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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Imran Khan talks strategy: Persuade Taliban for Intra-Afghan dialogue

Addressing the United States Institute for Peace, Prime Minister Khan vowed that he will meet with the Taliban and make efforts to persuade them to engage with the Afghan governments. He underscored Pakistan’s commitment to the peace process, and explained the damages, both human and economic losses suffered by Pakistan throughout America’s war on terror.

News Desk |

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed that upon his return to Pakistan, he will meet with the Taliban, and try to convince them to engage with the Afghan government, and bring an end to the 19-year-long war with a political settlement.

Responding to a question on using his “leverage with the Taliban” to broker a peaceful exit for the US forces, Imran Khan noted, “Taliban delegation wanted to meet me a few months back. It’s because I always maintained that there was no military solution, while everyone else in Pakistan’s political spectrum kept agreeing on a military solution.”

“Because of that, I had a certain amount of credibility amongst them, they wanted to meet me but the Afghan government did not want me to meet them.” Prime Minister Khan mentioned that now that he has met with US President Trump and Afghan President Ghani, he will meet with the Taliban. He stated, “I will try my best to get them to talk to the Afghan government, to make sure that the election in Afghanistan is an inclusive election, where the Taliban are also participating.”

Pakistan Seeks Peace

Addressing the Seminar hosted by the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, Imran Khan noted that despite being a dependable ally in the US war on terror and being inflicted with unprecedented human and economic losses, Pakistan always found itself subjected to the US blame-game, and the push to constantly “do more”.

Khan noted that the Army has supported the PTI-led government’s agenda to broker peace with India, and the military and civilian leadership is on the same page with regards to the Afghan settlement.

The Premier noted that as suicide bombs went off, rocking cities and killing hundreds across Pakistan, Washington’s allegation spurred anger with its lack of acknowledgment towards Pakistan’s plight.

The premier noted that the PTI-led government has ushered in a foreign policy based on engagement across the neighborhood, in light of which invitations were extended to both, New Delhi and Kabul. He noted that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit has allowed the two countries to renew bilateral relations, allowing Pakistan to facilitate the Afghan peace process with a new momentum.

Sharing his views on the ongoing Afghan peace talks hosted by Russia and Uzbekistan, Khan commented that all Afghan neighbors should join the effort. He cautioned, “Pakistan, the United States and Afghanistan, these three countries are the most interested in having peace in Afghanistan, but not all neighbors are interested in peace, for their own agendas.”

Khan advised that in order to undermine certain forces that will attempt to “put a spanner in the works”, Washington must rally up greater support for the Afghan peace process from across the neighborhood and the world at large.

Pakistan & Jihadist Groups

Explaining the dynamics of Pakistan’s role in the US war on terror, Imran Khan observed that Pakistan suffered a severe influx of sectarian violence, an element that was never before witnessed in this part of the world.

He noted that given the fact that the Jihadist groups created to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 80s were “indoctrinated to fight against a foreign occupation”, when the Pakistan Army attempted to support the US, another foreign occupation, and “neutralize these groups”, the Jihadist groups turned against the Pak Army.

Addressing the dire consequences Pakistan had to pay for collateral damage, and the spill-over of Al-Qaeda and other terror outfits, Imran Khan explained the creation of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. He said, “There was no Pakistani Taliban before that.”

Khan noted that Pakistan’s internal war on terror led to unprecedented losses to the Pakistani nation and army, leading to millions of tribal people being internally displaced. He said, “The amount of damage done to the tribal areas, we still do not have the resources to compensate them.”

Read more: PM Khan says he will meet Taliban when he returns

Explaining the horrifying APS attack of 16th December 2014, Imran Khan noted that the National Action Plan, signed by all political parties, allowed the Pakistan Army the fervor to eliminate all militant groups and terror outfits operating on Pakistani soil.

Two-Front Security Situation

Prime Minister Imran Khan explained that the Pakistan Army has always feared a “two-front” situation with India and Afghanistan collaborating against its interest.

He said, “The fear amongst the Pakistan military establishment was always that there would be a two-front situation. There would be India on the eastern front, and if Afghanistan would also be within the Indian sphere of influence, then Pakistan would be sandwiched between the two.”

