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War on Terror (13 May 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



The Longest Of the American Wars Compelled the USA Leadership to Talk To Their Bête Noir, the Taliban


By M Alam Brohi

MAY 13, 2019

The initiation of Afghan peace talks was received with a sigh of relief by all peace loving nations. The Afghan war is well in the 18th year and, all these years, has exacted onerous sacrifices from the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the USA in blood and treasure without making any headway towards a military solution. The longest of the American wars, it compelled the USA leadership to talk to their bête noir, the Taliban. The need for a negotiated resolution of the Afghanistan conundrum was also felt by President Barak Obama after the failure of his ‘troop surge’ but he wanted to bulldoze a settlement on the USA terms.

The candidate Donald Trump shared the disgust of his predecessor about the US involvement in the unnecessary wars of the Middle East and the protracted conflict in Afghanistan. When faced with the reality of statecraft and the pragmatic conduct of state affairs, President Trump settled down on giving a chance to his sluggishly evolved policy on conflicts in Asia known as ‘maximum pressure and inducement”, and wedded to military arrogance and financial power to surmount the uphill task of intimidating or luring the recalcitrant states and militant groups.

The sharp edge of this policy was borne by Pyongyang and Islamabad. Pakistan had to bear the brunt of this bullish, mendacious and intimidating policy. In every other tweet, Mr. Trump was bragging Pakistan would gain enormous benefits from any cooperation with the USA in counterterrorism, and would lose much more by failing to do so. The pleadings of Pakistan – slightly diverging in emphasis or on modus operandi with Washington – unfailingly increased the irritation of the US leaders with bilateral relations progressively plunging into the lowest ebb.

The way the USA envoy Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzade and the senior officials of the State Department have been vigorously pursuing the peace process indicates President Donald Trump earnestly wants to settle the Afghanistan conundrum before he goes into election mode for his second term

Pakistani leadership should learn a lesson from the somersault taken by Donald Trump in the Hanoi Summit if they harbour high hopes that as a quid pro que of help in Afghan peace talks, the US leaders will restore bilateral relations to the previous high pedestal. It will be fair and good if this happens before the peace agreement. The importance of Pakistan will not be as much crucial in the post settlement period for the USA.

What Pakistan needs to do is to clearly sketch out its core interests in Afghanistan. What we want to have in our neighborhood is an Afghanistan in peace with itself and its neighbours, a state with a responsible, if not friendly, government which would not allow its territory to be used for subversion in Pakistan. Pakistan’s concern for economic connectivity is in sync with the region’s interests. We can access Central Asia through Peshawar to Uzbekistan or Wakhan to Tajikistan corridors or the long route from Northern Areas to Kashghar and Naryn, the border town of Kyrgyzstan.

We should clearly elaborate our concerns on all these issues along with our reservations over any role being contemplated for India in Afghanistan after the pullout of the foreign forces. The Americans should pull out step by step and leave behind a stabilizing force to avoid mayhem of 1990s. The internecine fighting in those years killed more Afghans than the deaths caused by the war with the Soviet Army. We need to work on the Taliban to acquiesce in the imperative need for a stabilizing foreign force.

The regional countries including China, Russia and Saudi Arabia and Gulf States have been appreciative of Pakistan’s contribution to the peace talks. The Ashraf Ghani regime has its own political compulsions to look askance at the role of Pakistan. However, after the failure of the grand loya Jirga called by him in Kabul last week, boycotted by his own Chief Executive and Hamid Karzai, President Ashraf Ghani has come down to realizing the vitally important role of Pakistan in the peace deal, and contacted Pakistani leadership for consultations.

India’s dislike of Taliban is no secret. Its trepidations over the Taliban’s role in the future political dispensation in Afghanistan that the peace deal will shape and legitimize are understandable. Iran is beset with a grave situation with all the economic sanctions slapped on it freshly, and the intensifying hostility of the USA, Israel and some Arab brothers. We could not logically expect Iran to play any meaningful role in the peace process.

It seems the six rounds of talks in Doha have gone forth and back on the moot questions of withdrawal of foreign troops and ceasefire. The Presidential elections in Afghanistan have been postponed to September apparently on the insistence of Taliban. Many important issues such as the role of the Kabul regime in the future administration; the share of Taliban in power and the merger of Taliban militia in the country’s security forces and their role in the anti-terrorism war remain to be thrashed out before a peace deal is concluded.

The process is slow and sluggish for a number of reasons. The 18-year long war has been a motivation for many countries to develop political and strategic interests in Afghanistan. The warlords patronized by the USA and the successive regimes in Kabul would want the continuation of the war. Taliban also have been moving cautiously towards a final peace deal trying to strengthen their strategic position on the ground by expanding the territory under their control in the belief that this will enhance their bargaining power.

The way the USA envoy Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzade and the senior officials of the State Department have been vigorously pursuing the peace process indicates President Donald Trump earnestly wants to settle the Afghanistan conundrum before he goes into election mode for his second term. But this should not delude Taliban that the US leader has already lost his patience and could abruptly pull out of Afghanistan. Any such wrong calculation will be fraught with damaging consequences for the peace process. Pakistan should also beware of such miscalculations. A superpower is like a mad elephant and could go on rampage at the slightest provocation.

M Alam Brohi was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/393162/the-slow-and-sluggish-afghan-peace-talks/

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/war-on-terror/m-alam-brohi/the-longest-of-the-american-wars-compelled-the-usa-leadership-to-talk-to-their-bête-noir,-the-taliban/d/118572





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