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Sticking Aspect Of Afghanistan Peace Process – OpEd

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The Background

It is already known that US’ efforts to bring Afghanistan Taliban to a direct negotiation with US-planted government in Kabul, about Afghanistan Peace Process, were resolutely resisted by Afghanistan Taliban. The US-planted government in Kabul is considered by Afghan masses as a ‘tool’ of foreign occupation a phenomenon, the staunch non-acceptance of which is deeply ingrained in the psyche of Afghan masses (Taliban and non-Taliban alike); and for the ouster of any foreign occupation Afghan masses have always fought generation after generation throughout the recorded history. Subsequently, at long last, US’ government accepted Afghanistan Taliban’s demand; and US’ government’s direct talks with Afghanistan Taliban on this issue commenced last year.

Since then many rounds of US government’s meetings with Afghanistan Taliban on the issue of Afghanistan Peace Process have been held. In the meanwhile, Russia and China also started putting their efforts to assist in resolving this issue, which significantly changed the by then prevailing geopolitical picture of US being the sole ‘resolving power’ in the effort to conceive and actualise the Afghanistan Peace Process. To provide a grasp of those efforts of Russia and China and the mentioned change in the geopolitical picture, some of the related salients (very briefly) are: Russia’s reassertion of itself as a player in the region, hosting talks between Afghanistan Taliban and senior Afghan politicians in Moscow in February this year, which indicated that the initiative of Afghanistan Peace Process could be slipping out of US’ hands (1); that indication resulted in the consequent meeting in April this year of US’ ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad with Russian and Chinese representatives in Moscow as part of efforts to build international consensus for efforts to end the 18 year long war (2); the unconfirmed report of August last year that Chinese officials have met Afghanistan Taliban several times in the past year as Beijing seeks to play an important role in ending the conflict in Afghanistan (3); and, confirmed report from Beijing that in June this year China hosted an Afghanistan Taliban delegation as part of efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan (4); etc.

Formulation of Intra Afghan Dialogue and the Progress Made

During subsequent meetings, Afghanistan Taliban had accepted to meet with the politicians and other members of Afghan society regarding Afghanistan Peace Process, provided such persons do so in their unofficial personal capacities, and not in any capacity representing the Kabul government.

The latest 7th meeting for direct talks of US government with Afghanistan Taliban commenced on 29 June this year; and had a two days break for a meeting of the Afghanistan society persons in their personal capacities with Afghanistan Taliban on 7th and 8th July – that meeting was subsequently termed as the ‘Intra-Afghan Peace Conference’. After that interlude, the direct meeting of US government with Afghanistan Taliban reportedly ended on 9th July.

A detailed analytical report about these sessions has been published by the Afghanistan Analyst Network (AAN) on 11 July. AAN is an independent non-profit policy research and analysis organization, it is registered as an association in Germany and Afghanistan, funded in large part by Scandinavian countries, and has a core team based in Kabul, Afghanistan (5). Three aspects mentioned in this lengthy report (6) are especially noteworthy.

First aspect, according to the mentioned AAN report, was the clearly identified pragmatism reflected by Afghanistan Taliban, in the Intra-Afghan Peace Conference, in unreservedly meeting and discussing the way out to bring peace in Afghanistan with a delegation of large number of their countrymen and women who were otherwise not their supporters. That delegation included even the representatives from the Afghanistan Kabul government, opposition politicians, media and civil society activists. All were invited ‘in their personal capacities’, as the Taliban do not recognise the government and officially refuse to talk to it; list (of participants) included 62 Afghans, of these 17 were Taliban members, the others came together from Kabul on board of a plane charted by the German government. 11 of the representatives were women but none were from the Taliban’s side (7).

And not only that, Afghanistan Taliban also treated women members of the Afghan delegation participating in the conference with visibly identifiable respect – in clear contrast of the common media projections portraying Afghanistan Taliban being harsh/disrespectful towards women. That fact was asserted by the mentioned AAN report, by highlighting that “gifts were distributed. They came from Mullah Baradar, the Taleban deputy chief for political affairs. Parwiz Shamal, news chief for the Afghan TV channel Tolonews (his boss, Lotfullah Najafizada was among the participants), posted photos showing participants with gift bags from a Qatari shopping centre, containing dates and perfume for the male participants, and additionally headscarves and prayer mats for the women. The gifts were not without meaning. Female participants from Kabul told a reporter that they had asked Taleban members in a lobby encounter during the conference whether their way of doing the hijab (Islamic cover), wearing the chadri (headscarf) and not a burqa, was sufficient for them. They were told it was, and, through the gifts, received another affirmative answer”(8).

