Establishing peace in Afghanistan has been a hard nut to crack for the last 17 years. Starting a war is easy but bringing it to an end is a tough row to hoe. Thousands of civilians have perished in this war on terror and many ended up maimed and wounded. The Afghan people have suffered a lot and are still going through a critical period. The need of bringing some respite to their lives should be of paramount importance now. They deserve to live happily and peacefully.

The causes of abject miseries and horrors of war the Afghans endure today may comprise a fraction constituting their own follies but the primary responsibility rests on the shoulders of the international community. It was the United Nations Security Council which sanctioned an attack on Afghanistan pursuant to 9/11. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was created to help maintain security in Afghanistan. What followed till now constitute a dark history of the war ravaged country. All those states which endorsed an all-out attack must have put screws on the US and its allies not to create another Vietnam-like situation that has already occurred at the moment. Though some diplomatic initiatives were undertaken, these were neither sufficient nor successful.

The 2011 International Bonn Conference devoted to security and development of Afghanistan was doomed to fail because of no participation from Pakistan and the Taliban. Murree Process met the same fate when Afghan intelligence agency leaked news about the death of the Taliban leader Mullah Umar who is believed to have endorsed the talks with the Afghan government. Then Quadrilateral Coordination Group was founded in January 2016 for reaching a political settlement. It comprised of Pakistan, China, the USA, and Afghanistan. The quartet dismally failed in achieving its objective owing to the killing of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor by a US drone amid efforts made for bringing the Taliban to talking table.

Russia made its own attempts. A conference consisting of representatives from a dozen countries including the Afghan Taliban and a delegation of Afghan government-appointed High Peace Council was held in November last year in Moscow. Nothing considerable was achieved. Although direct talks between the Taliban and Afghan government took place at high level but the Taliban denied to accept the legitimacy of the incumbent government.

Afghan war has also sent the US president into a tizzy. His intentions regarding bringing an end to bloodshed seems genuine. He knows this would be a tremendous political achievement and can certainly increase his chances of re-election. For this purpose Zalmay Khalilzad was appointed as a chief negotiator to lead the peace process. Two rounds of face-to-face talks were held in Doha, Qatar, between the US’ officials and the Taliban at the end of 2018. Pakistan added more impetus to Trump’s peace initiative after a letter was sent by him to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking Islamabad’s assistance to engage the Afghan Taliban in negotiations. Thus under Pakistan’s influence another meeting in Dubai took place between the US and the Taliban with participation from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. Likewise, another parley was going to be held in Saudi Arabia as a part of this process but later the Taliban denied to attend because of the US insistence on making Afghan government a part of the negotiations.

Whatever solution all sides reach on, the challenges are immense and plenty. One of the central demands of the Taliban is the complete withdrawal of American troops from the Afghan soil. Reports emerged in December that the US was considering pulling out half of its military personnel. Many thought it was a goodwill gesture to the Taliban. But later White House denied any consideration in this regard. Many western countries and in particular India would condemn such plans while Russia, China, and Pakistan will see it as a healthy development.

Integrating the Afghan Taliban to the government is another big dilemma to deal with. What should be the number and types of ministries which they may take over and for this purpose what modus operandi will be adopted? Moreover, a minister belonging to the Taliban might not like present policies of his portfolio, consequently drastic changes in ways of governance may be brought and possibly inter-department and intra-department clashes would take place.

Besides, thousands of insurgents belonging to the Taliban, who after laying down their weapons, will become unemployed. Their amalgamation with the Afghan army may not be possible as it can lead to unprecedented problems in one of the most important institution of the country. Nevertheless, they should be provided with honourable means of living. Attractive packages need to be approved lest this golden opportunity is lost. There is a risk that some of them may join the ranks of ISIS because they may not like reconciliation with the United States, a country considered as an archenemy of Muslims. While creation of new dissident factions under fresh leaderships is also feared. Therefore, efforts should be made on large scale to let the dialogue process succeed and reach a practical agreement. Any haste in this respect should be avoided. The Trump administration yearns for a quick resolution but a quick resolution may turn out to be no resolution of the Afghan crisis at all.


The writer is a freelance contributor.