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Afghan Peace Talks – Opportunities and Constraints

Afghan-Peace-Talks

Since his inauguration as the President of Afghanistan, Dr Ashraf Ghani has been committed to putting Afghanistan on the path that could help create peace and stability in Afghanistan. During his recent visit to the United States, one of his major objectives was to garner US support for peace talks with Taliban. The support of Pakistan and China and their efforts to bring Taliban and the Afghan government to the negotiating table have been instrumental in this regard. This may help not only in bringing Afghan insurgent groups into the mainstream politics, but will also provide the Afghan government with a space to expedite its efforts to overcome the labyrinthine security problems in the country.

When President Ghani asked for the US support for the peace talks, the US reciprocated his call by putting three conditions which be considered while making an agreement with the Taliban, which are: First, the Taliban should cut off their relations with Al-Qaeda. Second, the Taliban should stop anti-US and anti-state activities in Afghanistan; and third, women and minorities should be protected and human rights should be guarded.

It is important to note here that the ground there is more likelihood that this reconciliatory process will succeed because of the following factors:

Afghan-Peace-Talks-1

  1. The US exit — albeit incomplete — has injected pep in the process that erstwhile has been dodgy owing to the presence of the US and coalition forces on the Afghan soil. During karazi-era, the Taliban have been consistently demanding that the exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
  2. The all-out efforts and realistic approach on the part of President Ghani have been a key factor that readied Taliban for the talks with the Afghan government. The ground realities demand that there is a dire need for a multi-ethnic broad-based government in Afghanistan. For this purpose, the Afghan government has offered to appoint Taliban-supported governors in three southern provinces: Helmand, Nimruz and Kandahar.
  3. Pakistan’s backing of the Afghan peace process is also a crucial factor. Recently, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security, Sartaj Aziz was reported saying, “We are playing the role of facilitator and are persuading the groups which are in contact with us”. This statement evinces that Pakistan fully supports the peace talks and for this purpose, it is also making behind-the-scene contacts with the Taliban leadership.
    Here a question may arise that why Pakistan is so interested in these peace talks?
    In fact, the internal security situation of Pakistan is so grim that it cannot bear any further presence of extremists in the region. The strategic depth doctrine and treating Taliban as a strategic asset to Pakistan is not valid anymore. In addition, Afghanistan’s realistic approach — especially her policy to create a balance in relations with its neighbours — has made Pakistan reorientate its policy and to choose a conciliatory approach for bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan ergo Pakistan.
  4. Practical steps that Pakistan has taken against extremism and terrorism have instilled a sense of fear and dread in the extremists and militants. Furthermore, Pakistan is no more willing to tolerate these elements within its territory, especially the tribal areas. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has not only dismantled the terrorists from North Waziristan but has also expressed Islamabad’s strong commitment to the cause of elimination of terrorism from Pakistani soil. Moreover, Afghan forces are also increasingly getting capable of coping with the anti-state elements. These factors have also played a vital role in the initiation of Afghan peace talks.
  5. China’s efforts, too, cannot be ignored at all. China, traditionally, has remained absolutely neutral regarding Afghanistan affairs. But, it does also have its own interests in Afghanistan’s peace and stability — China is up to pursuing its economic interests as well as countering the insurgency in Xinjiang.

Afghan-Peace-Talks-2Additionally, for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), peace in the region is imperative and China would try to achieve at any cost. Hence, China will play every possible role for the success of the peace talks.

Despite these favourable conditions, there are some factors which may impede the whole process. First of all, the demand of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is still unmet. In this context, some sources say that Taliban’s leadership is wary of this and the presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil beyond 2014 could lead to an impasse.

Secondly, prior to the talks, the Taliban would surely ask for some guarantors. There will also be a demand of immunity from prosecution. However, if both the parties reach a consensus, the other groups, like Hizb-e-Islami, would try to spoil this process for being left out of these peace talks.

On the other hand, India, whose influence in Afghanistan is diminishing since Presidnet Ghani took over, would also create hurdles. Because, if the talks succeed, Taliban — considered close to Pakistan by India — would join the mainstream politics. Indians dread wven the thought of such a scenario.

When the US invaded Afghanistan, it seemed determined to exterminate Taliban from Afghanistan, and establish a new political structure. But it is still an unfulfilled dream. The mighty US military prowess seems minion before the hardened Taliban. At present, China and Pakistan — instead of US and its Western allies — play a major role making the process peace talks meaningful.

At present, the success of peace talks hinges on the Afghan government’s efforts whish should be reciprocated by the Taliban. Peace and stability is fundamental to the survival of Afghanistan as one unit and to stability in the whole region that has been restive since long.

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