The Future of Afghan Peace Talks By Hamzah Taoqeer

The hopes of establishing peace and putting an end to the four-decade-old conflict in Afghanistan have shattered once again. US President Donald Trump during a recent tweet stated that he had called off a secret talks between the Kabul regime and the Taliban at Camp David which were scheduled for Sunday, September 8, in the wake of extensive guerrilla offensives against the Afghan National Army and NATO across Afghanistan. His statement further indicated that the Afghan peace talks between the USA and the Taliban had reached a stalemate and the deployment of US troops had been further increased for extended time period. The US-led Afghan peace talks had entered their final phase and had covered extensive ground, including the terms for withdrawal were established. The USA agreed to exfiltrate over 5,000 out of 13,000 US troops from five US bases in Afghanistan by early 2020 in return of the Taliban’s assurance of the survival of the Kabul regime and of providing assistance to Afghan and NATO forces in countering the Islamic State ISKP and Al-Qaeda’s presence in the Afghanistan region. All this was agreed after nine rounds of table talks headed by US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
The statement by the US President came at a time when Afghanistan, China and Pakistan had carried out a joint trilateral foreign ministerial level dialogue for peace and counter-terror in Afghanistan in Islamabad on the eve of September 7, thus, undermining the peace efforts carried out by China and Pakistan and further jeopardizing the Chinese investment for development in the region. With the upcoming US Presidential Elections of 2020, Trump had aligned his exit strategy from Afghanistan as a success for his presidential campaign at one end. While Trump’s intentions were contrary to the plans of the Pentagon and the Ex-CIA Director and incumbent Secretary of the State Mike Pompeo who refused to sign the deal process which would legitimize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a political entity and shown apprehension about withdrawal of troops from the region as after signing of the deal. The Kabul regime had lacked representation during the peace talks, and also fear that the deal also lacks certainty and any assurance mechanisms that binds either the USA or the Islamic Emirate from going back on their commitments.
The stalemate of the Afghan peace talks would also have an effect on the economic and security dynamics of the South Asian region. The instability in the region would impact Pakistan as its tribal belt and border regions of Baluchistan would remain permeable to cross-border terror threats. The link which has been drawn between the Afghan peace process and turmoil in Kashmir would advantage India as Pakistan would be forced to remain engaged at both eastern and western fronts militarily. The Kabul regime’s and New Delhi’s interests in breeding the proxies in Afghanistan against Pakistan have gained extension under the US aegis for an extended time period
The recent statement by Trump has changed the strategic dynamics in the region not only for the Afghan Taliban but also other major key-players including China, Russia, Pakistan and India. In this instance the high ground achieved by Taliban during current talks has also became futile while the Kabul regime would enjoy the protection of the NATO troops for an extended time period. In response it is evident that Taliban would further intensify their offensive against the Kabul regime, termed as “Al-Fateh”, and the peace in the region would deteriorate, impacting the lives of the ordinary Afghan people. The stalemate of the Afghan peace talks would also have an effect on the economic and security dynamics of the South Asian region. The instability in the region would impact Pakistan as its tribal belt and border regions of Baluchistan would remain permeable to cross-border terror threats. The link which has been drawn between the Afghan peace process and turmoil in Kashmir would advantage India as Pakistan would be forced to remain engaged at both eastern and western fronts militarily. The Kabul regime’s and New Delhi’s interests in breeding the proxies in Afghanistan against Pakistan have gained extension under the US aegis for an extended time period.
Options for Pakistan include to reinstate the Pakistan-led peace efforts including Afghan Taliban, China and Russia which emphasized that the Afghan peace process must be “Afghan-Led” and “Afghan-Owned.” The peace in the region is directly linked with a comprehensive peace deal which takes into consideration the interests of the regional key players including Pakistan, China, Russia in the wake of complete US withdrawal from the region.
Source: https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/09/11/the-future-of-afghan-peace-talks/

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