Timely warning

President Awami National Party Asfandyar Wali Khan said that peace talks cannot succeed sans Afghans participation and cautioned that any unilateral agreement with the Taliban would make difficult for the regional countries to control Daesh. He was talking to a high level delegation of Kabul government headed by former Interior Minister and chairman Afghanistan Peace Council Mohammad Umar Daudzai that called on him at his residence Walibagh in Charsadda.

The warning of the veteran Pukhtun Nationalist politician came in the backdrop of postponement of fourth round of direct talks between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar till indefinite time period. The reason behind the postponement of peace talks is the Taliban’s tough opposition of holding direct talks with the officials of Afghan government.

Asfandyar Wali Khan emphasised that China and Russia would have to play a pivotal role in peace process and underscored the success of the peace talks. He expressed concern that in case of failure the region may face situation like Syria.

In sharp reaction to the Taliban stance on the role of Kabul government in peace talks, Afghan Chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said that the Taliban refusal to involve the government in peace talks mean the end of the conflict that has lasted 17 years can only remain a dream.

Efforts for a negotiated settlement have gathered pace in recent weeks, even as reports that US President Donald Trump plans to withdraw thousands of US troops’ triggered uncertainty. The US is pressing the Taliban to sit down with Afghan government officials but the Taliban see the US as mainpower and dismiss Kabul administration as puppet, ignoring the threat to peace and stability of Afghanistan from the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan.

Zalmay Khalizad, US special representative for Afghanistan has commenced a two-week four nation tour as a part of the process for an intra-Afghan political settlement. Khalilzad will be visiting Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and India. He will hold talks with the leaderships of these countries and other groups being stakeholders in the conflict.

Regional player like Iran has also disapproved giving dominant role in the political settlement and future power structure in Kabul. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif., in an interview with Indian TV Channel NDTV during his visit of New Delhi, said that he sees “limited” role for the Taliban in any future government in the war torn Afghanistan. He said, “It would be impossible to have a future Afghanistan without any role for the Taliban. But we also believe that the Taliban do not have—should not have—a dominant role in Afghanistan.” Iran is maintaining contacts with the Taliban. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qaseemi had told reporters after the December meeting, “since the Taliban are in control of 50 percent of Afghanistan and given the instability and insecurity and other issues the country is dealing with, the Taliban were interested in talks with Iran.

Russia is worried about the spillover effect of Daesh to the Central Asian States and even to the mainland Russia. In a skillful diplomatic move Moscow hosted second international peace conference on Afghanistan in November last year. It drew delegates from the Western-backed government in Kabul and a group representing the Taliban, as well as officials from a dozen nations including the US. Opening the conference, Russian Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov said that participation of both Afghan leaders and the Taliban was an important contribution aimed at creating favourable conditions for the start of direct talks. He emphasised the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Afghanistan, saying that the terrorist organisation has relied on foreign sponsors in a bid to turn Afghanistan into a springboard for its expansion in central Asia.

Pakistan is also cognizant of the threat of Daesh and the government has embarked upon a proactive diplomacy to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan. The recent shuttle diplomacy of the foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi by visiting Kabul, Tehran, Beijing and Moscow reflect the resolve for such a settlement which brings peace and stability in Afghanistan. Hopefully, the blunders committed by the PPP government in the wake of withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and PML-N government at the time when Dr. Najeeb Ullah government in Kabul made desperate efforts to reach a UN brokered political settlement with Afghan Mujahidin groups.

Posted in