Afghan peace dialogue
A high-powered US delegation had a detailed meeting with the COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and other officials including foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani and discussed Afghan peace dialogue. Pakistan and the United States reiterated their commitment to take the ongoing Afghan reconciliation process forward through meaningful dialogue and by addressing concerns of all major stakeholders, including the Taliban.
The two sides were deeply concerned about what they called unpredictable nature of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who in the past has been unnecessarily criticizing US and Pakistan. In February 2013, President Asif Zardari, President Hamid Karzai and British Prime Minister David Cameron had supported the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar for negotiations with them. But the Taliban has not changed their stance that they consider the Karzai regime as mere puppet of the western powers and worth not talking with. It is the United States they hold as the real power in Kabul that should be engaged with for a peace settlement in Afghanistan.
President Karzai on the other hand is suspicious of the western powers that they want to keep him out of the peace settlement process. At the London moot he may have only reluctantly lent his support to the opening of a Taliban Doha office, which he has been opposing tooth and nail.
There is yet another cleavage that apparently stays out of the world’s view. It is the opposition of the Northern Alliance conglomerate to any Taliban presence in an Afghan government after the withdrawal of the occupation armies, which its leaders said publicly. They would accept some compromised Pakhtuns who have made fortunes out of the occupation to give a wider national character to a post-withdrawal regime, but they would not accept the Taliban in any event. Realizing the ground realities, the Taliban however had made overtures to accommodate their opponents in any settlement. In his message on last Eid, Mullah Omer had stated that the Taliban did not intend to monopolize power in post-withdrawal Afghanistan, thus opening up a window on possible rendezvous with the Northern alliance entities.
Perhaps the biggest problem seems to be the utter chaos in the ranks of the occupiers themselves on how to go about with the peace process. Despite 11 years of occupation, they seem to have learnt no lessons and remain as ignored and uninformed of the Afghan realities as they were when they blindly descended on Afghanistan. Disparate characters are involved in the Afghan peace process and disparate agendas and approaches are being pursued.
The NATO hierarchy is in it; so is Britain and Turkey; so is Japan and lately France has also jumped in. Given these conditions, the goal of peace settlement may not be achievable in the near future. The real answer to the Afghan problem is the grand national reconciliation, which cannot be achieved if the US continues to monopolize the process, especially when Pakhtuns, Hamid Karzai and even Pakistan do not trust it. Nevertheless, durable peace can be achieved if countries of the region bordering Afghanistan i.e. China, Russia and Iran play their role in promoting Afghan peace dialogue.
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that he would host a meeting of top Afghan and Pakistani officials this week in Brussels to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban and other issues. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his defense minister, along with Pakistan’s military chief and foreign secretary, will attend the meeting, Kerry said. “I will be meeting with President Karzai and General (Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani and the civilian foreign minister from Pakistan while I am here,” Kerry told reporters. He was mistaken when he said that foreign civilian minister, as Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jillani is visiting Brussels with COAS General Kayani. Anyhow, Kerry said the goal was to advance the peace process in the simplest most, most cooperative, most cogent way so that we wind up with both Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s interests being satisfied but most importantly with a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, which is worth the expenditure and the treasure and effort of these last years.”
Karzai has repeatedly said that any reconciliation cannot take place without the involvement of Pakistan, whose security services have close ties to the Taliban. Earlier this month, Afghanistan had accused Pakistan of placing unacceptable conditions on efforts to bring peace to the country after nearly 12 years of war, the latest in a series of barbed exchanges that has sunk relations between the two neighbors to a new low.
Afghanistan and its international backers consider Pakistan a critical player in bringing the Taliban and other militant groups into peace talks.
The Afghan side was less supportive of Pakistan’s role so far, with a Karzai spokesman noting that the Pakistanis have taken no practical steps yet. “As you know there have been many talks and negotiations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I must say unless Pakistan does not act honestly and take practical steps to what they are saying, it will be very difficult to have any progress in the peace process or fight against terrorism and extremism”, Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said.Last month, addressing a ceremony on the occasion of International Women Day in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said the Taliban were holding talks with the US in Europe and the Gulf but were conducting blasts in Kabul and Khost. At the same time, he said that the Taliban were not his enemy, and that the people of Afghanistan had been tortured in the name of Taliban.
It is difficult to make sense of his confused outpourings. President Karzai appears to be sour for being kept of the loop; he had expected to be at the centre of peace talks and lead the negotiations. As a result of Karzai’s remarks, a joint press conference of President Hamid Karzai and US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel was cancelled. In September 2012 President Karzai had stated: ‘the US-led war on terror has not been fought the way it should have been and has brought only misfortune and grief to Afghanistan’. If President Karzai wants peace in Afghanistan, he should stop scathing criticism of Pakistan and his benefactor America.(Mohammad Jamil)