Taliban or the US: Who is war weary in Afghanistan? | Pakistan Today

Taliban or the US: Who is war weary in Afghanistan?

Washington should support regional peace efforts rather than doing politicking to keep its role relevant in Afghanistan

Reportedly, Russia is going to host the leadership of the Afghan Taliban in an effort to restart the Afghan peace process. A few months ago, Russia proposed an idea of holding multilateral peace talks and invited a number of countries to join the talks. The government in Kabul rejected Russia’s proposal, citing reasons that any such high-level discussion should be led by the Afghan government. The United States also agreed: Washington has never supported any peace efforts which had Russia’s mediation.

As expected again, Russia’s latest effort to invite the Afghan Taliban leadership for talks has not been welcomed by the government in Kabul. Moscow, apparently, having learned from its previous experience, has not invited the Afghan government; rather, various other key stakeholders from the country’s political circle have been invited to join the process.

With the security situation in Afghanistan becoming worse, the tug of war between the US and Russia over the question of who has the legitimacy to lead or supervise the Afghan peace process is only going to complicate the overall issue of the peace process.

The recent developments which have taken place in Afghanistan and perhaps Pakistan doesn’t bode well for efforts to establish peace in the country. Pakistan recently released a senior leader of the Afghan Taliban. The gesture was welcomed in Afghanistan and elsewhere. However, it doesn’t help unless the forces in Afghanistan are not ready to take any regional mediation from the perspective of resolving the crisis.

Assuming that the Taliban are war-weary that’s why they want to enter the peace talks is entirely wrong.

Pakistan has for years been criticized for its efforts to launch a peace process with calls that the peace process should be an Afghan lead and Afghan-owned process. To an extent, Islamabad while keeping its efforts for peace in place, has taken a step back from becoming a front man in terms of the peace efforts. Various power centers in Kabul and across the country that have their loyalties associated with different regional and international players are always eager to criticize Pakistan’s role.

This case is not only with Pakistan: Various ethnic and political groups have registered same attitudes with other regional states which stand to gain from peace in Afghanistan. Russia’s latest effort to invite the Afghan leadership for talks has been rejected by the government in Kabul. By now, it should be clear to the Afghan government that they neither have the legitimacy nor political will or capacity to hold any talks with the Taliban on their own. With the Taliban rapidly gaining territory and momentum in Afghanistan, the Afghan government should take any assistance which is being offered including by Russia and Pakistan, which is in the best interest of the Afghan government.

It has already been established that the US cannot win the Afghan war with force. “The Afghanistan war cannot be won militarily and peace will only be achieved through a political resolution with the Taliban,” said Gen. Austin Scott Miller, a newly-appointed American general in charge of US and NATO operations. Now that it has been established that the way forward in Afghanistan seems to be a political solution, it should also be taken into account that neither the Afghan government nor the US government has any influence or leverage to force the Afghan Taliban into talks. Another interesting statement which the newly appointed American general in Afghanistan gave was this: Taliban is tired of fighting and may be interested in starting to “work through the political piece.” Among other things, it shows that it’s Washington which is war-wary now rather than the Taliban leadership: The group has registered its primacy by fighting the government and international forces for around two decades and it’s the only thing they have known so far. Assuming that the Taliban are war-weary that’s why they want to enter the peace talks is entirely wrong.

It’s actually to undermine peace efforts which are being led by various regional stakeholders including Russia, China, and Pakistan. If Russia, China, and Pakistan have been able to maintain some sort of influence over the Afghan Taliban, the government in Afghanistan and its allies in the West need to take advantage of such an opening. Undermining the role of Russia or Pakistan which has for years propagated peace process is akin to keeping the insurgency going. If Washington and its ally in Kabul didn’t end their opposition to efforts which are taking place at the regional level, the formers should be ready for a war which can go on for decades without any end in sight.

The Taliban have agreed to become of a mediation which is led by Russia or its affiliates. And if the US or another country is seriously interested in peace in Afghanistan, they should be supporting the ongoing efforts for peace in the country rather than doing politicking over the issue which would only bring more destruction to the region.

Umair Jamal

Umair Jamal is a graduate of the School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University. He is a research fellow with the Centre for Governance and Policy. He regularly writes for various media outlets. He can be contacted on Twitter: @UJAmaLs.