America's volition for peace talks with insurgent Taliban is not new. It has been attempted time and again having, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and more pertinently Pakistan involved by the US to strike a deal in bringing about a long lasting peace; seeking an amicable solution to the problem and call an end to the America's longest war in the history which cost her around 3 trillion dollars and several thousand of its combatants lost their lives. Owing to the conditions put forth by Taliban, construed as unacceptable to either US or the US backed Kabul regime in the past, no progress was made.
General Austin Scott Miller appointed as commander in chief of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan in October 2018, has unfolded the mystery that Taliban cannot be defeated, who occupied more than 60% of the area in Afghanistan. As the saying goes, if you cannot win the war you cannot prevent the war, he further emphasized that a military solution was unlikely to be accomplished rather than a political one.
This was followed by the release of some key Taliban leaders from the Pakistan prison and some sort of zealous activity was seen in the only Taliban political centre in Doha Qatar. History is repeating herself. First it was America who hosted a peace dialogue between former Afghan Mujahideen and USSR in Washington in order to pave way for the exit of Red army from Afghanistan more than 25 years back and now the same finds repetition in Moscow to pave a way for Pentagon to call back its troops from Afghanistan.
Russia has pro-actively been involved over the past some time in Afghanistan particularly favoring the expanding Taliban resurgence as blamed by the US on some occasions; albeit China's position on Afghanistan has been undemonstrative, restrained and reticent, owing to her vast trade interests with the US and Central Asia. Moreover Taliban in the past failed to hold themselves in good spirits of China as a consequence to its undercover support of armed insurgency in neighboring Chinese autonomous Xinjiang province that witnessed bloodshed and prompted Chinese authorities to swing into action and unleash repressive policies that remain unabated till date.
However China would like to see American troops withdrawn from Afghanistan for its broader interest of seeking complete security on that side. Taliban must have learned a lesson from the past strategic mistakes. China's interest in connecting Afghanistan with its dream belt and road initiative (BRI) project, so as to gain an easy access to Eurasia would be prioritized. The Ashraf Ghani led government in Kabul has read the writing on the wall that America was no longer interested to stay in Afghanistan. Thus it is left with no option other than to looking on to the Regional powers, Russia, China and particularly Pakistan for a possible reconciliation.
Despite logistic support provided by Tehran to Kabul till recent past, Ayatollah Ali Khamenai has reiterated Iran's support to Taliban. Unabated violence and armed conflict in Afghanistan has always been deemed as a threat to Iran's states bordering with Afghanistan which have mostly Sunni populations. Recent spurt of tension with America has doubled this fear in Tehran. India has for more than a decade in the past contributed largely in the development of infrastructure and education in Afghanistan that might influence a new Taliban dominated government in Kabul in tailoring a friendly diplomatic relation with her. However Pakistan's concern on terrorism exported from Afghanistan as she blames, would pose a challenge. However the change of government in Kabul is highly expected to solve many such problems judiciously as Pakistan holds the strategic position of life line for Afghanistan in all times.
Here it is paramount to signify that Pakistan must have learned much from exercising erstwhile Big Brother policy in Afghanistan, and needs to revisit it. Backing one regime or the other in Kabul in the past proved counterproductive by provoking other forces to jump into the conflict of world interests on Afghan soil. Afghanistan desperately needs an atmosphere of peace and stability for development, to take shape. The poor Afghanistan has been reduced to that of Stone age by cluster and carpet bombings with death taking toll of millions of people for the none of their faults.
A broad based national government with all ethnicities as its component in Afghanistan seems to be way ahead though a triumphant Taliban would like to see only her government flourishing in Kabul but as their diplomat Mujahid Zabiullah has unfolded in Moscow peace summit that negotiations for peace and not power sharing is our priority, warrants a success of this peace deal.
Dr. Muzaffar Shaheen is Professor at SKUAST-K