Afghan peace prospects
Mohammad Jamil


The month of May 2011 has been the worst so far as the Pak-US relations are concerned, as the US civil and military leaders continued with Pakistan-bashing and were able to tarnish the image of its military and ISI through the Special Forces operation in Abbottabad.

It was something strange because in April (a month earlier) the Pakistani and Afghan civil and military leaders had held a crucial meeting and agreed to upgrade the joint commission, earlier set up in January 2011 to carry forward the reconciliation process, following the withdrawal of the occupation forces from Afghanistan. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Hamid Karzai, who held exhaustive talks in Kabul at the presidential palace, had described the parleys as “historic”, saying that “the two countries stand together as they have shared destinies.” There was a lot of euphoria and the media highlighted the resolve of the Pakistani and Afghan leaderships to bring peace in the war-torn country and described it as a significant step forward.

However, peace prospects looked bleak in view of the extreme positions taken by the US and the Taliban. The US had insisted that the Taliban should renounce violence, abandon Al-Qaeda and abide by the Constitution; whereas, the Taliban insisted on the withdrawal of the foreign forces. The leadership in Washington, however, had made its intent known about keeping the bases it had established in Afghanistan, while President Karzai told it that the future of the bases would be decided in the grand jirga. Since then, America has kept Karzai out of the dialogue process held with the Taliban. And according to the Pak-Afghan envoy, Marc Grossman, Pakistan was also out of the loop so far as the dialogue with the Taliban was concerned. Last week, the international media reported that Mullah Omer sent Motasim Agha Jan, his son-in-law, as part of a secret delegation that met with British, American and German officials in Qatar to broker an Afghan peace deal.

Mullah Omar is reported to have given his blessing to the Afghan peace talks with three emissaries. A long-time confidant of Mullah Omar, Agha Jan was appointed as the head of the Taliban’s political commission in 2008, and was considered to be the in charge of prospective contacts with the Western governments and Kabul. Diplomats insist that the discussions in Qatar and at least one meeting in Germany are just “talks about talks,” the Scotsman reported. There is another report that the US for the first time has taken Pakistan into confidence about its dialogue with the Taliban at unknown places. If it is true, the two countries could help bring sustainable peace in Afghanistan providing a respectable exit to the US troops.
Washington should understand that no progress can be made unless more than half of the Afghan population comprising Pashtuns are guaranteed that they will have their rightful share in power and no tricks or ruses are likely to work. But instead of understanding the ground realities, the US is trying to shift the blame to Pakistan and insists that the top Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaderships are present in its tribal belt. Last year, an imposter impersonating as Taliban’s senior leader Muhammad Akhtar Mansoor negotiated with the Americans, and disappeared after making millions of dollars and left them behind with reeling embarrassment and shame. Does it not speak poorly of the CIA?

The outgoing commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan said on Monday that the focus of the war will shift in coming months from the Taliban strongholds in the south to the eastern border with Pakistan where insurgents closest to Al-Qaeda and other militants hold sway. Undoubtedly, they should stop hurling threats, and if America does not take cognisance of the ground realities in Afghanistan, and fails to address Islamabad’s concerns about New Delhi’s involvement in destabilising Pakistan from its consulates in Afghanistan, it will be heading for trouble. In fact, USA’s reliance on India could prove to be a sure recipe for disaster. Already, many analysts are of the view that Afghanistan could become another Vietnam for America.