Latest posts by Sabeen Arshad (see all)
- PREREQUISITE OF AFGHAN PEACE PROCESS; CHALLENGING SITUATION FOR PAKISTAN? - September 4, 2019
Prime Minister Imran Khan made a visit to the US, to strengthen Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan in a bid to end its isolation. The Afghan peace process has entered a pivotal phase, making it even more problematic for Pakistan. As many had anticipated, Afghanistan remained the main point of consideration during the meeting held between the Pakistani and US leaderships in Washington, D.C in July. Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to pursue the Afghan Taliban leadership to usher in talks with the Afghan government.
Trump was not ready to meet Pakistan, let alone engage constructively, when the current government took over the administration. We were confronted external isolation and internal challenges that’s time when Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during his visit in 2018 to the US for the united nation general assembly (UNGA) meetings, met and invited American Senator Lindsey Graham to visit Pakistan. That’s where the senator — who is very close to Trump also met Imran and was inspired by his consistency on holding peace talks with the Taliban. He knew this would be music to Donald Trump’s ears, who wants to “bring the boys home”, as part of his campaign promise which was to end expensive foreign wars.
During the Prime Minister’s visit, mostly leaders of US and officials appreciated and acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the table for talks. This was the first time US administration didn’t use the mantra of ‘do more’, but in friendly way requested Pakistan to continue playing a constructive role in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan’s administration categorically agreed to take up the task. On the other hand, the Taliban have also agreed that they will accept the invitation of meeting the Pakistani prime minister. The meeting will indicate how much Pakistan has an ability to convince the Taliban for intra Afghan meeting.
Trump wanted to indicate a tangible and visual withdrawal forces from Afghanistan through these months, maybe even accumulate some ceremony onto the method, and claim success within the 18-year-old war as his signature of accomplishment. Pakistan holds down- the key to whether or not he will be able to do this. But an intra-Afghan dialogue has been started. Trump administration also asked about the determined role that Pakistan could play in helping both sides in that dialogue so that a fruitful conclusion can be reached.
The challenging situation for the United States whether the management or the wider system driving the process is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorist groups, all over again, following the withdrawal. For this reason, there are all efforts of a continuing counterterrorism presence after combat troops are withdrawn. Pakistan has already provided a continuing presence, and even hinted its inclination to host certain elements of such a force.
This is why we saw a blast of headlines about an ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ coming out in the Pakistani press in the run-up to the visit. For example, “Islamabad hopeful Taliban will agree to intra-Afghan dialogue”, was a headline in most of the Pakistani newspapers. The Afghan peace process has reached a promising but sensitive stage. For smooth transition of this process to the next critical stage, Pakistan will always help in making peace and stability endeavours successful, a story quoted Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
Pakistan fears that once the Americans are gone, they will forget Pakistan’s sacrifices and its role in the peace process, hence it will once again be left to face the ramification all on its own. On the other hand, another fear is that what happens if the Americans are not able to get all that they want out of the process currently under way. Trump’s smile has saddled Pakistan with a steep task, and nobody here wants to know what his frown might look like if things don’t work out as expected.
Unfortunately, things are not that simple. Thus, even if an intra-Afghan consensus is reached on governance, an effective course of action against terrorism from Afghanistan will remain a continuing challenge for the new government in Kabul and to Afghanistan’s neighbours’. A regional counterterrorism agreement confine with Taliban and other Afghan parties and Afghanistan’s neighbours seems essential.
Reinstate peace in Afghanistan will also require money — lots of it. The US is spending an estimated $45 billion annually in Afghanistan from 1990s largely on its own military. An estimated $6-8bn is spent annually on the Afghan security forces and a fraction on the civilian government and programmes. Several billion dollars will be needed yearly to rehabilitate and reconstruct Afghanistan. Without financial assistance, the Afghan National Army would disintegrate, unpaid militias would resort to banditry and the country could descend into chaos. The US is not sure to provide existing levels of military or civilian financing, especially if its ‘counterterrorism’ presence is rejected. Among Afghanistan’s neighbours’ only China, Saudi Arabia and some other GCC countries can afford large financial outlays.
Finally, substantial peace and security situation in Afghanistan will depend on the level and nature of external involvement in its internal affairs. Real achievement of peace process in Afghanistan will depend upon whether the Global powers, especially Russia, China and the US, together contribute to rebuild Afghanistan or if their strategic competition, radiating globally from Europe, the Middle East and the ‘Indo-Pacific’, envelops Afghanistan and its neighbourhood. The most immediate concern drift over Afghanistan’s future could be the growing US confrontation with Iran. Iranian reprisal e.g. its Revolutionary Guards death that were approximately 27 recently, could reveal that US forces in Afghanistan to concerted attacks and disrupt US ability to withdraw its troops safely from there. This, in turn, could badly affect the prospects of a US-Taliban withdrawal agreement and an intra-Afghan political settlement.
The persistent challenges to peace in Afghanistan, however, do not contradict the shared interest of the Afghan people, the regional states and the great powers to promote sustainable stability in this strategically located country. The break out of a ‘Hobbesian war of all against all’ in and around Afghanistan instability would cause massive human suffering and create a major threat to international peace and security. Major Powers of world and the regional states must mobilize their efforts under the proper instructions of the United Nations or another international framework to fulfil the requisites for peace and stability in Afghanistan.