optimistic fantasy
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Dr. Zafar N Jaspal |

The increasing violence and the continuity of trans-national terrorist syndicate’s sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s peripheral regions have scared the neighbors of the country. They are worried about the regional terrorist groups increasing association with the IS (Daesh). The IS fighters’ foothold and the continuity of protracted warfare in Afghanistan would be having a deleterious spillover effect on the neighboring states’ national security. Accordingly, the neighbors of Afghanistan are endeavoring to prevent it from further descending into dreadful chaos.

Russians tackle threat of ISIS in their own way

The Russians have convened a 12 nations meeting for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan on April 14, 2017, in Moscow. China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India, and Central Asian nations are among the invitees to the Moscow conference. Many analysts believe that the Russians practical involvement in the Afghanistan affairs is a continuation of its assertiveness in the Eurasian region.

According to press reports, the Chechens form one of the largest foreign contingents in IS war in Iraq and Syria.

Secondly, its efforts are aimed at preventing IS from spreading its tentacles in the war-torn Afghanistan. Besides Russians, the Chinese are also actively participating in the Afghan peace efforts. Beijing is equally scared from the spread of IS influence in Afghanistan. The forthcoming meeting accentuates Russian and Chinese convergence of opinion over the peace process in Afghanistan and thwarting IS making inroads close to the borders of Central Asian countries.

Read more: Afghanistan’s Options: India’s Treachery or Regional Cooperation

Since the rise of IS in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the Russians have been alarmed about its expansionist agenda. The Russians took the IS announcement regarding the establishment of ‘Caliphate’ and its provinces in different parts of the world very seriously. The extension of the Caliphate to the Khorasan province encompassing Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan and Iran validated Moscow’s fear. Moreover, IS associates conducted terrorist acts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Moscow realizes the vulnerability of its soft belly, especially Chechnya. According to press reports, the Chechens form one of the largest foreign contingents in IS war in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, for Moscow, the gradual penetration of IS in Afghanistan poses a serious threat.

To impede the IS intrusion in Afghanistan, Moscow established direct contacts with the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Unity Government has been compelling the Russians to terminate their contacts with the Afghan Taliban. Conversely, the Russians seem convinced that without the cooperation of Afghan Taliban the rise of IS can never be obstructed in Afghanistan.

The United States’ Stance Regarding the Afghanistan Peace Process 

American analysts professed the Moscow Afghanistan peace initiative as President Putin’s smart tactic to increase Russians influence in the region. Hence, the Trump Administration declined the Russian invitation to participate in the multinational meeting.

Although, Trump Administration has not publicized its policy on Afghanistan, yet it is an open secret that Washington would not abandon Afghanistan. The continuity of Obama Administration policy is expected. Moreover, the United States has a strategic interest in Central and West Asia and thereby it cannot ignore South Asia in its foreign and strategic calculation. In this context, Washington has been cementing its strategic partnership with India. It is also facilitating New Delhi’s role in Afghanistan.

Read more: Will Russia’s initiative on Afghanistan succeed despite India’s resistance?

The recent contacts between Russian government – and other neighboring states of Afghanistan – and the Afghan Taliban are infuriating for Trump Administration. The latter considers these contacts with Taliban as a direct interference in the Afghanistan affairs. American analysts professed the Moscow Afghanistan peace initiative as President Putin’s smart tactic to increase Russians influence in the region. Hence, the Trump Administration declined the Russian invitation to participate in the multinational meeting scheduled on April 14, 2016. The absence of the United States in the meeting obviously reflects the divergence of opinion of the Great Powers over the peace process in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Participation and Efforts 

Islamabad’s earnest desire is to abolish terrorist sanctuaries located in Afghanistan. Without erasing these sanctuaries, Pakistani law enforcement agencies can not completely annihilate Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Therefore, it sincerely participated in the quadrilateral dialogue process.

The forthcoming Moscow multilateral meeting is the outcome of the Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani officials’ efforts.

Unfortunately, President Ghani’s flippant attitude resulted in increasing mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad. Instead of realizing and mending his own government’s shortcomings, he blamed Pakistan. Consequently, the quadrilateral dialogue process was shelved without any tangible outcome.

Read more: Trump: Awaited Angel or feared Devil for Afghanistan?

Presently, Islamabad is supporting Russia’s Afghanistan peace initiative. It participated in the three trilateral meetings that were held for deliberation during the recent months. Indeed, the forthcoming Moscow multilateral meeting is the outcome of the Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani officials’ efforts.

Without a direct dialogue between the Afghan Unity Government and Afghan Taliban, the peace in Afghanistan will only be a mere optimistic fantasy.

Afghan Taliban leadership was also approached to participate, unconditionally, in the peace talks with the Afghan government. Afghan Taliban, however, expressed their disinclination in participating in a meeting in which Afghan Unity Government representatives would be partaking in peace negotiations. The absence of Afghan Taliban in the multinational peace conference certainly casts a shadow over the Moscow Afghanistan peace initiative.

To conclude, the forthcoming Moscow multinational meeting is a timely regional peace initiative to end the 16-year devastating war in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, without a direct dialogue between the Afghan Unity Government and Afghan Taliban, the peace in Afghanistan will only be a mere optimistic fantasy.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is an Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Director & Associate Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan, where he teaches various aspects of Strategic Studies; International Security; Nuclear/Missile Proliferation; Terrorism including CBNR Terrorism and Countermeasures; Arms Control/Disarmament; Domestic and Foreign Policies of the country. He is an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, Islamabad/London and a Course Coordinator at Foreign Services Academy Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamabad. Prior to joining the University, he had been a Research Fellow at ISSI, IPRI, Islamabad, Pakistan. Dr. Zafar, as a Guest Speaker/Visiting Lecturer, had delivered and still continues to deliver lectures at NATO School, Oberammergau, Germany; Center of Excellence: Defence against Terrorism, Ankara, Turkey; National Security & War Courses of Pakistan’s National Defence University; Intelligence Bureau Academy, Command and Staff College Quetta; Air War College, Karachi, and Foreign Service Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan. He holds Ph.D. and M. Phil in International Relations and M.A. in Political Science. He did advance Post Graduate Certificate courses in Peace and Conflict Studies, from European Peace University Stadtschlaining, Austria; Peace Research, International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis from Oslo University, Norway. He also did CMC Training Course/ Cooperative Monitoring from Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States.

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