• Saleem Qamar Butt

Recognising Spoilers in Afghanistan Peace Process



As time closes in for 2020 presidential elections in USA, President Trump should be feeling constrained to deliver on his promise to disengage from all endless wars, especially from longest war in Afghanistan; obviously for saving precious blood and treasure to spend more within America to make it great again for revival and development of infrastructure and to create more economic activities and jobs within. That explains hectic eight months of proactive regional and extra regional shuttle diplomacy by US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad who with due support by Pakistan has had six rounds of dialogue with Taliban, besides obtaining support from Russia and China to the American efforts for bringing peace in Afghanistan.

However, quite ironically, badly failed experiment of American installed Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and double tenure president Hamid Karzai giving false impression of democracy in Afghanistan are terming Ambassador Khalilzad as viceroy and aspirant Afghan president, and are busy in colluding with India to raise strange demands on Taliban and the regional countries, which makes chances of success of peace dialogue by America with Taliban even more knotty. The incumbent Afghan government having remained confined to parts of Kabul in the last over four years is badly exposed now by being irrelevant and isolated due to Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with them whom they consider as puppets and illegitimate. Recently, President Ashraf Ghani convened a Consultative Grand Jirga to strengthen his position, which selected former warlord Rasool Siaf as its President, it was announced that the government side would nominate from amongst 3,000-plus Jirga members its representatives for the forthcoming intra-Afghan dialogue which were suspended last month due to the Taliban’s objection to the long list of Afghan delegates representing the government. While major internal players such as former president Hamid Karzai, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and presidential candidate Hanif Atmar remained outside the Grand Jirga bringing to fore the internal rifts that have kept peace hostage to power greed and exploitation by intrigues. It is so strange that President Ashraf Ghani after controversially extending his undue tenure as president instead of placing an interim government for holding free and fair elections is expecting from Pakistan to get him on the negotiating table with Taliban, while at the same time asking for guarantees from Taliban, Pakistan and other regional countries that Afghan soil would not be used by terrorists; whereas the same assurance has to come from his own government whose nexus with Indian deep state is very well known by the world as was also stated by former US Defence Secretary. Another spoilers’ agenda point being floated around is seeking undertaking by Taliban that poppy cultivation/ drugs production will not be allowed on Afghan soil. At the same time, Afghan government is allowing terrorists attacks on Pakistani troops busy in fencing Pak-Afghan international borders and on check posts guarding the borders against illegal crossings and smuggling.

While Ambassador Khalilzad and Taliban are making slow and cautious progress on first two out of four main points i.e. cease fire and US/ allies forces’ withdrawal schedule, which will be followed up by pledge by Taliban not to host any terrorists on Afghan soil (tantamount to pre-supposing that future dispensation will be dominated by Talban) and making Taliban agree to talk with sitting Afghan government (looks remote at the moment). It is quite positive development that almost all regional countries are seemingly supporting peace process except Afghan sitting government along with sponsor India happy with using Afghan soil for launching hostile proxies in Balochistan and former tribal areas of Pakistan for triple squeeze on Pakistan to dilute its justified stance on Indian occupied Kashmir. Taliban having fought successfully against all odds in the last more than eighteen years are already feeling emboldened and reassured especially after recognition by US, China, Russia and other stake holders as main actor in Afghan imbroglio appear mindful of engaging with Afghan people and therefore may agree to indulge in dialogue with all inclusive representative despite Ghani’s spoiling efforts to cause division on ethnic lines.

Despite the fact that Pakistan has not only done an enviable job of defeating terrorists of all hue and colour on its soil as a front line state in global war against terrorism on a very heavy human and economic cost (most unfortunately neither projected enough by Pakistan nor adequately acknowledged by the global community) and is still playing a most delicate balancing and facilitation role for peace in Afghanistan despite accusations, military and economic pressure by USA and malicious spoiling part by India- Afghan nexus, Pakistan needs to remain vigilant against India projecting itself as an economic stakeholder in Afghanistan not for the love of Afghans but for the hate of Pakistan. Indian diplomatic and multi-channels approach to win over Taliban as well as America, China and Russia’s support for a role in Afghanistan needs to be effectively exposed and countered by all official and other available tracks of diplomacy. Although Pakistan, China and Russia are expected to be hoping for the best outcome as for return of pace in Afghanistan, yet preparing for the worst if spoilers succeeded, America was forced to abandon Afghanistan with partial reconciliation with Taliban and potential worst case scenario of Afghanistan relapsing in to another chaotic situation. Therefore, all positive regional stakeholders need to synergize efforts for making reconciliation efforts a success by supporting ongoing peace process and join heads to figure out a post partial or complete reconciliation political dispensation in Afghanistan that is all inclusive and true representative of long suffering people of Afghanistan through free and fair elections under an interim government in Afghanistan and international observers. US/Allies and all regional stake holders also need to work out a workable solution for socio-economic and security viability of Afghanistan after graduated draw down by US and allies. Taliban are expected to have also matured in the last two decades and demonstrate due respect to Afghan women, other ethnic communities, and regional and extra regional concerns especially with respect to extreme ideology, remnant of Al Qa'ida, Islamic State or any other non state actors’ presence in Afghanistan.

8th May 2019

· Saleem Qamar Butt, SI (M) is a retired senior Army officer with rich experience in Military & Intelligence Diplomacy and is a writer and consultant on geo-strategic analysis for many newspapers, magazines and Pakistan Television Network. (Mail: sqbutt61@gmail.com, Website: www.sqbutt.com )

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