By Shaikh Moazzam Khan
Afghanistan is witnessing one of the critical phase of its history after the start of intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar’s capital Doha. International community is focused on these talks and waiting for the outcome. United States is pushing both parties to conclude their talks with positive conclusion. Despite the talks in Doha, the Taliban are not reducing violence and infect escalated attacks against Afghan security forces in different provinces of the country. Afghan politicians are worried about the development in peace talks amid terrorist attacks by the Taliban. Some of Afghan leaders have even questioned the efficacy of peace talks due to rising attacks. The Taliban has made it clear that ending Afghan conflict will take more time as it is decades old and cannot be sorted out in weeks or days.
Since the start of peace talks in Doha between Afghan negotiators and Taliban, the number of attacks against Afghan security forces and civilians have risen to dangerous level. The United Nation, United States and all other parties who are directly and indirectly involved in the peace process have cautioned both sides regarding the outcome of dialogues. Before the commencement of peace talks, Afghan government has fulfilled all the pre-commitments of the Taliban in which they insurgent group demanded the release of 5000 prisoner including some hardcore commanders.
Initially, talks were delayed due to the technical issues in the release of the Taliban prisoner. Some countries such as France and Australia showed reservations regarding the release of those Taliban commanders who were involved in the attacks against their nationals in Afghanistan. Despite their concerns and reservations, Afghan government decided to release those hardcore prisoners. The United States welcomed the move and called it a positive step towards the commencement of intra-Afghan peace talks.
Now with all their demands fulfilled by the Afghan government, the onus is on Taliban for the success of peace talks. They must seize this opportunity and get the deal of peace signed as soon as possible. Afghan government must have to abide by the commitments which were given in the US-Taliban deal in earlier this year. Taliban, on their part, should reduce the level of violence and attacks in the country especially against civilians. There is an observations that there will be many delicate and complex issues — from the nature and scope of a power-sharing deal to the issue of women’s rights and reintegration of former Taliban fighters into Afghan society — that are likely to take years, not months, to negotiate. Experts of Afghan affairs and peace talks says that the intra-Afghan talks will be a lengthy, complicated affair, and there will be a lot of impediments to overcome for both sides.
Pakistan’s role in all this situation is pivotal as the United States is pushing for more proactive role of Islamabad in Afghanistan by ignoring India. The establishment in New Delhi is not happy with the American approach towards Islamabad on the issue of peace talks in Afghanistan. President Trump occasionally pushed for Pakistan’s support after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan later this year. Pakistan is using its bonding with the Taliban and played leading role in the start of intra-Afghan talks. Afghan leaders have visited Pakistan recently to have conversation with Pakistani leadership on the future of peace process.
One thing which I must say here that international community should watch the peace process and identify spoilers such as India. The Indian establishment as I said earlier will try it’s hard to spoil the outcome of intra-Afghan talks as it is not happy with the increasing Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan. Indian establishment will try to use Northern Alliance against Pakistan and intra-Afghan talks by creating misunderstandings. US and other states must take notice of this Indian move as it is likely to derail the process of peace in the country. Pakistan has already done its part for bringing peace in Afghanistan. Peace is Afghanistan is in the interests of entire world not only Pakistan. So, therefore, it is the collective responsibility of all states to remain active on the issue. They should also acknowledge Pakistani efforts in the peace talks.
For Kabul, the hope is to have a deal in which the Taliban holds only some power, within a democratic system. The truth of the matter is that Kabul has paid insufficient attention to the intended political endgame. There’s been so much focus on getting talks to start, that there hasn’t been enough on what’s needed to ensure they succeed and what to push for in a peace deal.