The prevailing volatile and strategically critical situation of Afghanistan is a result of nonexistence of synchronisation of Intra-Afghan Peace Process and the withdrawal of the US and NATO forces. The incomprehensible haste displayed by the US, putting aside the lessons learnt from the sudden abandonment of Afghanistan in the 90s, has brought in similar consequences; civil war leading to an influx of fresh wave of refugees.

The rapidly deteriorating law and order situation in Afghanistan has ushered in a blame game as well. Afghan government first accused Pakistan, without putting forward any evidence, of providing support to the Afghan Taliban and now, the Kabul regime is accusing the US and Pakistan for the current predicament. It would be factually incorrect to put the blame of present imbroglio in Afghanistan on Pakistan due to the fact that after Afghanistan, Pakistan was the only country that had suffered the most during the last two decades from the impact of the Afghan cauldron. Pakistan is also being blamed for unrest by international media lobbies despite the fact that Islamabad has to lose the most if Afghanistan remains unstable.

Afghan conflict reflects an internal power struggle similar to the times during the post-USSR withdrawal civil war. Since 1979, groups have been fighting amongst themselves for the quest of dominance. The undeniable irony is that are fighting amongst themselves instead of the invaders. The Afghans today too have to search for the causes of failures from within their own ranks and files and shoulder their share of responsibility of stabilising that war torn country. No imposed solution from outside will work in the future.

The ineffectiveness of the Afghan Peace Process in ensuring desired peace can be attributed to multiple reasons. A bulk of the two decade war was spent in fighting and ignoring Pakistan’s repeated advice for an all-inclusive political settlement. Apart from the fundamental difference in policy, not accepting or granting the Taliban’s offer of general amnesty resulted in a trust deficit which disrupted the political and social process of peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban were not even included in the Bonn Conference.

No serious efforts were made towards establishing an -inclusive, professional and merit based armed or security forces, as well as bureaucracy, for effective governance and the delivery of basic services. Carpet-bombing of rural Afghanistan resulting in massive collateral damage and further alienated the Afghans.

Matters were further compounded by wide spread corruption. The Kabul Regime embezzled much of the $100 billion aid to the Afghan army and most of it shifted to Dubai using the Kabul Bank and direct flights with millions of dollars in cash. Soldiers were fighting the Taliban with no supplies and resources, while the Kabul elite was enjoying the luxuries in their Dubai villas. War has served as an enormously profitable enterprise for them and all this is well documented.

Ashraf Ghani’s slogan was that he was going to sideline all these corrupt warlords and make a corruption free Afghanistan. However, he utterly failed to deliver on his slogan and could not raise an army that could fight as a cohesive force. In the end, he had to rely on warlords. He placed mostly inept individuals at the helms of affairs of important institutions like the NDS. An institution formed for protecting Afghan security interests but later on turned into an anti-Pakistan entity with close ties to intelligence agencies that are hostile to Pakistan’s peace and progress.

India has emerged as the biggest spoiler of peace efforts in Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan will serve Pakistan’s core geo-economics interests, like railroad. This connectivity will extend CPEC to Central Asia and Pakistan will finally be able to exploit the full potential of the strategic Gwadar port.

The collapse of Kabul’s regime is imminent. President Ghani is acting without any real authority in the country. Recently, he replaced top military officials with Pashtuns from Tajikistan, which also contributed to the failure of the government forces against the Taliban.

The Taliban are making peace deals with local community leaders who are handing over the provincial capitals. Instead of the Kabul Regime’s negotiation team in Doha representing them, they are representing themselves and their local communities at their respective doorsteps. The Tajiks, Uzbeksand Hazaras want their own fiefdoms in Afghanistan and so as long as they have that, they are happy. Tribal elders are switching sides, as dictated by their interests and the interests of their respective tribes.

The US gave Ashraf Ghani two years, 2019 to 1920, to reach a peace deal with the Taliban. Nevertheless, since he was in a position of strength due to the presence of NATO forces, he continued to drag his feet and gambled on the premise that US will not actually leave. To his utter surprise, the remains of the US and NATO forces would be off Afghan soil in a month’s time. The balance of power has now shifted and with every passing day, his leverage is diminishing at a rapid rate.

One may continue to throw blame on the US, Pakistan, Iran, Soviets, or elsewhere, but this rhetoric doesn’t change the fact that the mess in Afghanistan is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Among other things, for example, no one forced Ghani to delay the prisoner exchange for six months. By now, the talks would have concluded and the deal would have taken some mutually acceptable shape. He gambled and the Afghans lost a close chance of peace. Only if Afghans themselves had kept their falsely inflated egos aside and passionately thought better of their war torn country and its protractedly displaced people, this mess would have been resolved decades ago.

Pakistan, due to it religious, ethnic and social linkages with Afghanistan, is rightly concerned about recently increased levels of violence and chaos and for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, it has no favorites, as very candidly expressed by its political as well as military leadership repeatedly. It is totally and exclusively up to the Afghans to decide what path they want to tread. Peace in Afghanistan is a collective responsibility and hence the international community must continue to extend full support to Afghans, while remaining fully cognizant of spoilers of peace in Afghanistan.

Farzana Shah

The writer is a Peshawar based journalist.