Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Afghan Peace Process: A Platform for Advancement of Regional Countries’ Conflicting Interests

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Afghan Peace Process: A Platform for Advancement  of Regional Countries’ Conflicting Interests

Second round of peace talks between Afghan Taliban insurgents and the United States of America is planned to start on 25th February 2019 in Doha, capital of the Emirate of Qatar in Middle East. Based on communiqué issued at the end of first round talks between Afghan Taliban insurgents and the US, which included conflicting claims both by Afghan Taliban insurgents and the US, and which were followed by several statements both by spokesman of Afghan Taliban insurgents and the US representative in the talk to clarify certain ‘misinterpretation’. Some of these ‘misinterpretations’ included a vivid statement by Afghan Taliban insurgents chief negotiator, Mr. Stanekzai, in an interview with a Pakistani media outlet that once peace agreement was fulfilled ‘Taliban would dissolve Afghan national army’. Also, the US side had several times expressed that ‘basic agreement’ was reached about ‘withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan’. Though both parties have clarified their positions on such expressions, yet these statements came as surprises to the real stakeholders of Afghan peace process, include Government of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan and many regional countries who see their interests at stake and fate of Afghan peace in the balance in the event any adverse agreements were reached in these initial stages of the peace process. After all, interlocutor to ongoing initial stages of Afghan peace process agree that regional and international covenant should be reached and all stakeholders – including countries in the region, major regional powers, such as India and China, and the US and NATO member countries should have their voices heard and interests reflected in any outcome that might lead to a prolonged and trustworthy peace agreement. In addition, it was also believed that discussions on topics such as US and NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and non-inclusion of Afghan Government as major party in the ongoing peace process in the initial peace negotiations were on shaky grounds and had no validity as such matters were tied to strategic security agreements signed between the Government of Afghanistan and the Government of United States of America. In addition, major international covenants and strategic security agreements signed between the Government of Afghanistan and many other regional countries, legally hold their grounds. Under such complex circumstances, it was hardly valid for negotiating teams of both the Afghan Taliban side and the US side to bring into discussions these sensitive topics. It is, therefore, obvious that Afghanistan neighboring countries – most specifically Pakistan and to some extent Iran, which uses proxies and back channels for advancement of her interests and agenda as Islamic Republic of Iran is not talking to US – try to use Afghan peace process as platform to advance their agendas and interests. Pakistan in particular has invested time, resources and manpower since last two decades to make Afghan Taliban insurgents turn as major force to reckon with in Afghanistan. They have been successful in reaching this milestone because of the weaknesses and governance vacuum inside Afghan Government, and insidious intelligence operations that Pakistan had unleashed in Afghan Government security and defense institutions, Afghan parliaments and other sensitive Government departments through spies and agents. To make the matter worse, Afghan Government’s failure during last eighteen years to rein in corruption, male practices and misuse of Government power by individuals who had been appointed in senior Government positions based on nepotism and political or tribal connections, has assisted regional hostile forces – including Pakistan – to advance their destructive agendas. The result have been clear: more than ‘forty percent of Afghan territory is held by Afghan Taliban insurgents’ These figures have been supply-pushed in regional and international news outlets relentlessly in order to shape international mentality to accept the so called ‘new reality’ of Afghan political and military scenario, and let international supporters of Afghanistan to accept Pakistan demands concerning future Afghan political and military set up. And unfortunately, it is already accepted and touted throughout international news outlets that Afghan ‘problem’ could not be settled militarily and that a ‘political solution’ should come out. The present peace process is partially kicked off with these points in view and more dominantly by views and campaign promises of President Donald Trump.
With the above premises in mind, it is clear that start of peace negotiations has created too much unrealistic expectations among Afghan Taliban leaders and their supporters in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, which would hardly accept any moving back from demands they have already put in place, let alone talking to Government of Afghanistan. The result of such pompous treatment of Afghan Taliban insurgents is already shaping things up. They have included a notorious master mind and killer of Afghan civilians and foreign military service men, Anas Haqani, who has very close ties with Pakistan intelligence and military set up, and is at present in custody of Afghan Government. With eagerness and begging for peace on the part of the Afghan and US Government in mind, Afghan Taliban insurgents have firm belief that whatever they may demand, would be accepted by the other party in negotiation. It is worth to repeat that agenda of talks, participation of Afghan Government in peace talks and many other nationally strategic important matters have not yet been agreed upon as of this time, but demands from Afghan Taliban insurgents are swelling in size and scale! For the ongoing peace process to succeed and a stable and long-lasting peace is to prevail, it is now or never to instill in the minds of Pakistan and Afghan Taliban insurgents that ground realities are different than what was in late 1990s. They have to accept Afghan national sovereignty, Afghan constitution, Afghan diversity and Afghan polarized political and social system in the country in order to be accepted and be part of future, peaceful Afghanistan. Nothing in future political, military and social set up can be anywhere close to the setup of Taliban regime in late 1990s where army, police, judiciary, political and military decision makers – all included Taliban military personnel. Simply flexing fingers to demand more or a return to Taliban previous regime is not realistic and pragmatic. It is therefore expected that negotiator in the upcoming peace talks in Doha, Qatar, should reflect these facts and figures and agree on inclusive agenda to put the entire peace negotiation on a right track.

Mohammed Gul Sahibbzada is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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