In recent past, the talks between the US and Taliban have shown ample promise of a breakthrough in near future. In fact, Washington is so keen for the dialogue to succeed that it ended contact with Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib after he criticized US negotiator with Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad for shutting out Afghan government from the talks.
The latest round of US-Taliban dialogue concluded on March 11 after sixteen days. Though sides have reported progress, but they are still some distance away from an accord. The sticking points remain the time of withdrawal of US-led international forces and the Taliban’s assurances that it won’t harbour groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS after the US is gone.
However, eventually the peace and stability in Afghanistan will have to be the responsibility of the regional powers. And it is unlikely to happen if the regional powers pursue their disparate interests in the war-torn country. The US will also need to make some subtle adjustment in its Afghanistan policy to make it work. In its current form, the policy almost entirely neglects the regional geo-politics, prevailing issues and the contending interests of the neighbouring countries like India and Pakistan which essentially keep the conflict going in Kabul.
So rather than an Afghanistan-centric policy, US needs a broader regional approach to work for an integrated solution to the conflicts and the competing interests that in turn fuel the war in Kabul. The conflict in Afghanistan is now so much enmeshed with the regional rivalries and the issues that it appears improbable that there would be long term stability in Kabul unless steps are taken to get the regional countries cooperate to end the forty year long bloodshed in the country.
The deeply challenging project of a peaceful Afghanistan, therefore, demands a broader regional cooperation, more so, between India and Pakistan. It is only hoped that New Delhi and Islamabad realizing the momentous changes sweeping through region will cooperate to not only steer the region through the fraught transition of a post-US Afghanistan but also take concrete steps to address their lingering differences which alone will be the guarantee for a sustainably peaceful South Asia and the broader region.