That sort of respectful attitude of Afghanistan Taliban is also reflected by a photograph published in a report (9) by Gandhara on 15 July 2019, which shows Suhhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban in Qatar, talking ‘without any reservation’ to the group of rather ‘modernly’ dressed female journalists besides the male journalists, during the Intra-Afghan Peace Conference on July 8.

Second aspect was that thementioned AAN report also highlighted that “At the end of the two days, the participants published a two-page joint “Resolution of Intra Afghan Peace Conference.” There were Pushto, Darri, English, and subsequently an Urdu version of that resolution. However, some inconsistencies were reported in those versions. Besides that, the resolution is also considered to be rather ‘generalised’, instead of presenting any concrete plan of action. Additionally, in that resolution there is no mention of the cease fire between Afghanistan Taliban and their opponents, of the withdrawal of foreign forces, and of Afghanistan’s existing international commitments.

However, in a sort of concluding remark the mentioned AAN report also signifies, That the Doha conference participants managed to draw up a joint final declaration was more than many had expected. After 40 years of war and the killing of almost 230,000 people after 1989, it is a success when something moves forward, if even by only a small step. ——— The final resolution includes a relatively long list of joint positions by the warring parties as well as other participants but many of those are relatively general and were easy to agree on. Large gaps remain, however, from political and women’s rights to the sequencing of a peace agreement – in addition to the scepticism (skepticism) felt by large parts of the Afghan public and political classes. But this can also be seen as a positive point, insofar as the gaps became visible. This is what the parties and mediators can and have to work on. But it is too early to call the Doha outcome a fully workable ‘road map’; only one has visible contours for the time being(10).

Third aspect was that about the direct Afghanistan Taliban-US talks the mentioned AAN report has also highlighted the ‘disturbing’ fact that, On the US-Taleban talks in Doha, there has recently been contradictory news. On the one hand, in a press briefing in Doha on the day the conference started, Khalilzad said there had been “substantive” progress in his negotiations with the Taleban on all four issues key to a peace agreement, and that his discussions had broadened to include a timeline for both intra-Afghan negotiations as well as a cease-fire. On the other hand, the Taleban denied this was the case. They insist that only the foreign troop withdrawal and anti-terrorism guarantees were discussed in these negotiations, not the involvement of the Afghan government, as desired by Kabul and supported by Washington, or a ceasefire (11).

Reading the ‘Pulse’ of Afghans

A careful reading of these three important aspects of the ongoing Afghanistan Peace Process clearly shows that, while on the one hand Afghanistan Taliban and all other segments of Afghan society (some of whom are opponents of Afghanistan Taliban) are clearly showing their pragmatism to come together to evolve and actualise an Afghanistan Peace Process; on the other hand, the US government’s insistence on retaining its dominating overlordship on Afghanistan through its planted government in Kabul, besides other ‘influence tentacles’, is hindering in further progress.

The reasons of the recently developed pragmatic efforts by Afghanistan Taliban and other segments of Afghan society, including Taliban opponents, are easy to understand.

 As for the Afghan masses, in addition to their historically ingrained psyche of militating against foreign invasion/occupation; their despise against the US/NATO occupational forces and US-planted governments has increased many-folds due to the continuing wide spread human and material devastation wreaked by US and its allied forces, and the continued widespread corruption by the US-planted governments since last 18 years.  

Besides these confirmed facts, the Afghan masses and Afghan elite alike are also fully cognizant of the undeniable ground realities that now more than half of Afghanistan is either under control of Afghanistan Taliban or is contested by them for taking over from the government forces; and that, much better local civic services are provided by Afghanistan Taliban as compared to the government administration even in the contested areas. These ground realities have already been published by many media outlets including the AAN. Two of the following reports testify these facts.

