Peace Deal Between Taliban and United States of America
The theoretical framework of the deal is now set, but its implementation on the ground and manifestation in the Arg (Afghan Presidential Palace in Kabul) are yet to be seen. The United States has done a tremendous, yet a tricky, job by accepting Taliban as a legitimate political force in Afghanistan. It is now out of the negotiations, which, according to the deal, will be Intra-Afghan while the US will only be an observer. The United States will withdraw completely in phases in 14 months provided that Taliban stick to their promises made in the deal.
The way Afghan peace process has reached its culmination is unique, intriguing, thrilling and ideal in some ways. All major global and regional actors were involved, in one way or the other, in this process. It is indeed a unique event that a sovereign state was involved in bringing a non-state actor to the table through every possible measure. All the stakeholders were keen to end this saga now. Both sides were exhausted after fighting the fruitless war for almost 19 years, yet none of them was ready to disarm itself. The global and regional actors were involved and each of them was trying to secure its respective interests on the Afghan land. Countries like Russia, Iran and China, which were erstwhile the enemies of the Taliban, were seen supporting them to thwart the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan and to secure a clear position in Afghanistan after US withdrawal. All of them have facilitated the peace process in their own capacity.
The intriguing part is interesting, too, in a sense that the globally-declared terrorist outfit and its banned members were recognized, slowly and gradually, as a legitimate power—it has posed several questions to the future researchers to study. The thrilling part of the process is cancellation, and resumption, of the talks on crucial stages that has made the process more attractive and important. The appointment of an Afghan-American for the said purpose added to the saga as an Afghan was supposed to represent USA to hold talks with the people of his own country of birth; probably because he knew the inside politics along with strengths and lacunae in the Taliban outfit. This strategy worked very well.
The process may be termed as an ideal in few ways because of the soft approach adopted by a sovereign state against an effective non-state actor for ending a war that spanned nearly two decades. The process has contributed in many ways to the development and implementation of new tactics, strategies, compromises, adaptation of confidence-building measures (CBMs), tit for tat and carrot-and-stick policies from both sides which can be followed and applied in the future by researchers, academicians and policymakers at individual and state levels.
Apart from adaptation of these approaches in achieving the deal, the real challenge is its implementation inside a state where the state is not run by a single government. The incumbent Afghan president Dr Ashraf Ghani has won the recent elections but the runner-up candidate, Dr Abdullah Abdulahlah, also took oath as the president and announced a parallel government the same day Ashraf Ghani took oath of office. Prior to this, Zalmay Khalilzad’s struggle of convincing Dr Abdullah had failed.
Another important player in Afghan politics is Abdul Rashid Dostum who has worked with President Ghani in the previous National Unity Government as Vice President. However, he is, at present, not in a position to take side with Ashraf Ghani and has not even accepted Khalilzad’s offer for sharing of power with Dr Ghani. The ethnic division in Afghanistan is at its peak now. Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan’s (HIA) head Engr. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has also lost the elections but will certainly be concerned with the power distribution in Kabul. Other ethnic leaders, i.e. Muhammad Muhaqqiq, Atta Muhamad Noor, Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf and many other politicians and warlords will also be waiting for their share in power.
In this scenario, implementation of the Doha Accord and power sharing with the Taliban is a very challenging job. Ashraf Ghani was the first person who resisted the deal at first by denying release of Taliban prisoners. The proponents of status quo and those working in the Kabul administration will definitely resist or try to apply delaying tactics against materialization of Intra-Afghan dialogue. In the first stage, a team of negotiators was supposed to be constituted by the Afghan government that would talk to the Taliban. But, its formation was delayed due to deadlock between Dr Ghani and Dr Abdullah. The civil society and the media working in Kabul have their stakes in the current regime and are likely to resist the Taliban in resuming Kabul’s power corridors. States like India will try their best to instigate the forces working against the intra-Afghan dialogue. Some analysts suggest that Dr Abdullah’s announcement of a parallel government is backed by India as it wants to counter its rival’s (Pakistan’s) role in finalization of the peace deal.
Regional players, who have played a constructive role in making this deal a reality, will go all-out to get the deal implemented, and to restore Taliban’s political power. While concluding the whole debate, one may conclude that amidst the prevailing situation in Afghanistan, the country may see another civil war, if the deal is not implemented in its true letter and spirit. Some Afghans have blamed the regional states for destabilizing Afghanistan time and again, but time proved that the regional players, especially Pakistan, facilitated the process and made it successful. The ball is now in Afghans’ own court. They have to set with themselves and have to decide by their own for their future political system. Lets’ hope for the best and see the upcoming ups and downs in the new phase of Afghan Peace Process, i.e. the Intra-Afghan dialogue.
The author teaches at department of Political Science, University of Malakand, Chakdara.
He can be reached at email@example.com