Any sincere movement towards ending the long, ugly Afghan war is readily appreciated – and indeed it seems that the Americans and the Taliban have all but hammered out a ceasefire deal – but all parties, Pakistan included, must be careful lest we celebrate prematurely. America and the insurgents making peace is all very fine, but why hasn’t anybody thought it wise to include the sitting Afghan government in the whole process, despite loud complaints about being left out by everybody all the way to President Ghani himself?
Most likely it was because of the Taliban’s stiff refusal to so much as recognise the government or the constitution. And, from the look of things, the Americans have become so desperate to leave Afghanistan – preferably before their own presidential elections next year where the timing of the pullout will likely have a pronounced impact on the voting – that they chose to offend the government rather than the insurgents.
That is quite surprising. After investing hundreds of billions of dollars into creating the Afghan government and trying to exterminate the Taliban for almost two decades, President Trump suddenly decided to negotiate with the Taliban and leave the government to its fate. And far too many questions now need urgent answers, especially for Pakistan, since we stand to lose the most should the western neighbour once again descend into civil war like the 90s.
What, for example, should we make of all this talk about an interim government? Are they really going to abandon the system built so painstakingly after the Taliban’s fall just because the Taliban don’t like it? And what of the people who serve the constitution and the government, especially since the insurgents have quite openly branded them traitors who sold out for American dollars? And what about issues like minority and women rights going forward since nobody has forgotten how things worked under the Taliban? Also, since the insurgents are clearly the dominant military force on the ground, even with US presence, what’s to stop them from simply imposing their will on everyone else once the Americans leave?
No doubt this war cannot end soon enough. There was no letup in the deaths even as negotiations for peace gathered pace. But everybody concerned, particularly the Americans, must ensure that there are no loose ends, especially since a lot more people can die simply because of miscalculations on part of the principal parties.