The latest US-Taliban peace pact is unlikely to deliver peace to Afghanistan, is geopolitically unfavorable for Pakistan, and has major ramifications for our national security. The terms of the agreement, as well as the manner in which it was negotiated and the geopolitical context in which it was crafted, suggest that it was more about providing an honorable exit route for the US administration’s military campaign in Afghanistan than about ending violence in the country.
The Taliban starts to make moves
Violence and severe conflicts over the settlement erupted in Afghanistan within 24 hours of the widely publicized agreement. Given that the Taliban negotiated from a position of strength, the US administration from a position of weakness and lack of political will, and the Ashraf Ghani administration in Afghanistan was largely oblivious to all of this, Afghanistan may be on the verge of yet another long-drawn-out an internecine battle.
Except for Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, when the Taliban took power in Kabul in the mid-1990s, it had few supporters around the world and was not considered as a useful commodity by the region’s great powers or governments. And the international community was largely unanimous in its condemnation of the deadly group. As a result, the Taliban was tolerated at best until it made mistakes at the end of its rule in Kabul. While in power, the Northern Alliance maintained military pressure on the Taliban, which was backed by countries such as Russia.
Today’s position is perhaps the polar opposite of what it was back then, at least for the time being. The Taliban are also more worldly-wise today, and they may have learned how to deal with the international system and play the game of power balance during their exile. Furthermore, after it retakes power, it may or may not be a puppet of any state.
Given the war exhaustion and geopolitical stakes in Afghanistan, most of the region’s and world’s main parties have engaged in talks with the Taliban in some form or another, and for various reasons, have given the terror group credibility in the process. The Taliban is the flavor of the season right now, and anyone who wants a piece of Afghanistan or doesn’t want its domestic strife to spill over into their own country would do well to keep the Taliban happy.
Taliban’s return with a flourished image
Another reason for the Taliban’s popularity is that the US pullout benefits everyone, including China, Pakistan, Iran, and Russia. Suddenly, the Taliban appears to have been pardoned for its heinous history and unforgivable misdeeds, because the United States poses a greater threat to most of these countries than the Taliban.
The Taliban’s return, however necessary, marks a regional win for religious fundamentalism, which will have major consequences for the region as a whole. The Taliban’s return is not simply a win for a puritanical religious group, but it is also an act of legitimization.
Furthermore, given that a new Taliban-led administration in Afghanistan will be significantly more recognized by the international community than the last one (1996–2001), increased acceptability for such regimes in general, either out of necessity or as a result of geopolitical considerations, is a guarantee. The fact that the Taliban mass-murdered its opponents to gain statehood in the twenty-first century should concern us, as it could serve as inspiration to other groups in the area and beyond.
The writer is professionally associated with Bank Al Habib as a financier. He is also serving the Student Think Tank for Europe-Asia Relations (STEAR) as the organization’s Sponsorship Officer. He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in the article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.