Imran explained that this is why the Pakistan military needed a “strategic depth” in the region. He added that today, Pakistan does not need strategic depth at the cost of interfering in Afghanistan, which has caused severe damage to Pakistan. He noted, “I speak for the Pakistan army, earlier it was regarded as an independent entity and that governments have no control over it. I can sit here and tell you and I can tell you as I speak, the Pakistan Army is exactly behind the government’s program.”

The Taliban are undoubtedly tactical winners in the Afghan conflict, however, they need US approval and support to sustain their gains with a political settlement.

Khan noted that the Army has supported the PTI-led government’s agenda to broker peace with India, and the military and civilian leadership is on the same page with regards to the Afghan settlement. “We believe that we should not ever interfere in the internal affairs of Afghans. Let the Afghans decide what sort of government they want, and we should facilitate this peace process.

No Military Solution

Responding to Trump’s callous remark of “ending the war in Afghanistan within 10 days”, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan issued a statement, reminding the US of its 19-year long struggle in the “graveyard of empires.”

An excerpt from the Taliban’s statement read, “America has never shown restraint in killing the Afghans over the past 18 years and has used all weapons of mass destruction including the Mother Of All Bombs. Yet the 18 years of force proved that the policy of aggression and tyranny is fruitless and demonstrates ignorance regarding why Afghanistan is called the Graveyard of Empires.”

Imran Khan reiterated his stance that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict, and it must be addressed by adding the Taliban to the electoral process.

Speaking to Global Village Space, Jan Achakzai, renowned Geo-strategic analyst with close ties across diplomatic channels, explained that Pakistan’s sole ambition is to seek peace and stability across the region.

The Baloch analyst explained, “Imran Khan’s promise to continue to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation is in line with the Pakistani state’s quest to seek peace and stability in the region. The help was extended when the Trump Administration came closer to Pakistan’s narrative on Afghanistan: there is no military solution and only talks can end the conflict.”

Achakzai continued, “Then Washington sought Islamabad’s role in facilitating the reconciliation effort. Now both Pakistan and the US have come far from earlier days of misunderstanding in encouraging the Taliban to talk to the US—banking on leveraging Pakistani influence.”

Read more: US could kill 10 million, win Afghanistan war in 10 days: Trump

Underscoring the dynamics of Pakistan’s influence with the Taliban, Achakzai explained, “This influence of Pakistani leverage comes not in shape of total control of the Taliban, (i.e., as wrongly perceived by many), but its soft power that it exercises: in the past the Taliban leadership was frequently visiting Pakistan, getting some medical facilities. They also had immediate family connections at the time when Afghanistan was no-go-area due to NATO’s military surge.”

Taliban: Tactical Winners

Achakzai underscored that Pakistan is committed to the Afghan peace process, and facilitating the Kabul government despite its support to Indian-proxy groups and terror outfits.

He noted, “Pakistan did not play a spoiler role: it did not undermine Qatar as a venue for talks; it still tried to reach out to Ashraf Ghani government despite active interference of Kabul and hosting the TTP and BLA elements in safe havens; Islamabad warned the TTA (Afghan Taliban) it had to talk to the US or else Pakistan has to cleanse all sort of foreign presence from its soul under the NAP.”

The Baloch analyst added that the Taliban are undoubtedly tactical winners in the Afghan conflict, however, they need US approval and support to sustain their gains with a political settlement. He said, “The Taliban are no doubt tactically winning the conflict in Afghanistan but they need the support of the US to sustain their gains in Afghanistan if political settlement is reached with Washington which includes international recognition and legitimacy and economic aid to afloat state structures.”

Read more: Peace in Afghanistan only Possible with Pakistan’s Support: US Senator

Jan Achakzai continued, “This is also one factor that they want to include other Afghans in post-US Afghan dispensation. They have learnt from 1990s’ experience. Yes, there are still issues to be sorted out (i.e., Taliban’s participation in political and security structures of Afghanistan).”

“But they can easily meet the US expectations: no attack from Afghanistan against the US interests, stability and implementation of the proposed settlement. So they will stick to talks with the US and will also likely meaningfully engage with other Afghan segments.”