In (probably 2018) US’ media outlet CNN arranged, after months of negotiations with Afghanistan Taliban, to send a team of its female reporter and a male film maker in the areas under control of Taliban. Some of the extracts of that CNN report worth noting are: “Between 60% and 70% of Afghanistan is now contested or under the control of the Taliban”; In a village medical clinic the doctor Haji Isaq explains that while the Taliban runs the day-to-day operations at the clinic, the government pays the salaries and provides medicine. This sort of ad-hoc cooperation between the government and the Taliban is becoming more and more common in hospitals and schools in contested areas”; “analysts say that the group ((Afghanistan Taliban) does appear to be taking a more accommodating approach to governance these days, co-opting institutions in territory they take over, rather than destroying or changing them”; Taliban has started appointing “shadow” governors who compete with the Afghan government for influence and support. These governors move from place to place to listen to public complaints and administer justice; The Taliban has a reputation for administering harsh but quick justice – earning them the support of many in these areas(12).

Similarly, a report titled Why Afghanistan’s government is losing the war with the Talibanby The Economist dated 18 May 2019, highlights The (government) authorities make their presence felt mainly through corruption and nepotism”. That report also quotes a driver who explained that while passing through a checkpoint manned by the Afghanistan Taliban, he gets a receipt of the paid fee from them and then on through all the Taliban-manned checkpoints he shows that receipt and is not required to pay any more fee; whereas while travelling on the routes where checkpoints are manned by the government soldiers – in the driver’s words, “Government soldiers, in contrast, rob him over and over(13).

On the part of Afghanistan Taliban, it appears evident that in contrast to their 1996-2001 strict style of governance they have learnt to apply moderation, which is actually inherent in the Islamic Sharia, in their now visibly changed style of governance – earning acceptance by the Afghan masses at large.   

Possibility of an Intra Afghan Consensus

All these undeniable facts clearly reflect the reality that the Afghanistan Taliban, Afghan masses, and vast majority of Afghan elite including women are making earnest efforts to ‘come together’ in formulating and implementing the Afghanistan Peace Plan (rather than lingering on with the ‘Process’). Those who know the history of Afghans have no doubt that if all these mentioned segments of Afghanistan society are left at their own, without any foreign interference, they are most likely to remove their differences and bring peace to their country through an ultimately agreed plan of their governance in consonance with their tribal societal texture. After all Afghans have their own centuries-old historical experiences of governance – some successful and some unsuccessful. The successful experiences included the ‘Tribal Federation’ system of governance of Ahmad Shah Abdali (1747-1772), the ‘Highly Centralised’ system of governance of Amir Abd ur Rahman (1880-1901), and the ‘Islamic’ system of governance by Afghanistan Taliban (1996-2001).

The unsuccessful examples included the ‘Western-Modern Style’ system of governance of Amir/King Amanullah (1919-1926/1926-1929) (which unnecessarily interfered with the Islamic and tribal ethos of Afghan society resulting in the revolt compelling the king to abdicate), the Soviet-planted ‘Communist Style’ governance system of Najibullah (1987 until 1992 till overthrown), and US-planted governance systems of Hamid Karzai and now of Ashraf Ghani, both being highly controversial and almost powerless outside Kabul.

The Sticking Aspect – US’ Establishment’s Policy

However, by now it has become very obvious that the unannounced aspect of US government’s Afghanistan Policy is factually the ‘sticking aspect’ due to which the Afghanistan Peace Process is lingering on and on. That ‘sticking aspect’ is the unannounced objective of US’ ‘Establishment’ (Pentagon + CIA + US’ Military Industrial Complex) to retain US’ politico-military stranglehold over Afghanistan even after withdrawing maximum US’ troops from that country.

It is already a well-acknowledged fact that all of the announced US’ objectives of its military invasion of Afghanistan along with its allies – overthrow of Afghanistan Taliban government, destruction of Al-Quaeda elements, and capture/killing of Osama bin Laden – were not the real objectives; otherwise too all those objectives have already been achieved since long. The actual, albeit unannounced, objective of US government – so directed by US’ ‘Establishment’ – was  to establish that politico-military stranglehold on Afghanistan, which could be used by US as a ‘strategic fulcrum’ to geo-strategically dominate Iran, Pakistan, China, Central Asia, and Russia. And, the US’ ‘Establishment’ is still compelling the government of Mr. Donald Trump to retain that stranglehold in some form even in the post-US’ troops withdrawal period.

