tactfully used the centennial of Moscow-Kabul diplomatic relations to bargain
peace with the Taliban. In the name of this moot, Kremlin has hosted the
Taliban for informal peace talks with warring Afghan factions. The event has
been used also to send a clear message to Washington that peace can only be
achieved if complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is ensured.
takes it as an exception. After all, Washington hasn’t spent billions of
dollars and fought for eighteen years just to admit defeat and quit. At
maximum, it can phase out, keeping a couple of thousand troops and experts
around. A total recall is more than day dreaming.
The lack of
progress on this very timeline has put the spotlight on the Taliban. The
movement had nothing to lose even if there were no talks. Yet, the chronic
issue has suspiciously lingered on so long that the Taliban are finding one
supportive platform after another.
displeasure of the US, Russia has hosted them three times in the last seven
months and many other countries are also offering their good offices. Little
doubt that Moscow offers more hospitable environment for obvious reasons. The
resistance force has got assurances that their political interests will be
respected as long as they will not harm Russia.
month, Moscow spread the table for Mullah Baradar and his 14-member delegation.
The co-founder of the movement met senior Afghan leaders and candidates who
challenge President Ghani. As expected, the Taliban didn’t accept even a
temporary ceasefire for Eid and vowed ‘to continue fighting till the occupying
force exit their land’.
this moot has further pushed Washington to the back benches. Back in April, a
similar grand meeting arranged for the very purpose in Qatar could not
materialize. Even the sixth round of exclusive US-Taliban talks didn’t conclude
in an agreement.
Was it a
mistake that Washington relied too much on the Taliban at the expense of Kabul?
Or has side-lining the Afghan government backfired? At least, keeping Kabul in
the dark about parleys with the Taliban has added fuel to the fire. The Ghani
government feels divorced internationally. The three-time postponement of the
presidential elections has also waned their legitimacy at home. Ghani is now
awarding expired ministries to supporters in the futile hope that it will help
his re-election bid, even though he knows the chances of such elections are
scenario is further advantageous to the Taliban who have ditched every
international effort to enter talks with the outgoing regime. Now, they are the
only force that has the capability to dictate terms in the conflict-riven
country. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)
had admitted back in January that districts under government control or
influence remain at 53.8 percent while others lie under Taliban. Now, it is
contentious how much of Afghanistan has further fallen under militants as the
US is no more tracking the insurgency’s district level status. The prime
concern for Washington is to find a strategy that can conclude the war.
To hit the
target, the US is pleasing the Taliban to an extent that even Ghani’s close
associates are accusing Khalilzad of conspiring to become the viceroy of
Afghanistan. The fact is that the Kabul regime doesn’t realize that they have
failed to deliver just like their predecessor Hamid Karzai who is now playing
for the other side.
international front, Zalmay Khalilzad has sought help from even those who are
blamed for undercutting US gains.
has somewhat realized that, without accommodating regional countries, stability
will remain a distant possibility. Here, the success in finding a common
solution depends on how far the US can address the concerns of Russia and
special representative made a good beginning by visiting Moscow to meet his
Sino-Russian counterparts. But when it comes to making a final decision on
withdrawal, Khalilzad has his own limits. It’s high time he hosted a
representative meeting of Afghan factions that is long overdue and cements the
pathway to peace. Later, summit-level talks should seal the deal.
Trump has already hinted that he wants a troop withdrawal by 2020. Eighteen
years of war has cost his country the deaths of almost 6000 personnel. Due to
many good reasons, it’s still less than half the number that the Soviets lost
from 1979-89. The number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan also stands at ten
percent of the causalities this unfortunate country suffered at the hands of
years, the US also doled out almost $125 billion for Afghanistan
reconstruction. Sixty-five percent of that amount was earmarked to build a
309,000-member Afghan army. Yet, the so called ANDSF is unable to face off the
Taliban whose number stands at one-fourth. As a result, the country is
witnessing roughly 50 deaths per day.
supports the Taliban is no more a question. Even if the so-called indispensable
peace-broker, Russia, is among the ones arming them, it hardly matters.
the foundation of a sustainable peace process is being laid, a peace that has
different connotations for different countries. Cash-starved Pakistan has its
own priorities but its manoeuvring capabilities are increasingly getting
limited for seeking economic bailout.
against Iran has posed a new challenge. Some countries take it as an opportunity
while others fear the long-term consequences of the fallout. In any case, the
victor of the situation remains the Taliban as they have some active presence
in the ungoverned country’s border provinces with Iran.
significant that even the Taliban are expecting to reach sustainable peace. For
them, the P of ‘peace’ stands for the pull out of foreign troops. The
resistance force is convinced that it can deal with any eventuality later.
the Taliban three times, Russia has gotten its reservations about the future
addressed. It’s time for the US to make the deal before it’s too late to have a
Nasim Haider is a senior journalistassociated
with Geo News.
Source: The News