Home South Asia Afghanistan Islamabad nominated to conduct arbitration in US-Afghanistan table talk

Islamabad nominated to conduct arbitration in US-Afghanistan table talk

US general wants Islamabad to play a key role in promoting dialogue between US and Afghanistan, but can Islamabad help?

Islamabad
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News Analysis |

Following an explosion in Northern Afghanistan killing 14 civilians on 19th July 2018, the United States’ General Joseph Votel highlighted his interest in including Pakistan as one of the key players in addressing this dire situation.

The war provided an opportunity to Pakistan, in proving to the USA, that Pakistan can be a reliable ally in the fight against communism, and that is how the U.S, KSA, and Pakistan garnered support to create a force against the Soviet Union that was later abandoned.

During a press briefing, Votel gave statements regarding Pakistan’s involvement. He said that he had witness’s positive signs from Islamabad, however, he expected more on Pakistan’s part.

These expectations meant Pakistan putting pressure on its Pakistan-based militant fighters in Afghanistan on accounts of arresting, expelling or even targeting. In addition, he said that the United States is unlikely to make any big shifts in its military strategy, resulting from an ongoing assessment of the war effort in Afghanistan.

Read more: Afghanistan: The cornerstone of US-Pakistan mistrust?

The recent killings of these 14 civilians were still under investigation. Ambiguities existed as to whether these deaths took place due to ground assault or air strikes.

The Provincial Governors’ Spokesman, Nematullah Temory, said that the explosion which occurred on Thursday took place in Chahar Dara District of Kunduz, which included the death of men, women, and children.

Releasing their statements, the Taliban, spoke to news outlets about the killing of 27 people in the area on Thursday. This was accompanied by a spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid blaming these deaths on US air strikes.

According to NATO Spokesman Lt. Colonel Martin O’Donnell, US indeed carried out airstrikes in the area, “In support of Afghan-led ground operations”. Furthermore adding that “On-the-ground assessment of those strikes reveals no indications of causing civilian casualties,” he said in an e-mail.

Votel clearly mentioned the key role Washington wants Islamabad to play in promoting dialogue in Afghanistan.

Prior to this, reports of 10th July 2018 showcased that the United States was preparing to undertake a strategy review, a year after President Donald Trump hesitantly agreed to extend America’s involvement in this conflict.

Moreover, Votel portrayed this as a regular assessment rather than a wholesale review and suggested that he expected it would confirm progress. Officials reported Trump’s frustration over the lack of progress since his last Augusts’ unveiled strategy.

Read more: How the US destroyed Afghanistan

This strategy had committed itself, to an open-ended deployment of US military advisers, trainers and Special Forces and increased air support for Afghan security forces. This included the deployment of an additional 3,000 US troops, bringing the total to around 15,000.

Sharing its goals, US expressed that pushing the Taliban militants to work towards a peace agreement with the Kabul government is their aim.

The significance of Pakistan’s role on the table talk

Pakistan has an imminent influence on whether those talks will succeed in getting the Taliban to agree to sit down and negotiate a peace agreement with the Afghan government.

It is important to understand how Pakistan had been involved between the Taliban and Afghanistan historically. Dating back to the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States, who at different times supported either Pakistan or Afghanistan, Pakistan was indeed involved and played the role of a key player.

The war provided an opportunity to Pakistan, in proving to the USA, that Pakistan can be a reliable ally in the fight against communism, and that is how the U.S, KSA, and Pakistan garnered support to create a force against the Soviet Union that was later abandoned. The abandonment led its growth into something volatile and hostile, something U.S and Pakistan,  both, had to regret for many years.

Peace talks between the U.S and Taliban have taken place within Pakistan several times before. Therefore, extending requests to Pakistan in participating to counter terrorism, is an accepted one, as always.

We have always had a pretty clear view of what Pakistan can and cannot do in terms of delivering the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table,” a U.S. official stated, reported by Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the peace efforts

However, Pakistan being a peace-loving country has confirmed on many events of fighting against the Taliban and has been undergoing grapevines for a long time.

Pakistan denies any influence over the Taliban, or that they have any havens on Pakistani soil except whatever ones used to be present in the semi-autonomous tribal region on the border with Afghanistan; which with diligent efforts by Pakistan were countered.

Pakistan, too, has been a victim of terrorism, so it understands the importance of countering terrorism. And Pakistan will always extend arms to counter terrorism, where ever it is possible for them.

In addition, he said that the United States is unlikely to make any big shifts in its military strategy, resulting from an ongoing assessment of the war effort in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s role in facilitating peace talks is critical, given that Pakistan has been accused of having a clout with them. Pakistan has denied it had any influence over the Taliban, or that they had any havens on Pakistani soil except in the semi-autonomous tribal region on the border with Afghanistan.

Read more: Is Daesh in Afghanistan benefiting from the mistrust between Islamabad and..

A retired US general, Douglas Lute, urges Washington to balance “our demands on Pakistan (with) … our other interests in Pakistan”, adding that “we actually have several interests in Pakistan (that)… surpass our interest in dealing with the Afghan Taliban”.

Piling pressure on Pakistan, US expressed its faith in Pakistan, time and time again, to crack down on militant safe havens on its side of the Afghan-Pakistan border. Votel clearly mentioned the key role Washington wants Islamabad to play in promoting dialogue in Afghanistan.

We also need to see them continue to make efforts to compel the Taliban to come to the table and take advantage of these opportunities,” Votel said.


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