It is also worth taking a note of that US’ Establishment’s policy, all through, has been to use US’ high-tech military might to spread direct/proxy wars or military deployments, resulting in de-stabilisaion, in different parts of the world to (a) attain geopolitical/geostrategic dominance in the ‘world power play’, and (b) to fill US’ Military Industrial Complex’s coffer.

That role of US’ Military Industrial Complex is evident from certain undeniable facts, (very briefly): (a) as published by CNN’s The Point dated 17 January 2019, In 1961 the four-star General and twice US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address to US’ nation warned against ‘the military industrial complex’, urging the US nation to guard against the undue pressure or influence, whether sought or unsought, from a ‘large military industry’ with vested interest in a robust and a costly military footprint. He emphesised that there was a difference in being prepared and being in the business of war. About the Military Industrial Complex he also cautioned US’ nation that the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist (14); (b) according to the Active Duty Master File as of 31 March 2019, referred to in Wikipedia, the military of the United States is deployed in more than 150 countries around the world, with over 165,000 of its  active-duty personnel serving outside the United States and its territories (15); and (c) according to Professor Jonathon Turley of George Washington University, “While perpetual war constitutes perpetual losses for families, and ever expanding budgets, it also represents perpetual profits for a new and larger complex of business and government interests. The new military-industrial complex is fuelled by a conveniently ambiguous and unseen enemy: the terrorist. —– While few politicians are willing to admit it, we don’t just endure wars we seem to need war – at least for some people. A study showed that roughly 75 percent of the fallen in these wars come from working class families. They do not need war. They pay for the cost of war. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow each year from the public coffers to agencies and contractors who have an incentive to keep the country on war footing – and footing the bill for war. There are thousands of lobbyists in Washington to guarantee the ever-expanding budgets for war and homeland security” (16).

US President’s ‘Policy Vision’ and the ‘Policy Tussle’ with US Establishment

On the other hand, US President Mr. Donald Trump has a different ‘policy vision’. If we recollect the electoral promises/pronouncements of President Donald trump, and certain of his subsequent decisions, it becomes evident that as a matter of US’ state policy he prefers to focus only on ensuring the security of mainland US, and terminating US’ direct/proxy military wars/deployments abroad to save trillions of US dollars being spent on these and spending the thus saved finances in development projects/measures in US for the good of US’ public.     

A careful look at the ‘foreign related’ decisions taken by President Donald Trump and its subsequent implementation or non-implementation so far, it appears quite evident that US’ President and US’ Establishment are on one page only in the decisions relating to supporting Israel; but in all other decisions there is a clearly visible ‘policy/decision making tussle’ between the two. In the case of Syria, President Trump gave a categorical decision to withdraw US’ troops from that evidently ‘lost cause’; but implementation of that decision is still ‘in limbo’. In the case of North Korea, after persisting on a very threatening US’ official posture of destroying North Korea, US’ Establishment suddenly acquiesced into numb silence when US Forces Korea informed that North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong 15 with a range of nearly 13,000 km (8,000 miles) could hit any target in US’ mainland (17); though some other news mentioned it could hit at least the western part of US. It is an important point to note that it was only that evident counter-threat which compelled US’ Establishment to ‘change gear’ from an extremely threatening to a very friendly posture – to the extent of President Donald Trump meeting the North Korean leader, and subsequently even becoming the first US President to visit North Korea to meet North Korean leader on 30th of June.

In the case of Afghanistan, however, the Afghanistan Peace is still in the form of a ‘Process’ and not yet in the form of a ‘Plan’ – very obviously due to the sticking aspect of US’ Establishment’s insistence on ‘inserting’ US-planted Kabul government, as the ‘main negotiator’ with Afghanistan Taliban, in the formulation of the Peace Plan. In that context it is noteworthy that the US-planted Ashraf Ghani Kabul government has already completed its term in May this year; and has failed so far to hold the presidential election which was due in April this year – that election was postponed from April to July, then further postponed to September this year, of which too there is little hope. Factually, in its insistence to so make the current US-planted Ashraf Ghani government the ‘main negotiator’ in the Afghanistan Peace Process, US’ Establishment is actually trying cunningly to somehow enable Ashraf Ghani government to take a decisive lead role in formulating a plan for the next government, interim or through presidential election, so that US’ Establishment’s ‘stranglehold’ on the country is retained.   

