bush period towards Iran led to revision of Iran’s foreign policy towards Afghanistan. After the September 11 incident, Russia cooperated with the United States in the field of intelligence services and logistics, but the color revolutions in the central Asia led the revision of its policies towards Afghanistan, too. On the other hand, the Arab Spring and the emergence of new terrorist groups, especially ISIL, in the Middle East and later in Afghanistan have made Russia and Iran become more flexible against the Taliban.
Although the Taliban are considered hostile to Iran and Russia ideologically, the ISIL terrorist group was the common enemy of all of these, and that’s why brought them together. Since ISIL’s goal was to establish an Islamic caliphate in all Islamic lands, such as the Middle East, Khorasan and so on, while Russia was sensitive to this area.  Now, this might be a turning point for government to hold active diplomacies so as to convince the regional and international actors that empowerment of the Taliban and other terrorists are in interest of no countries. On the hand, a powerful government in Afghanistan is in the interests of all regions and the world while a weak government could be a proper bed for growth of international terrorists that will be a real threat to the world.

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

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