We are not makers of history, we are made by history
A recently-released picture of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo standing with Taliban’s deputy political chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is reminiscent of the photo that came out on 16 June 1986 from the Oval Office in which Ronald Reagon, the then President of the United States, and freedom fighters from Afghanistan (Mujahideen) met. After 34 years, the interests of the countries such as the USA, Pakistan and Afghanistan are, once again, aligned. During Reagan’s reign, the Taliban were declared freedom fighters as the US wanted to use them as a tool against the then-mighty Soviet Union. President Reagan played a masterstroke and put his administration’s weight behind the mujahideen. He also provided financial support and helped them with weapons and training provided through Pakistan. Who could have imagined that the Taliban, who had enjoyed US support in their jihad, would one day stand against it?
Many years ago, when the second phase of the Cold War started, the USSR, which had ideological differences with the US and was considered its rival, invaded Afghanistan. Pursuing its own interest, the United States managed Pakistan’s strategic help and found a group of Afghans (Taliban) who would fight against the USSR. The US declared them mujahideen, as they stood against foreign (Russian) invasion of their homeland. Pakistan also played its role in depicting this politico-ideological war between the USA and USSR as jihad.
However, the situation changed after the fateful incident of 9/11 and the ensuing war on terror; these freedom fighters were declared terrorists in what can be called a huge U-turn in US foreign policy. This U-turn backfired, especially for Pakistan, as Taliban guerillas launched attacks on and in the country when it aligned with the United States in this war. But, after almost 20 years of war, the Taliban have proven their resilience as in spite of spending trillion of dollars, the United States has nothing which it can sell to the American people as a victory in Afghanistan. The incumbent Trump administration was so desparate to get out of the so-called ‘graveyard of empires’ that when Imran Khan took over as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, President Trump wrote, in Dec 2018, a letter wherein he sought Pakistani premier’s help in bringing the Taliban on the negotiation table. Pakistan played its role very effectively, and the Taliban and US concluded an agreement titled “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America” in which both sides agreed to work jointly for the cause of Afghan peace.
In a nutshell, after years of turmoil, peace is being negotiated in Doha, Qatar. Pakistan has played a behind-the-scenes but crucial role in courting the Afghan Taliban for long-awaited intra-Afghan peace talks, aiming at political reconciliation and bringing an end to decades of violence in the war-stricken country. Now, it seems that the interests of the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan have once again aligned. Given this situation, one can hope that Doha talks will bear fruit and bring much-needed peace to the war-ravaged Afghanistan.