US Establishment’s Hopes in the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA)

US’ Establishment may be hoping that if somehow the next government is also headed by US-planted President Ashraf Ghani, then it will be easy by US’ Establishment to retain its ‘stranglehold’ on the country under the aegis of the still existing ‘Bilateral Security Agreement’ originally formulated as ‘Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement Between The United States of America and The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’, signed by President Obama of US and President Karzai of Afghanistan on 2nd May 2012; and subsequently signed by US and Afghanistan as Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) on 30th September 2014. It is important to keep in mind that the BSA, thus signed, came into force on 01 January 2015 and is to remain in force till the end of 2024 and beyond unless terminated by either side with two years’ notice (18).    

It is, however, worth noting that page 4 of The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by President Obama, as preserved in ‘Obama White House Government Archive’, clause iii 6 mentioned “Afghanistan shall provide US forces continued access and use of Afghan facilities through 2014 and beyond as may be agreed in Bilateral Security Agreement for the purpose of combating al Quaeda and its affiliates, training the Afghan National Security Forces, and other mutually determined missions to advance shared security interests”; and in sub-paragraph iii 6 a, it was asserted “It further reaffirms that it does not seek permanent military facilities in Afghanistan, or a presence that is a threat to Afghanistan’s neighbors”(19). However, the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) ultimately signed by the two governments, clearly shows how the US’ government has already committed serious deviations/renegation from the original Partnership Agreement. One of those serious deviations is that in complete contrast of the undertaking given by the Obama government that US did not seek permanent military facilities in Afghanistan or a presence that is a threat to Afghanistan’s neighbors, “Under the BSA the United States are allowed to have bases at nine separate locations across Afghanistan. A base in Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, could also remain a launching point for armed drone missions in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan”; similarly the US’ commitment in BSA of US’ troop’s reduction to barely several hundred by end of the year 2017 has also been reneged (20).

Actualities of the US-Planted Kabul Governments   

As for Ashraf Ghani Kabul government, it does not have roots in the masses like his predecessor US-planted Hamid Karzai, who was head of Populzai tribe but subsequently became a ‘CIA contact man’. The former CIA Director George Tenet mentioned in his 2007 bestselling memoir “At the Center of the Storm” that he was the CIA contact in late 2001 for Hamid Karzai; and that once on 3 November 2001 when Hamid Karzai was attacked by opponents, George urgently and successfully arranged a (helicopter) airlift of Hamid Karzai to safe area (21). Not only that Hamid Karzai’s younger brother Ahmed Wali Karzai also subsequently was on CIA’s pay roll (22). Hamid Karzai was therefore got ‘made’ by US the Head of State in 2001, Interim President in 2002, and twice (in 2004 and 2009) President of Afghanistan – albeit through vastly fraudulent and rigged elections. Since Hamid Karzai had served the two allowed terms in that office, in 2014 US got Ashraf Ghani ‘made’ as President through almost a mockery of elections.

About these ‘managed elections’ in Afghanistan under US’ occupation, certain observations of the educated class of Afghans which highlight the truth are: (a)   the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), an independent political/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan, mentioned in its report dated 11 October 2009, “The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan acknowledged Sunday that there was “widespread fraud” in the August presidential election but refused to give specifics or lay blame to avoid influencing the ongoing recount”(23) ; (b) In a DW report published on 17 May 2019, Waheed Farzaei of the Lawyers’ Union of Afghanistan asserted, “the current Afghan government was established in 2014 as a result of a power-sharing deal between then candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah — an agreement brokered by former US Secretary of State John Kerry”.——“The establishment of the current government itself was an act against the constitution; therefore, what is happening now cannot be in line with the law” (24); and (c) the report dated 17 January 2019 by Afghanistan’s largest independent news agency Pajhwok has mentioned about the conference regarding fraud and irregularities in elections, organised by Afghanistan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) in Kabul. In that conference the participants asserted that “fraud and violations had increased with each election in Afghanistan”. And a report by Tomas Johnson, an analyst outside the AISS, was also released on the occasion. The 100-page report highlighted “the results of the 2014 presidential election were illegal; and “Any elections held after 2004 in Afghanistan were fraudulent, but the fraud in 2014 elections was so massive that both teams of Dr. Abdullah Abdullah Ashraf Ghani claimed victory” (25).

