News Desk |
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has taken a major U-turn in his stance against the Taliban and offered them peace negotiations without any conditions. Ghani opened the second ‘Kabul Process meeting for Peace and Security Cooperation’ in Afghanistan’s capital on Wednesday. Over 25 countries including Pakistan, US and NATO participated in the meeting. It is an Afghan-led and Afghan-centered peace process.
A number of offers were made to the Taliban by president Ghani. The Afghan premier emphasized the importance of resolving the matter internally as peace was in their hands. He called on the Taliban for help to save the country and offered them a ceasefire and a release of prisoners. Ghani also proposed to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party and offered to open their offices in all major cities including Kabul.
Afghani passports and visas were also offered to Taliban members and their families. Ghani promised that he would work on removing the international sanctions against Taliban and its leaders on the condition that they will recognize Afghanistan’s government. The Afghan president offered government talks to Pakistan and said, “We will be ready to starts talks with Pakistan and forget the past and start a new chapter.” He had made the same offer in a tweet on Tuesday evening.
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) February 27, 2018
A sudden change of heart can be seen from Ashraf Ghani who had last week requested the Qatar government to shut down Taliban’s office in Doha but the Qataris didn’t entertain their request. Ghani has repeatedly labelled the Taliban as ‘terrorists’ and ‘rebels’ and the US government has also backed Ghani’s stance. On the other hand, the US and Afghan governments have repeatedly blamed Pakistan for supporting the Afghan Taliban and recently cut off all military aid to Pakistan alleging its adverse role in the Afghan war.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied these allegations and offered its support for peace in Afghanistan. It had also proposed dialogue as the only solution for the Afghan problem. Strategic experts believe that Taliban are an inseparable part of Afghanistan and the past 20 years have proved that they cannot be defeated militarily as they have support on the grass root level. Taliban always manage to make a comeback even after temporary military setbacks. They also hold around 40% of the Afghan territory which makes a minus one solution near impossible.
The Afghan government has finally seemed to realise and accept this reality but a major question remains that did the Afghan peace offer have the US government’s support? The Trump administration has shifted from Obama’s strategy of withdrawal by pouring more money and troops into Afghanistan. The number of aerial strikes against Taliban was also increased in a bid to lure them out on the dialogue table. US policy is to make the Taliban surrender rather than make them a part of the mainstream.
Considering the US interest in Afghanistan, it is speculated that the US would be backing this new move but some international relations experts had hypothesized that the US was in Afghanistan for greater strategic goals; the biggest one was the containment of China in the region. If Ghani’s proposal materializes, it would bury all such speculations and if there is any truth to the speculations, the US might jeopardize the peace strategy.
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The move might also be a result of the rising influence of ISI in Afghanistan. It is reported that the Taliban and ISIS do not get along well and Taliban are reluctant to share their power and territory with any foreign group. After the crackdown against ISIS in Syria, they have shifted their focus from their fighters fleeing to Afghanistan. The shift of stance might be attributed to this new foreign invasion; the Afghan government would need the assistance of Taliban to keep ISIS away from the country.
If the peace process is successful, it will have positive results for Pakistan as the US will have no excuse remaining to hold back Pakistan’s aid and put sanctions on it. Cross-border terrorism and extremism is also expected to reduce if peace transpires in the region. Pakistan would also have one less border to focus on if peace comes in Afghanistan but it all depends on whether the Taliban accepts the proposal or not.