Trilateral meeting, Afghan peace prospects
The third trilateral meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Pakistan, China and Afghanistan concluded in Islamabad on Saturday. In a joint press conference continuation of peace negotiations was stressed and full support was reiterated for an Afghans led and Afghan owned political settlement of the decades’ long war. The next round of such meeting would be held in Beijing for which firm schedule may be announced later sometimes.
Pakistani leadership selflessly supported the efforts in trilateral and quartet meeting and Moscow international peace conferences for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. These moots paved the way for direct talks between the United States and the Taliban. But the dialogue process has been suspended by the US president Donald Trump on the reasons of continued violence in Afghanistan by the Taliban. He made the announcement of suspension of talks on Saturday, and disclosed cancellation of planned but secret talks with Kabul government and Taliban representatives in Camp David which were scheduled for Sunday. Earlier Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had cancelled his visit of Washington blaming the United States for continuing direct talks and showing eagerness to make a deal with the Taliban despite their continued attacks on security forces and civilians. The Taliban had not given a hint about their seriousness of holding intra-Afghan dialogue. Their stance about the incumbent government in Kabul has remained rigid. The latest major attack by the Taliban, that occurred in the Afghan Capital Kabul and which killed 11 people including tow NATO soldiers one American and one Romanian, seems to have worked as the lat straw on camel’s back. The US President described it an act of killing innocent people by the Taliban to strengthen their bargaining position on the negotiation table.
The Central President of Awami National Party Asfandiyar Wali, while addressing a press conference after the Working Committee meeting at Peshawar, expressed anguish and indignation over the suspension of US-Taliban direct talk’s process and cancellation of Afghan President visit of the United States. He emphasised for positive and fruitful dialogue among all the stakeholders of Afghan conflict.
It is no secret that hawks in the US administration like the National Security Advisor John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mane Esper were not happy with US-Taliban direct talks. The outgoing US Joint Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford in a statement at the Council on Foreign Relations said that for the success of peace talk’s reduction in the current high level of violence, insurgency and willingness for intra-Afghan dialogue are inevitable.
The United States wants to counter the growing influence of China and Russia in the continents of Asia and Europe. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London, Defense Secretary Mane Esper urged the European allies to focus on growing economic and military threat from China and Russia. He accused both these world powers of disrupting the US led international order.
Both China and Russia are making serious diplomatic efforts for the broad based political settlement of Afghanistan. In November 2018 Russia succeeded to bring the Afghan leaders including representatives of Kabul government and the Taliban to the international conference in Moscow. Before the commencement of the closed door session, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that participation of Afghan leaders and Taliban was an important contribution aimed at creating favourable condition for the start of direct talks. He emphasised on holding constructive conversations between the sitting government in Kabul in line with the hopes of people of Afghanistan. While formally inaugurating the conference, the Russian Foreign Minister cautioned against the threat of ISIS in Afghanistan. He alleged that foreign sponsors of this international organisation want to turn Afghanistan into a springboard for the implementation of their expansionist agenda.
The number of ISIS fighters is increasing and other terrorist groups have come under its umbrella. The spell over effect to the countries of this region cannot be neglected and to eliminate this threat peace and stability must return to Afghanistan. Let us hope that US-Taliban talks will resume and way-out can be found for the intra-Afghan dialogue.