Prospects of Afghan peace process
Posted by Faheem Belharvi
The resolve of Pakistani and Afghan leadership to bring peace in the insurgency-torn country is a significant step forward. Earlier, the peace prospects looked bleak in view of extreme positions taken by the US and the Taliban. The US had been insisting that Taliban should renounce violence, abandon Al Qaeda and abide by the Constitution.
On the other hand, the Taliban had precluded the possibility of negotiating peace until all foreign forces leave Afghanistan. However, the Taliban representatives attended the three-day Paris conference on the future of Afghanistan that ended on 22nd December 2012. Despite the fact, the Taliban had, in the past, refused to sit down with President Karzai, who they said was American puppet; their representatives, nevertheless, talked to representatives of the Karzai government. The US and the Afghan government have reportedly agreed to amend the Constitution, though its finer nuances are yet to be discussed.
One can only hope that the spillover of the Afghan war into Pakistan will end with the settlement of the governance formula in Paris and Kabul. Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah has stated: “We have held meeting and are holding meetings with Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras who are not part of Karzai’s regime”. Many people were not aware of the fact that during the Taliban era, some Uzbeks and Hazaras Taliban also were part of the government. Taliban sources also say that Pakistan has given its blessings to the outreach. In fact, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership are on the same page, as peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan. Though belatedly, Pakistan is reportedly taking steps to make peace with the former Northern Alliance, and it will bode well for the future relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It could also limit India’s influence in the next Afghan government.
Though it is premature to predict the outcome of the peace efforts and overtures, there seems to be a change in America’s stance, which in the first place is wary of ‘insider’ attacks that killed American and NATO soldiers. This new phenomenon has prompted the Europeans and Americans to pressurize their governments to call a day. Afghan and Pakistani leadership has also realized that the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered death and destruction for the last three decades. First, when the Soviet forces landed in Afghanistan in 1979 and the US and the West planned the overt and covert operation against them.
Secondly, in a civil war -the war between the Jihadi organizations, and now once again the people are the victims of the war on terror. Last year, efforts were made to bring the belligerents to the negotiating table but America did not let President Hamid Karzai talk to the Taliban, arguably to first weaken the militants so that it could talk from the position of strength.
In the aftermath of 9/11 deadly coordinated attack involving multiple hijacked aircraft and deliberately crashing into the World Trade Centre’s twin-towers in New York and Pentagon, a large portion of the nation’s economic infrastructure had come to a standstill, and even today its economy is in dire straits. Pakistan is also suffering from terrorism since it joined hands with the US during the Afghan Jihad in 1980s, when the US and the West had through propaganda persuaded more than 100000 Jihadis from all over the world to come to Pakistan to wage Jihad against ‘infidels’. And once Soviet troops withdrew, restrictions under Pressler Amendment were imposed, as the American president had stopped certifying that Pakistan was not enriching uranium to make nuclear device. Even now when Pakistan is a front line state in the war on terror, an overwhelming role was given to India in reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The US should not forget the point that without giving the majority Pashtuns the due share in power, there would be no peace in the foreseeable future. If history is any guide, nobody should make long term plans to stay in Afghanistan. It is true that contradictions have existed between Pushtuns and Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks for centuries, but barring a few exceptions in the past they stayed together and put up a joint resistance whenever aliens invaded Afghanistan. But this time round if Northern alliance and the Taliban do not reach an agreement about share in power after the US and NATO forces withdraw, there would be a bloody battle rather civil war because on one side Afghan army mainly comprising Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and a pinch of Pushtuns armed with sophisticated weapons, and on the other side war-hardened Taliban fighters, who could not be decimated by the US, NATO and Afghan forces.
If peace efforts fail, there would be a civil war that could lead to disintegration of Afghanistan, and more regional players jumping into the fray to secure their positions. These fears besides, there are indications that sincere efforts are being made to achieve peace in Afghanistan. Reuters reported: “On December 7, General Kayani hammered home his determination to support a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan at a meeting of top commanders at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi”. But there are some concocted stories in Reuters’ report e.g. when it quoted a military commander in Wana having said: “There was a time when we used to think we were the masters of Afghanistan.
Now we just want them to be their own masters so that we can concentrate on our own problems”. In the past, some defence analysts or planners looked for Pakistan’s strategic depth in Iran and Afghanistan. But the present military leadership has never harbored such desires.
In fact, Pakistan’s present military leadership is harvesting what the previous civil and military leadership had sown vis-a-vis by entering into the defence pacts with the West in 1950s; then becoming the frontline state after Soviet forces had landed in Afghanistan in 1979; and then joining the War on Terror in 2001. Having that said, there is a perception that despite the rhetoric of drawdown, the US is not inclined to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and is making plans to remain in the region with potent military presence to check influence of China and Russia. The success of the Afghan government’s initiative of complete transition of security responsibilities from NATO to Afghan Security forces by 2014 is doomed to failure, unless the policies are made to win the hearts and minds of majority of the Afghans.