Regional Afghan peace initiatives
In sharp contrast to the ambivalent stance of the United States on Afghan peace process both Moscow and Beijing are making serious efforts in the pursuit of Afghan peace process. Russia has once again invited the Taliban to participate in the peace talks being held in Moscow on 4th September, in which the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China and India are participating. Russia has claimed that this time the Taliban has accepted the invitation for talks next month.
Russian foreign minster Sergei Lavarov said Moscow invited the Taliban for September talks and he is hopeful for productive negotiations as their first reaction is positive. “They are planning to take part in the meeting,” he added. There is no immediate comment from the Taliban. But if they do participate in the Russia hosted peace talks it will strengthen the regional peace initiatives and help advance the process of National reconciliation in Afghanistan and establish peace in the country as soon as possible. The Russian foreign Ministry said the United States have also been invited. In earlier peace conference held in Moscow but it skipped them.
The Taliban raised their diplomatic profile in the recent weeks by sending official delegation to Uzbekistan and Indonesia and have held talks with a senior US diplomat in Qatar. They have expanded their foot prints across Afghanistan and launched an unrelenting wave of attacks including a prolonged attack in Ghazni, a strategic city near the Kabul.
In December 2016, Moscow hosted a trilateral jump-start conference which was attended by Russia, China and Afghanistan. The parameter of reconciliation process in Afghanistan were further expanded were further expanded in February 2017, when Afghanistan and India also attended the second meeting. Its scope was further enlarged to involve other countries of the region being directly impacted by the war and instability in Afghanistan. A twelve party peace conference was convened by Russia in Moscow in April 2017. The United States was invited to attend the International Peace Conference but the invitation was rejected outright. However, eleven countries including Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan,, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan attended the Moscow peace conference. The United States is now engaged in a triangular cold war with Russia and China and it intends to keep its military bases in Afghanistan.
The entry of ISIS has further complicated the Afghan conflict. It has made Afghanistan the epicenter of global terrorism. The ISIS fighters fleeing from Iraq and Syria are reaching here. Their number was 1000 but it is increasing. Other terrorist have also come under its umbrella. They are armed with the weapons of western countries. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in a TV interview has blamed the United States for the induction of ISIS fighters into Afghanistan to counter the Taliban. He alleged that they were brought in by unmarked helicopters. Russia has particularly mentioned the fighters from Algeria and France. Moscow is worried about the spillover effect of ISIS into the neighbouring Central Asian States and then into the mainland Russia.
Pakistan on its part has contributed to all peace initiatives by participating in Trilateral and Quadrilateral meetings to promote Afghan Peace Process. It attended Beijing moot in December2017 with Afghanistan and China, which reaffirmed the support for a broad based and inclusive process to bring peace to the war torn Afghanistan and stressed the need for a dialogue between Kabul government and Taliban. In May, 2018 senior diplomats from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China met in Beijing to review the preparation for the second meeting of foreign ministers. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are making joint efforts for restoration of mutual trust to facilitate the implementation Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS). It remains to be seen as to whether the United States lends its support to the regional peace initiatives.