Afghanistan Peace Process: Who Will Get More?


US-TALIBAN Doha deal has highlighted the opportunity to bring possible peace in Afghanistan in upcoming days but it seems that it was just a tip of iceberg and major problems lie in the  intra-Afghan peace talks which were supposed to be held post accord between Afghan Taliban and Afghan Government where Taliban has emerged as powerful entity and demanding maximum share in political set up of state.

Doha talks broke the ice between Taliban and US led international forces and finally reached at an agreement to achieve long lasting peace in war torn region. The key features of agreement were withdrawal of forces in different phase and dropping weapons from Taliban side to take them into national stream to create an environment to achieve goals of bringing peace. On the hand, Trump has to fulfill his promises of bringing foreign troops to back in homeland. In a situation, where chaos and mistrust prevailed the relationships between two sides, it is not a easy task to bring them on the same page over political transition.

Achieving peace in the graveyard of empires is not a bed of roses but the path which leads to the peaceful end is full of thorns. It is not easy to bring peace in Afghanistan until the domestic entities do not join and to make a comprehensive plan to resolve the problematic issues. To negate the effects of centrifugal forces, it was decided to bring all the domestic stakeholders on the table talks and resulted in the Intra-Afghan talks particularly between Afghan Government and Afghan Taliban to settle problems like exchange of prisoners and power sharing in the center as well as in provinces.  The exchange of prisoners took almost five months to settle in which Afghan Government agreed to release high profile Taliban prisoners and on the other hand Taliban agreed to release civilian along Afghan forces captives. Six month after the Historical Doha Peace deal, on 12 September 2020, A stage has been set to initiate negotiations over the power share formula. The question arises that  how to set the formula for power sharing. The overwhelming demands of Power in center and provinces from Taliban have put the negotiation process at stakes. The Taliban have strengthened their feet in Afghanistan over past two decades.

According to U. S OFFICIAL reports of 2019, it is estimated that

“Only 53.5 % of Afghanistan are under the government control or influence, 33.9 % is contested and the remaining 12.9 %  are under the Taliban control or influence. “

With the passage of time, Taliban proved as more active player in state which influence more common masses with its attractive tactics of providing justice and basic facilities . Overall, Taliban emerged as powerful entity because they compelled the US led International Forces, which were well equipped and trained, to bend the knees. The Doha deal put the last Neel in the coffin and Taliban appeared not only most influential but also as diplomatic entity which happened first time in the history. In addition to this, almost half of the Afghanistan territory is directly controlled by the Taliban and have popular support. The role of Taliban in peace talks is seeing as suspicious because of their constant strategy of pressuring the government to gain maximum share in power. Moreover, Afghanistan government, alleged as corrupt and incompetent, is too weak to counter the Taliban stance because they are totally militarily and economically dependent on the west particularly US and its allies. There is sharp divide between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani over some political issues. These vulnerabilities give edge to the Taliban. Taliban wants governorships of almost 16 provinces, demanding major ministries like foreign, Interior and Finance and induction of the Taliban into security forces along islamization of constitutions. There are deep uncertainties and skepticism over the negotiations that where it will lead but it is clearly viewing that if intra afghan talks get success then Afghan Taliban will bore more fruits due to on ground reality which favors Taliban stance.

On foreign level, neighbor states are showing green signals to the Taliban and particularly Pakistan, Iran and China compelled the International community to not call Taliban as a terrorist group but recognize them as diplomatic entity. The alignment of interests compelling states to come more close to the Afghan Taliban. For Pakistan, Afghanistan is very important for geostrategic and geo economic interests. Pakistan almost shares a long border consists of almost 2200 km2 and finds Afghanistan as a “ Strategic Depth “. So, to attain certain objectives, Pakistan wants to install  a favorable government in Afghanistan comprises of maximum Taliban representatives. Taliban and Islamabad relationships are traced back in twentieth century where they joined hands to defeat the USSR in Afghanistan which is undeniable fact. It is also said in clear words that the way of peace in Afghanistan passes from the Pakistan. Recently Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan over Intra-Afghan peace process said

“Successful culmination of an Afghanistan-led and Afghanistan owned peace and reconciliation process is indispensable for Afghanistan and for regional peace, stability and prosperity.” 

One more neighbor, Iran, shares her western borders with Afghanistan has changed policies towards Taliban due to rise ofa formidable enemy  in Afghanistan which is targeting the Shia minorities and perceived as a threat to the stability of Iran. Taliban are fighting to counter the ISIS in Afghanistan. So, in this way, the juxtaposition of Interests are compelling Iran to join hands with Taliban. In the past, Iran was supporting the northern alliance to fight against the Taliban but now the tables have been turned in favor of Taliban.

As far as, China’s stance in Afghanistan is concerned, it is more about the geopolitical interests which demand a peaceful Afghanistan with pro Chinese authorities. The geostrategic position which makes Afghanistan an utmost significant actor because it connects China with central as well as Middle Eastern states. In addition to this, the emergence of ISIS in the region also poses a security threat to the stability of China. The Suspicious activities of East Turkestan Islamic movement( ETIM) in Muslim populated areas in western China have already created trouble for China and the support of ISIS would intensify the situations. By keeping these points in the mind, Chinese officials are making strategies to completely support the Taliban in the region.

Such strong points enhance the importance of Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan but the emergence of ISIS in the region is creating troubles for both Taliban as well as Afghan government. Before climaxing more power control, Taliban and Afghan should know their limitations. Undoubtedly, Taliban group is more powerful but not at such level that they could capture the Kabul. Rapprochement is the only solution to this problem. The key players like Pakistan which perceived as a provider of territorial space to the Taliban and Afghan Government backed by the US should play a constructive role and compel both to reach at final destination of peace. It would be imperative for both parties to agree to ceasefire, level of hostilities and have  more moderate and flexible pluralistic and inclusive political system by focusing on the rehabilitation of the people who faced traumatic life for almost  two decades. If it does not happen then the external forces like ISIS would exploit the opportunities and a new era of civil war would be facing by the locals.

Tahir Abbas
Tahir Abbas
International Relations National Defence University Islamabad


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