“Taliban stood the ground, they sacrificed their blood fighting the invaders and the occupation forces; those who fled sat in the lap of the invaders and had their country destroyed in every sense of the word. Today Taliban are the victors who will dictate the terms.” Raja Mujtaba
By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
In order to end the prolonged Afghan war, secret talks have been going on between Karazai Government and Taliban, while making use of formal and informal channels. Recently, President Karazai himself confirmed these contacts. He said in an interview that, “We have been talking to the Taliban as countryman to countryman, and —not as a regular official contact with the Taliban with a fixed address but rather unofficial personal contacts have been going on for quite some time.” Following this confirmation by Afghan President, U.S official and ISAF commanders have also started recognizing the fact that the occupation forces in Afghanistan are indeed backing these contacts by becoming an indirect party to the talks.
Indeed, solution of the Afghan crises lies in the political negotiations between Kabul and various ethnic/ factional groups of Afghanistan. Pakistan has long been emphasizing on the need for talks and political settlement of Afghan problem. Following the unfortunate incident of 9/11, Pakistan had emphasized United States to go for a political solution and carry out negotiations with the Taliban. Even after taking over the Kabul, Pakistan stressed the need that peace in that country cannot be obtained until integration of Taliban into the mainstream. Former President, General (r) pervaiz Musharraf in an interview with the ABC news, has recently revealed this fact. The former President was categorical that, “After defeating the Taliban, after 9-11, I always was of the view we need to go in for deals.”
Contrary to Pakistani realistic proposals, then US President and US military command did not agree to that. They perhaps thought that, the initial victory of capturing the capital Kabul would fetch long-term victories for them in other parts of Afghanistan too. This did not happen and with the more alienation of Taliban, other militant groups and warlords, there were more failures for the US and NATO forces.
Unfortunately, Pakistani advice could not change the perception of the US Government as well as the hawks surrounding the Afghan President Mr. Hamid Karazai. Rather they were at odd with Pakistan and more often accused Pakistan for supporting the Afghan Taliban. Now after nine years of aimless fighting with the Taliban, the US and NATO forces have started realizing that they are in fact failing in Afghanistan, therefore, need a face saving for a subsequent withdrawal from Afghanistan to avoid a Vietnam like situation. Pakistan feels that though this realization is late, yet, it is a positive step for bringing stability and normalization in Afghanistan.
Indeed, the bottom line of the Pakistani policy makers is that, “We cannot wish for Afghanistan, which we do not wish for Pakistan.” It is beyond doubt that Pakistan wants peace, stability, and economic prosperity for its country, therefore, we have similar desires for Afghanistan too. Indeed, a peaceful Afghanistan would guarantee the peace and tranquillity in Pakistan. Pakistan is unequivocally supporting the current peace talks between Taliban and Karazai led Kabul regime. Rather these talks started on the sincere recommendations of Pakistan. Pakistani Army Chief in his couple of meetings with Afghan President has emphasized him to negotiate with the Taliban. Perhaps, these meetings led a change of heart in Kabul and now the process has gained a momentum.
More recently, Afghan President, Hamid Karazai has nominated Mr. Burhanuddin Rabbani, the former Afghan President to head the Peace Council, established following the nation-wide conference in June 2010. The council is mandated to broker a peace between various Afghan factions. Mr. Rabbani, as the head of 68-members council has expressed the hope that, “I hope we are able to take major steps in bringing peace and fulfil our duties with tireless effort and help form God.” Pakistan feels that this is a major move for concentrating the various factions of Afghan under a single banner. Under the former Pakistani interior minister, Mr Aftab Sherpao has participated in the meeting of the Peace Council in Kabul.
In the recent months, US military Commander David Plateaus and Afghan administration openly accepted that, they are not winning the war and that, today, Taliban are stronger than ever before during these ten years of war between the occupation forces and the Taliban. Afghan President feels that by 2014, the Afghan National Army would be in position to take over the responsibility of Afghanistan’s security. On the other hand, President Obama has already given a schedule of withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, starting from July 2011. The schedule, otherwise uncertain is also contentious between White House and the Pentagon is being deliberated further.
Irrespective of the scheduled withdrawal of ISAF from Afghan soil or otherwise, the most important factor, immediately needed in that country is assurance of the peace, safety, and security of its people in all respects. Mullah Muhammad Omer, the former head of the Taliban Government, though backed the peace efforts but insists on the withdrawal of ISAF before a deal could be brokered. Engineer Gulbadin Hikmatyar is also in the loop, but allergic to the foreign forces presence in Afghanistan. It has been learnt that, a high-level contact have been established between the powerful Taliban faction under Haqqani Network and the Karazai Government.
In the so far talks between Taliban with the Karazai Government, the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghan soil is presented as the pre-requisite by the former. Karazai Government feels that sudden withdrawal of ISAF may push the Afghanistan towards another chaos, the country experienced, following the hasty withdrawal of former Soviet forces and forces sponsoring the Afghan Jihad, especially US. Therefore, Karazai would like a gradual withdrawal of the ISAF and rapid integration of Taliban into the main stream. In this way, there would be restoration of peace and stability in that country with writ of Government establishing all over the Afghan territory.
Taliban, on the other hand fear that with foreign forces still present in that country, the process of integration would compel them to surround their power centres, which otherwise could be captured either by foreign forces or forces loyal to Northern Alliance. It is worth mentioning that in-spite of having absolute power, ISAF and Northern Alliance forces failed to captured the areas held by Taliban during last ten years. Taliban feel that once lost, regaining of these power centres would be an uphill task. Indeed, with this state of uncertainty prevailing among the rank and file of Taliban, they feel that the strategy of reconciliation may not prove as an ensnare for them.
Under such an environment of improbability, Karazai needs to be more assuring and forthcoming for the promotion of this cause of national integration. On one hand, he should assure Taliban for the fairness of the process and on the other hand, get sureties from the occupying forces to follow the schedule of withdrawing from Afghanistan as given by President Obama in December 2009. The geographically contiguous countries of the region must also be taken on board for playing the constructive role during the transitional process. The geographically non-contiguous countries like India must be stopped from promoting its own interests as well as interests of a particular faction in that country.
The Government and the people of Pakistan feel that there should be peace and stability in Afghanistan. The peace in the neighbourhood; part of the same socio-political, socio-economic and common religion would ensure peace and stability of Pakistan.