Peace Talks: The Only Way Forward for Afghanistan
Although there are indeed no certainties when it comes to the foreign policy of a country. However, under President Trump, US foreign policy seems to have no direction whatsoever. President Trump has no regard for decorum or understanding of dealing at the global stage. This was again evident last month when the US President shocked the world, a day before he was to meet the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban at Camp David to sign a peace deal that took months to negotiate, President Trump announced on Twitter that he has canceled the peace talks.
Soon after President Trump’s tweets, global leaders started advocating for the resumption of the peace process. Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan while addressing a ceremony on Torkham, a border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that “it will be a big tragedy if these talks don’t make headway.” Prime minister Khan further added that “peace in Afghanistan would also help bring peace and economic development in the whole region.” There’s no denying the fact that social and economic development can only take place under a peaceful and stable domestic environment which, during the last 18 years of war, Afghanistan does not have had. Taliban now control more land than at any time since the US’s invasion in 2001.
The deal that President Trump’s special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad negotiated, outlined that the US would recall 5400 out of 14000 troops immediately from Afghanistan. In turn, the Taliban assured the US that Afghan land won’t be used as a safe haven for terrorists. Experts have termed the deal an excellent alternative to the current status-quo of ceaseless fighting of 18 years.
Pakistan’s role during the negotiations has been exceptional. The US tried for months to bring Taliban to the negotiating table but failed. In the end, it was through Pakistan’s efforts during the Moscow and Murree dialogue conferences that the Taliban agree to sit with the US to negotiate a peace deal. Pakistan seems to have turned a corner ever since Prime minister Imran Khan came to power last year. Since peace and peaceful coexistence were a central part of PM khan’s party’s manifesto, his government has tried to build good relations with all of their neighbors, including Afghanistan. Pakistan has arranged multiple peace conferences to build confidence between all the stakeholders of the Afghan peace process. In addition, Pakistan has requested China to be part of the trilateral Afghan-Pak-China technical level dialogue, as China is an emerging superpower in the multipolar world, therefore, it wields significant strength in the region. Moreover, Islamabad has opened important trade crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan for 24 hours a day from a few hours previously. This was another of PM Khan’s election promise that was fulfilled. Pakistan has also invited Afghanistan to join China Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) and play a central role as a transit trade route to central Europe.
On the other hand, India has tried to stall the Afghan peace process from the very start. India has invested heavily in Afghanistan’s current government and it feels that if the Taliban agree to a peace deal, India’s position in the region would get weaker. India has also been using Afghanistan as a route to send its proxy terrorists in Pakistan. Peace in Afghanistan would also stop that, as the central point of the agreement between the US and Taliban is to root out any terrorist organizations in the country. The world needs to see that India is placing its political ambition on top of regional peace and security by playing the role of a peace inhibitor in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has been at war for the last 18 years. The US, which has the mightiest of the army in the history of mankind, despite spending trillions of dollars, has not been able to build peace in Afghanistan. Every day dozens of Afghan soldiers are losing their lives. Recruitment levels in the Afghan army are going down by the day while desertions are on the rise. From all these signs, it’s evident that If things are to be as they are now, the Afghan security situation will deteriorate instead of improving. If peace was possible through fighting the US would have achieved it by now.
President Ashraf Ghani, in case he is elected again this month, should build confidence to resume the peace talks again. He should be able to see through Indian’s maligned intentions to stall the Afghan peace process. Taliban are a political reality in Afghan society. They have grass-root level support through which they’ve been able to defeat the world’s greatest army. Therefore, it’s essential to engage with the Taliban as peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved without their support.
President Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to get out of Afghanistan, but whether he wants to withdraw or go back to the negotiating table remains a conundrum. The solution here is only diplomatic, as Pakistan’s Prime minister Imran Khan has been saying repeatedly, the US cannot kill its way to peace. Therefore, peace talks must resume and all stakeholders should sit at the table for the better future of Afghanistan.