Les Brown, an American author has extraordinarily remarked, “Forgive those who hurt you.” Recently, a peace proposal was announced by President Ashraf Ghani. It is estimated that more peace approaches will follow in the near future with the help of the Kabul process and participant from around 25 countries including UN and NATO. Lately, the Kabul process under the title of peace and security cooperation affirmed a plan of reconciliation bid to the Taliban movement.
Ghani’s amiable statement invited the Taliban movement to renounce violence and stand for a ceasefire and join the peace process. In return, the government will recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political entity.
Under the proposal which President Ghani has put forward, the Afghan government will allow the Taliban to open an office in Kabul, offer passports to the members of the Taliban and their families, release Taliban prisoners, remove the leaders from the different blacklist and provide security and financial guarantee in order to resettle in Afghanistan.
Impressive, the group on several occasions rejected talking to the Afghan government rather they approach the US for a peaceful dialogue. In an open letter to the American people, the group has favored America for direct communication over the Afghan government, they have also claimed that increasing US military strikes on the group have not produced results over the course of prolonging Afghan war. Taliban appreciated their military gains and called on the US as being failed in the war with the Taliban. The Taliban clearly showed a position of strength over the US military in this letter.
It should be esteemed that the Taliban lettered have nothing to do with military tactics and professionalism on the ground. It also seems that Taliban is not in a stronger position to negotiate with Afghan government because Afghan army is fighting the Taliban, not US armed forces which are stationed in Afghanistan and limited to their bases and on certain operations take part with Afghan National Army. Ghani’s peace proposal is the fittest deal for the Taliban, but now the question is, are the Taliban and their backers ready to approve the peace package?
The Taliban movement is broadly divided into two categories, radical and the moderate. The Taliban had transferred into a completely different phase, most of the Taliban are moderate while their leadership is still under control of hardliners. Though the moderate fiction inside the radical leadership wants to make a peace arrangement with the Afghan government, the hardliner’s fiction and controller of the moderate Taliban whose ideology is in competing for narrative with moderate fiction does not want to have a peace with Kabul government.
Furthermore, the radicals are believed to be playing in the hands of Pakistani intelligence service and cannot take a strong stance without the consent of Pakistani intelligence agency. A few of the Taliban officials could be labeled as a moderate, among them is former Talib Ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef and former Taliban foreign minister Wakeel Ahmed Mutawakil. Though they reject being called moderate Taliban, they still live under the Kabul regime. Which is an American designed democratic state? But, failed on many fronts to be a truly liberal democracy.
Although, the new peace proposal initiated by Kabul government is all-inclusive on the part of Taliban. However, their leadership is still insufficient to embrace the peace proposal. Based on a few reasons the Taliban movement will never be agreed to start negotiation with the Afghan government.
First, the movement is split and scattered, they have no central authority as per their connection is concerning they are still on the payroll of Pakistan spy agency and recently Russia made contacts with them through Pakistan. There is little possibility that the Taliban will come under one leadership, Mullah Muhammad Rasul group, Mullah Habiatullah Akhunzada group, Haqqani Network. These groups have made contacts with different countries to counter American forces inside Afghanistan. The Afghan government has an option to make a peace with a powerful group. The Haqqani Network and Habiatullah, however both of these groups come under the category of extremist Taliban.
Second, Russia, China, and Pakistan have made a triangle to counter American policies in South Asia and central Asia. Pakistan opened the gate for Russia and China to have linkages with Taliban. Pakistan once an ally of the US during cold war and war on terror now shifted its policy. Further, to put it in simple terms two veto power and three armed nuclear countries are involved in the Afghan conflict. However, Pakistani security establishment has not abolished the policy of strategic depth, the country is agitated with Indian presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s shift in the policy could be fundamentally this single reason. The Afghan leadership on many occasions has expressed their willingness that Afghanistan will not be used against another country.
Due to Afghanistan’s strategic location the country has plunged into a great power competition.
Third, US presence in Afghanistan is treated as a security challenge to China and Russia. The SCO main objective is to prevent terror threats and at the same time fight terrorism in Central Asia. The member states are fully in support of the terror-free region. Likely Afghanistan also has SCO observer status, which is considered to be a tremendous opportunity to the country diplomatically. Afghanistan needs to gear up its diplomatic efforts in order to pursue SCO member states to help the country in acquiring peace.
Fourth, Russian aid to the Taliban could possibly have severed implication for Afghanistan’s future. Moscow will encourage Taliban to weaken the central government of Afghanistan as they did in Syria against American backed rebels by supporting Bashir Al Asad. If in case Russian commits such mistake to support the Taliban financially and military from the new honorary consulate in Peshawar. The result could be a disaster for the whole of the region such as the one in Syria. Though, humanitarian crisis will be on a high level.
Finally, the only suitable option to Afghanistan will be to talk to countries notably China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Iran and US and actively plays its diplomacy. It’s also extremely important to prepare a roadmap and start a Quadrilateral Group meeting, nevertheless this time Taliban should be encouraged to participate. Peace seems difficult, but it still requires regional dialogue.
The so-called trust deficit between China, Russia, and the US has to be resolved through dialogue and diplomatic channels if Afghanistan is to see peace in the near future.
It’s extremely important to have a shared vision for a peaceful Afghan state and build indigenous capability to accomplish this goal, other than that American military will not have different results by changing strategies.
*Ihsanullah Omarkhail, studies MA Internati, and onal Relations at Zhejiang University, China and writes on Foreign policy, Peace and State Building, terrorism, security and strategic affairs. He tweets at @ihsan_asif
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