Question of Sustainability of US-made Government in Post-Withdrawal Scenario

At this juncture, the fact is also worth highlighting that in the post-US withdrawal scenario if US tries to leave behind any of its planted/managed government, which is not acceptable to Afghanistan Taliban, the survival of that government will not be possible because of the inability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to successfully resist the onslaught of Afghanistan Taliban. In that context, it has to be understood that US has made the same mistake in composing the ANSF, as was made by the Soviet Union (USSR) in composing a similar Afghan Force when it occupied Afghanistan.

Like USSR, US has also composed the ASNF with the majority of the Tajik-led anti-Pashtun group – a fact highlighted by the American news and opinion website and blog Huff Post dated 06 December 2017, “Even though former President Karzai was a Pashtun as is new President Ghani, the security apparatus (including the rank and file soldiers) is mostly staffed by the Tajiks” (26). Details are well-known as to how those USSR’s similarly financed, equipped, and trained Afghan Security Forces mostly composed of the Tajik-led anti-Pashtun group wilted, deserted or surrendered, letting Afghanistan Taliban to take over the country after USSR’s withdrawal. The US’ hugely financed, equipped, and trained ANSF reflects the same potential, despite being quite massive numerically. That well-known fact is also confirmed by Gil Barndollar, a former US Marine officer, the Director of Middle East Studies at the Center for the National Interest, and Military Fellow-in-Residence at the Catholic University of America’s Center for the Study of Statesmanship. In his article, published on 07 January 2019 by the American magazine The National Interest which is associated with the realist school of foreign policy thought, Gil Barndollar has asserted, “The Afghan military and security services, 314,000 strong on paper, are unable to defeat a Taliban force less than a fifth their size. The ANSF are also fiscally unsustainable”; and that, “The Afghan National Army (ANA) loses nearly 3 percent of its force every month to attrition—wounds, desertion, failure to re-enlist. Replacing over a third of the army every year is not sustainable” (27).

Emerging Intra Afghan Consensus, Sans US-planted Kabul Government

In view of these credible published facts, it is hard to understand as to why the US is still trying to compel the Afghanistan Taliban to accept as the ‘main negotiator’ for peace this US-planted government which is not only a non-entity in Afghanistan’s body politic but is also despised by the vast majority of Afghan masses. As for the Afghanistan Taliban, they had already shown the maximum pragmatism by accepting to meet and discuss the way out to bring peace in Afghanistan with their countrymen even before the Doha Intra-Afghan Peace Conference on 7th and 8th of this month. And in that Doha Intra-Afghan Peace Conference, they even accepted to meet those who were obviously not their supporters, even including certain government officials – albeit in their unofficial capacity – along with over 40 of the other Afghans including opposition politicians, media persons, civil society activists, and 11 ladies. Afghanistan Taliban not only unreservedly and seriously discussed and exchanged views with that delegation from Kabul for ways to bring peace to the country, but also reflected their respect for the delegation members by presenting them the gifts and additional gifts for the ladies.        

Anyone who is aware of the history and the deeply ingrained psyche of Afghans, more particularly the Pashtuns, knows it that they just do not tolerate any foreign invader, or even its semblance in the form of Invader’s planted government on their soil. They may be defeated tactically, but continue to fight generation after generation to oust the invader and its ‘puppets’. Afghanistan Talibans, along with Afghan masses, having paid huge human and material sacrifices in their generation-long struggle, have turned the tables; and now from a position of their dominating strength have compelled the invader (US and its allies) to talk directly, instead of through their puppet Kabul government, to the Afghanistan Taliban for working out US-NATO withdrawal from the country. How can Afghanistan Taliban now accept this invader’s-planted puppet government as the ‘main negotiator’? Otherwise too, the most important aspect of the uniting bond of Afghanistan Taliban is the overriding ‘cause’, i.e.  their irrepressible psychological urge to oust the invaders and any of their planted associates. Any deviation from that ‘cause’ – albeit already unthinkable – will immediately result in inner revolt and division in the rank and file of Afghanistan Taliban;and Afghanistan Talibans are not naïve enough not to recognise that trap.       

