Home South Asia Afghanistan Pakistan seeks political solution to Afghan conflict: Khawaja Asif

Pakistan seeks political solution to Afghan conflict: Khawaja Asif


News Analysis |

A renewed effort to establish peace in the war-torn nation of Afghanistan is taking shape. A two day peace conference began in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan on Monday, March the 26th. Delegates from around the world began arriving in Uzbekistan on Sunday. The Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan was titled “Peace process, security cooperation and regional collaboration”.

The Foreign Minister of Pakistan was also present on the occasion and expressed Pakistan’s willingness to help in an Afghan owned and Afghan led peace process. Addressing the conference, Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan had consistently been stressing for the resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan through a political settlement, putting emphasis on the need of a regional approach for stability and peace. He also showed concern about proliferation of the network of Daesh and narcotics in Afghanistan and the wider region, emphasizing the need for collaboration between Afghanistan and its neighbors. He also reiterated Pakistan’s support for the peace offer made by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the Taliban.

A security conference was organized last fall in Samarkand as well but it also failed to produce any meaningful result. Despite these peace efforts, the war has raged on for nearly two decades now.

On the 28th of February, Ghani had offered ‘unconditional talks’ to the Taliban, who are yet to respond to the offer. At the Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation last month, he called on the Taliban to accept peace and also declared that Taliban should be considered a political group. The Afghan Taliban are sanctioned as terrorists by the United Nations. Various leaders are included in the ‘Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List’. Removal from this list has been a long standing demand made by the Taliban. President Ghani’s offer for peace talks without pre-conditions to be held anywhere is unprecedented. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan expressed Pakistan’s support for the peace offer by the Afghan president.

The war in Afghanistan began in October 2001 when the US invaded the country after September 9/11, holding the Taliban responsible for Al-Qaeda which perpetrated the attacks. The Taliban regime was ousted within months and Washington declared victory. However, the Taliban launched an insurgency soon afterwards. This insurgency has proven to be largely successful. After 17 long years of fighting, the Taliban control as much territory in Afghanistan as they did before 9/11.

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Training of the Afghan Security forces by the US has resulted in little progress. The Afghan Army is facing all sorts of problems. A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction showed that the US has wasted about $70 billion in training Afghan security forces, who are suffering high casualty rates. And the war doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of stopping. The US approach of using force is not working. Pakistan has always supported a peace process based on dialogue. That is why peace efforts like the one in Tashkent are important.

Representatives of over 25 countries and international organizations have attended the Conference. Most significantly, the heads of the ministries of foreign affairs of India, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK, the US and the EU’s foreign policy chiefs are in attendance. The UN special representative to the UN mission in Afghanistan was also there and made a statement to the participants in Tashkent. “[The] dominant discussion about Afghanistan is how to achieve a lasting peace,” he said. “We urge the Taliban to muster their courage, and respond positively to this offer [made by Ashraf Ghani],” he further added.

Addressing the conference, Khawaja Asif said that Pakistan had consistently been stressing for the resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan through a political settlement, putting emphasis on the need of a regional approach for stability and peace.

The conflict in Afghanistan affects countries throughout the region. Pakistan is the most affected. Millions of refugees, weapons and drugs have flown into the country due to the war in Afghanistan. Iran, China and the Central Asian Republics also have stakes in lasting peace in the war torn nation. Moscow, too, has interests in making sure stability is achieved in the landlocked nation. The increasing presence of ISIS in Afghanistan is a concern for Russia and there is a risk of spillover into Russian territory due to instability in the region. The recent Tashkent Conference had Moscow’s backing as well.

Both Pakistan and Russia have improved their relationship with each other over the past few years. At part of the reason is that the US has put sanctions on both, albeit of different kinds. Islamabad and Moscow can derive mutual benefits from having strong economic and security ties. A joint counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism military exercise held in Pakistan in 2017 may be a sign of things to come. A $2 billion gas pipeline is also being established in Pakistan, thanks to investment by Moscow. Pakistan and Russia, along with China, have also held talks to discuss the Afghanistan situation.

Read more: Khawaja Asif talks about Indian hand behind the attack on APS…

There have been several efforts to establish peace in Afghanistan. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group (Q4) consisted of Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and China. There have been talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan in Doha. Trilateral dialogues between India, Afghanistan and the United States have also taken place but to no avail. A security conference was organized last fall in Samarkand as well but it also failed to produce any meaningful result.

Despite these peace efforts, the war has raged on for nearly two decades now. It might not be possible to resolve the situation in its entirety in the Tashkent conference. This concern was expressed by the UN Special Representative to Afghanistan when he said, “The agenda for peace in Afghanistan has never been as clear as it is now. {But] there is still much work to be done.” But it is a step in the right direction.