The post-deal scenario
Mairaj ul Hamid Nasri
Afghan riddle is not going to be solved as easily as thought by the American strategists and their advisors. Afghans seem cussed for not uniting at any cost. Each and every ethnicity has managed to weigh their say at every platform and they are not in a mood to accommodate each other in national politics. Central government is getting weaker day by day and it seems that the country is on the verge of another period of chaos and anarchy. This is because the Intra-Afghan dialogue is not gaining the momentum it should have by now, and the gulf of distrust between the parties is expanding. Communication gap, too, is widening which may create further hurdles in the way of achieving the long-awaited peace settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Before materializing the peace deal, the central government in Afghanistan passed through internal scuffle, so much so that two contesting presidential candidates took oath as president on the same date at the same venue, i.e. Kabul. Dr Ashraf Ghani got majority votes but the runner-up, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, denounced Ghani’s victory and arranged his own oath-taking ceremony in the presidential palace. Nevertheless, the regional states have congratulated and acknowledged Ashraf Ghani as a legitimate and democratically-elected president of Afghanistan.
Coming towards materialization of the notion of intra-Afghan dialogue, the newly-inaugurated government is reluctant to break ground as it is using delaying tactics in this regard. The release of Taliban prisoners was the first case in this regard. As many as 5000 prisoners were to be released from Afghan prisons as per the terms of the US-Taliban deal, but the Ghani government promised to release only 1500 and that too at different stages. The Afghan Taliban sent their three-member delegation to Afghan presidential palace, the Arg, to negotiate and give a list of their incarcerated fellows —the delegation was kept short due to the prevailing Covid-19 that calls for avoiding social gatherings. At the first stage, Afghanistan released only a hundred Taliban prisoners. Due to procrastinations by the Ghani administration, the Taliban announced that they will not participate in any type of dialogue with the Afghan government as indicated by a statement issued from Taliban’s Doha Office.
Noted Afghan politicians and warlords have also huddled in Kabul at Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s residence to brainstorm and devise strategy for the upcoming intra-Afghan dialogue. Major national-level political and ethnic leaders attended the moot and there are reports that those belonging to minority ethnicities in Afghanistan are reluctant to accommodate Taliban in a future political set-up of the country. Hekmatyar has, reportedly, tried to convince the leaders for accommodating Taliban and each other at central level. This is good news because a hardliner Hekmatyar is willing to accommodate and come up with a fruitful outcome in this regard.
Talking about US role in post-deal scenario, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, recently visited Kabul and met the key stakeholders. He held discussions with Ashraf Ghani and Dr Abdullah Abdullah separately, and tried to convince them for a mutual agreement on the previous-style designed by the then-Secretary of State, John Kerry, in September 2014, which led to the formation of National Unity Government in Kabul. Unfortunately, Pompeo’s efforts proved futile as is shown by his angry announcement of a major cut of 1 billion dollars on US financial aid to Afghanistan. This is indeed a sign of dismay on the part of the United States as its struggle of ‘nation-building’ in Afghanistan seems totally failing. NATO partners are also seen as passive colleagues in the post-deal scenario, because all of them are of fed-up with the endless war.
The way-out for Afghans and other stakeholders is that they all should make efforts to form a confederation and come out of the persistently failed structure. The Afghan political scenario and terrain both are suitable for confederation. The ethnicities that have their respective areas under their control should be given autonomy and linked with the center through principles of confederation. Through this way, the local warlords and politicians will become an integral part of their respective localities and constituencies. At the central level, only four departments of defence, communication, foreign affairs and power may be managed in a better way. The global players and regional actors should come forward for prodding Afghans to come up with a prudent political system of confederation for achieving long-envisaged peace and stability in their war-ravaged country.
To conclude, it can be rightly said that Afghans are now in a position to decide their future political system as all major stakeholders are on board and the international donors are also supporting the dialogue. Regional actors, i.e. China, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey and Iran, may also play a crucial role for achieving this goal. Taliban have good terms with these states and can be attentive to their advice. Other ethnicities and politicians in Afghanistan can also be persuaded in one way or another. Intra-Afghan dialogue should be started without any further delay and the Afghans should come up with a practicable solution before they enter another civil war, that may be bloodier than that of 90s.
The author teaches at department of Political Science, University of Malakand, Chakdara. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org