Sufferings of US’ Public and US Establishment’s ‘Last Ditch Effort’

On the US’ side, its war in Afghanistan so far has cost according to different estimates 975 billion to 1. 07 trillion US Dollars of US’ taxpayers money; and more importantly, about 2,400 US’ military personnel dead and – though many details are not made public officially by US authorities – tens of thousands wounded, maimed, suffering from brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, with many such veterans committing suicide. It was probably the lost hope of winning the war in Afghanistan and these dreading realities, which compelled US’ government last year to accept direct talks with Afghanistan Taliban to formulate the plan for US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan bringing peace in the country. However, even now probably as a ‘last ditch effort’ the US Establishment is still trying that somehow the new governmental set up in the country, including Afghanistan Taliban, is built up upon the existing framework of its planted Kabul government in a manner that the its planted Kabul government retains a leading position to safeguard US’ post-withdrawal interests in the country and the region.

It appears probable that US authorities became jittery when they realised that significant progress was being made in the Intra-Afghan Peace Conference on 7th and 8th of this month; in which, keeping the US-planted Kabul government out, Afghanistan Taliban and representatives of all other aforementioned segments of Afghanistan body politic were unreservedly putting in determined efforts to lay down a foundation of a plan for withdrawal of foreign forces and bringing peace in the country. That is why in their ‘last ditch effort’, after termination of US-Afghanistan Taliban direct talks on 9th of this month, US’ authorities immediately managed to convene on 10th and 11th of this month a meeting in China of the ‘trio’ (US, Russia, China) whose representatives had earlier met in Russia to discuss Afghanistan Peace Process. However, this time US also invited Pakistan to join as the fourth member for the discussion. According to the official document (Media Note) of US Department of State dated 12th of this month, “China, Russia, and the United States welcomed Pakistan joining the consultation and believe that Pakistan can play an important role in facilitating peace in Afghanistan”; and, notably, this document again reflected the emphasis on ‘inserting’ the US-planted Kabul government in the Intra Afghan negotiations (28).        

And yet again, during his meeting in Washington on 22nd of this month with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, US President Donald Trump asked for Pakistan’s assistance in applying Pakistan’s influence on Afghanistan Taliban for resolving this issue.

Final Comments

However, from all angles of logic this ‘last ditch effort’ of US is not much likely to succeed. The reasons relating to Afghanistan Taliban have already been explained. In the case of Pakistan too, any attempt by Pakistan to convince Afghanistan Taliban to accept this ‘last ditch effort’ of US is least likely to succeed. There are very obvious reasons for that: (a) there is no sanctuary of Afghanistan Taliban in Pakistan since last so many years; hence, Pakistan does not have any real influence on Afghanistan Taliban; (b) Afghanistan Taliban, like other Afghans, are born ‘independent minded’ – they cannot be taken for granted to be receptive to suggestions; even when Pakistan’s influence on them was on the peak of its height, Afghanistan Taliban had refused Pakistan’s request to save from destruction the millenniums-old statues of Mahatma Budha engraved in the mountains of a valley of Afghanistan; and (c) about a month earlier, when representatives of Afghanistan Taliban planned to come to Pakistan and meet Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss Afghanistan Peace Process, it was the same US-planted Kabul government which did not allow those representatives to travel to Pakistan.    

In view of all these evident realities it is quite apparent that any furtherance of US’ Establishment’s designs to retain its politico-military stranglehold on Afghanistan through its ‘government management’ efforts in that country is most likely to get US mired into an ugly situation, which may as well ultimately entail a rather ungraceful US’ exit from Afghanistan. Prudence requires that US’ Establishment’s ‘policy vision’ be dropped and US President Donald Trump’s ‘policy vision’ be adopted without delay. US should focus only on attaining the financial/geo-economic gains from Afghanistan, dropping the clearly unattainable geostrategic/geopolitical objectives of US’ Establishment.

In that context the most significant silver lining has already been reflected by Afghanistan Taliban by allowing certain government officials to participate in the Intra Afghan Peace Conference with only one condition that they do so in their unofficial capacity. And, all other segments of Afghanistan body politic have also happily participated in the Conference to find a way out to bring peace in the country. Besides that, there were certainly the indications of hope for solving this complex problem. The only Afghan persons who are opposed to this much needed and welcome Intra Afghan Peace effort are the Head of the US-planted Kabul government and his associates, obviously due to their own vested interest.

