Efforts for bringing peace to Afghanistan are gaining momentum. After the second international peace conference on Afghanistan hosted by Russia in Moscow, US envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad has also held talks with the Taliban represesentives in Doha, Qatar, where the militant group has a political office. A few months back US Principal Deputy Assistant ant Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asia had held talks with Taliban representatives met at the same venue.
Two individuals who preferred anonymity have claimed that the Taliban side was represented by the former governor of Hirat Hairullah Kjhairwak and Mohammad Afzal former Taliban military chief which signifies that this time high powered Taliban representatives met the US envoy for Afghanistan. A third individual with the knowledge of discussion said that the Taliban pressed for postponement of next year presidential elections and establishment of an interim government under neutral leadership in Kabul.
Pakistan has meanwhile released a number of high-level Taliban leaders including the movement cofounder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
President Trump administration now appeared focused on reaching a political settlement with the Taliban and has given in to a number of their demands. The US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been touring the region, and reportedly met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He is expected to press Ghani to cobble together his own negotiating team, which could prove difficult given the divisions within the government.
Russia is keener in restoration of peace and stability in Afghanistan to avert the danger of spillover effect of ISIS and other militant groups to Central Asia. It hosted second international peace conference to end war in Afghanistan, drawing delegates from the Afghan Government in Kabul, the Taliban as well as officials from a more than a dozen countries including the United States. Speaking at the opening session of the Afghan Peace Conference, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavorov said that participation of both Afghan government leaders and the Talban representatives is an “important contribution” aimed at creating “favourable conditions for the start of direct talks.” Russia hopes “through joint efforts to open a new page in the history of Afghanistan,”the Russian foreign minister added. He emphasised the threat posed by the presence if Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in Afghanistan, saying that it has relied on foreign sponsors in a bid to turn Afghanistan into a spring board for extension into central Asia.
Russia hosted the land mark talks almost 30 years after pulled out of Afghanistan, ending a decade long Soviet occupation that was seen another chapter in what historian called the “great game by world powers” to hold sway over Afghanistan in which they failed. Russia stands for the one and undivided Afghanistan, in which all the ethnic groups that inhabitants this country would live side by side peacefully and happily.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Moscow meeting was the first and correct step taken for bringing about peace and stability in Afghanistan. He said that although there was no representative from the Afghan government in direct talks between the US officials and Taliban in Qatar but such meetings has raised hopes for ending the war. “In the peace talks in Moscow, which was the first time such a talk was taking place in a major regional capital of the world with the neighbours of Afghanistan all present there including from Kazakistan where and where delegations of the Taliban and delegation of Afghan Peace Council sat together, the Afghan Ambassador was there in that meeting, so it can be seen as positive step, a first step that will definitely give the result.
The US on the one hand admits the important role of Pakistan in facilitating a political settlement of Afghanistan and in the pursuit of this objective US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other high officials frequently visited Islamabad. Ms Alice Wells in her visit in September described the discussions with Pakistani leadership positive and constructive. Talking to media she said Pakistan is an important country in South Asia and can play a great role in the region. “We comply with South Asia Policy of eradicating non-state- actors and want to eliminate terrorism and terrorist process in the region.” The American diplomat added. She said that the US has the same expectations from the Pakistan as it has from other countries in South Asia.
But on the other hand President Donald Trump is always on the lookout for an opportunity to malign Pakistan with unfounded allegations. He defended his decision of suspending security assistance to Pakistan in an interview with Fox News on Sunday in an attempt to portray that Pakistan is not a part of Afghan solution but a part of the problem. What is the rationale behind this double speak and bashing of a reliable US ally in the region?