Though the Moscow Conference on Afghanistan which was a result of prolonged back-door diplomacy between Russia and Taliban has not produced any tangible results but the fact remains that it was a significant move towards creating conducive atmosphere for finding a durable peace in Afghanistan. There was a consensus among the 11 countries of the region who attended the conference that peace was only possible through dialogue and not through military might as was evident from the last seventeen years of US-NATO failure to enforce peace through barrel of the gun. Another significant aspect of the get-together was that Moscow was able to organize an interface between the Taliban and the members of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan and the only agreement between the two was that Daesh was their common enemy. Yet another positive development was that the US also sent one of its diplomats in Moscow to attend the moot as an observer. It is pertinent to mention that both the US and Afghanistan had thwarted a similar attempt by Moscow two months ago by refusing to attend it. From that perspective the conference was quite productive.

The Taliban put forth three demands i.e a time-frame for withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, removal of sanctions against Taliban and release of the Taliban prisoners. The Taliban have been refusing to talk to the Afghan government directly maintaining that they would only talk to the US. The Taliban stance on only talking to the US and not the Afghan government makes sense in view of the fact that their demands could only be met by the US, particularly giving the time-frame for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghan soil. Russian Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov talking to the media revealed that the Taliban were ready to talk with the Afghan government only after agreeing with the US on a schedule for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. The Taliban expressed their willingness to attend any next such move for finding a negotiated solution to the Afghan conundrum.

The Taliban have been demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as a pre-condition for talks with the Afghan government on the possible arrangement to end strife in the country. Under the circumstances the only possible way to peace in Afghanistan is for the US to show sincerity in finding a solution to the war in Afghanistan by negotiating a time-frame for withdrawal of its troops from that country. The new policy announced by President Trump on Afghanistan and Asia is a perfect recipe for disaster and effectively nullifies declared US objective of bringing peace in Afghanistan. The US surely will have to revisit it if it really wants peace in Afghanistan and the region. Its egoistic approach is not going to help the cause of peace.

The regional countries including Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and Central Asian states who have been affected by the phenomenon of terrorism and strife in Afghanistan in varying degrees can play a constructive role in facilitating a dialogue between Taliban and the Afghan government for political settlement only after the Taliban and US agree on some arrangement regarding pull out of foreign troops. They can also provide adequate guarantees to ensure that the agreed arrangement between the Taliban and Afghan government is adhered to by both the sides.

There is no denying the fact that the regional countries have a greater stake in peace in Afghanistan and warding off the threat posed to the regional states by Daesh, more so Pakistan. The US also needs to abandon its rhetoric of Pakistan playing a duplicitous role and give credence to her claims of having taken indiscriminate action against all the terrorist entities based on her soil. Pakistan has suffered the most in the war against terror and there is a national consensus on the fact that peace in Afghanistan meant peace in Pakistan. It would be the last country to wish the continuation of conflict in Afghanistan to her own detriment. Pakistan surely has a pivotal role in promoting Afghan-led and Afghan–owned peace process in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s credential as a faithful and sincere partner in taking the war on terror to its logical end and promotion of Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation are beyond reproach. It has made relentless efforts at the bilateral and multilateral forums in that regard including the first ever interface between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The civilian and military leadership in Pakistan has also made several peace-making overtures to the Afghan government to remove the ambience of mistrust as well as taken unilateral steps like fencing the Pak-Afghan border and building of forts and watch-post to obstruct cross-border movement of the terrorists.

It is however regrettable to note that the US in spite of acknowledging the sacrifices made by Pakistan is not convinced of the indiscriminate action taken by her against all the terrorist entities and continues to blame her for allowing terrorist sanctuaries on its soil. The fact is that Pakistan is a victim of the terrorist acts planned and executed from the Afghan soil. That attitude is not going to help in the resolution of the conflict. The USA and Afghanistan need to encourage and support efforts by Pakistan to fight terrorism and restoration of peace in the region. The US particularly must acknowledge ground realities and make her peace initiatives compatible to them. Any approach contrary to the realities is bound to generate boomerang effect. Similarly attempts to project Pakistan as a fall guy for her failures in Afghanistan by the US are not going to contribute positively to the peace efforts.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.