This is the much valuable opportunity which US should cash. US should drop the demand that US-planted Kabul government be allowed to participate in the Intra Afghan Peace Conference in the capacity of ‘The Government’. Those of the persons of that government who want to stick to their official capacity should be left out – there wouldn’t be many in any case. A feasible number of government persons, who are suitable for such serious discussion may be allowed in their unofficial capacity to participate in further rounds of that Intra Afghan Peace Conference. And, US authorities should facilitate those further rounds of the Conference, allowing Afghans to decide amongst themselves what sort of next government they want, and when should the US/NATO military exit from the country, etc. Significantly, it is in such efforts that Pakistan’s remaining influence on Afghanistan Taliban can also provide required support.

It is certain that if US authorities facilitate such formation of a purely ‘Afghans-made’ government, that new Afghanistan government will certainly be much favourable to grant economic/development projects, like mining of the enormous mineral wealth of the country, etc to the US government. Such projects are the dire need of Afghanistan on the one hand, and on the other hand these will also be gainful to US in terms of economic benefits, job creation, etc. Now it is up to the US government to decide whether to adopt this policy decision and draw economic benefits for the good of US’ public; or to continue spending US Dollar 45 billion per year on their war effort in Afghanistan as per Pentagon estimate (29), while also receiving hundreds of dead bodies, wounded, maimed, PTSD suffering Americans from Afghanistan.  

This article was published at http://ahsankhanreviews.com/analysis/afghanistan-peace-process/

References

(1).https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/04/world/asia/afghanistan-taliban-russia-talks-russia.html
(2).https://www.rferl.org/a/us-russia-china-call-for-inclusive-afghan-peace-process/29906452.html
(3). https://www.ft.com/content/66b0906a-993d-11e8-9702-5946bae86e6d
(4).https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3015405/china-hosts-taliban-delegation-discuss-afghan-peace-process
(5). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghanistan_Analysts_Network
(6).

(Hereinafter cited as AAN report of 11 July 2019).
(7).ibid.
(8). Ibid.
(9).https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/hopes-for-cease-fire-after-the-doha-intra-afghan-dialogue/30056844.html
(10). AAN report of 11 July 2019. op.cit.
(12). https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/02/middleeast/36-hours-with-the-taliban-intl/
(13). https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/05/18/why-afghanistans-government-is-losing-the-war-with-the-taliban
(14).https://edition.cnn.com/2019/01/17/politics/tbt-eisenhower-military-industrial-complex-farewell-address/index.html
(15). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_deployments
(16).https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/01/big-money-behind-war-military-industrial-complex-20141473026736533.html
(17).https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/07/11/asia-pacific/u-s-forces-korea-acknowledges-north-korean-icbm-can-hit-anywhere-united-states/#.XTP2wI5Kjcs
(18).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S.%E2%80%93Afghanistan_Strategic_Partnership_Agreement#Approval_of_bilateral_security_agreement (hereinafter cited as US-Afghanistan Agreement)
(19).https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/2012.06.01u.s.-afghanistanspasignedtext.pdf
(20). US-Afghanistan Agreement op.cit.
(21).https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ct-cia-spy-saved-hamid-karzai-20170918-story.html
(22). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/28/ahmed-wali-karzai-cia
(23). http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/rawanews.php?id=1264
(24). https://www.dw.com/en/ashraf-ghani-likely-to-stay-on-as-afghan-president-after-term-ends/a-48776439-0
(25).https://www.pajhwok.com/en/2019/01/17/%E2%80%98fraud-increased-each-election-afghanistan%E2%80%99
(26).https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-afghan-ethnotribal-ar_b_7622894?guccounter=1&guce_referrer
(27).https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/there-no-military-victory-afghanistan-40892
(28). https://www.state.gov/four-party-joint-statement-on-afghan-peace-process/
(29).https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2018/02/07/pentagon-afghan-war-costing-us-45-billion-per-year/



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Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan

Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan is a retired officer of Pakistan Army, a war veteran, a post-retirement PhD relating to Afghanistan from University of Peshawar, lectured in social sciences in the universities of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi for about 11 years, and a published freelance research analyst.

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