Instituting Peace efforts in Afghanistan
Khalid Khokhar


Many Americans argue that the nation should stay out of “open wars” in others territories that do not directly threaten its security or vital interests. The Vietnam war in which the United States took part, culminated in the loss of about 58,000 Americans soldiers besides spending billions of dollars that affected its economy badly. Nonetheless, lessons of US participation in Vietnam war was not applied in the 11-years of fierce fighting in Afghanistan. The war against terrorism has taken the lives of 6,300 US soldiers, 50,300 casualties service officials and about 1.3 trillions dollars. The wars against Iraq and Afghanistan have frustrated its troops in endless wars fighting non-state and invisible enemies thousands of miles away from their home country. Many Americans believe that US’s participation is unethical, unwise and questionable. For example, continued drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal areas is a case in point between Pakistan and the United States. Attacking militants on the soil of a longtime US ally, is strongly resented because the drones kill hundreds of innocent civilians along with few militants, causing widespread resentment against the Americans. Reacting on the drone attacks, Marion Birch, leader of anti-war group, said: “Drones are not only unacceptable from a human, moral and legal point of view, they are traumatising families and damaging the chances of peace”.

The Obama Administration’s actions in the past months reflect a paradigm shift in his policy from open wars to “behind the scene strategies” to counter the now-a-days menace of international terrorism that is faceless and country-less. The US reiterated its recent emphasis on pursuing reconciliation in Afghanistan instead of its usual strategy of using military might to eliminate al Qaeda network in the region. The United States is ready to open the door for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, said US Ambassador to Islamabad Richard Olson in a policy speech delivered at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad in February 2013. The Obama administration believes to take Pakistan (being the neighboring states of Afghanistan) on board for reaching out to Taliban and to find a regional solution to the Afghan issue. The American ‘behind the scene” policy assigns a bigger role in bringing Taliban to the talking table with the hope that an understanding between the Karzai administration and all corridors of power in Pakistan would bring overwhelming pressure to bear on the Taliban and persuade them to abandon their stance of refusing to talk to the Karzai administration. Defence strategists in the South Asia believe that the United States, which wants the integration plan to be operationalised by middle of the year, requires the support of Pakistan. The Pakistan and the United States are systematically identifying their shared interests so that they can act on them jointly. Advancing Afghan reconciliation process, Pakistan recently released 26 mid-level Afghan Taliban prisoners to help facilitate peace talks between the militant group and the Kabul government. This gesture was reciprocated the Afghan defence minister General Bismillah Khan during his visit to Pakistan, resulting in Afghan acknowledgement of Pakistan’s positive role in advancing reconciliation process. Both countries “reaffirmed their commitments” to signing a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) to encourage closer ties.
Although, Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed on the urgency of the Afghan peace process and “committed themselves to take all necessary measures to achieve the goal of a peace settlement over the next six months”. But mistrust and confusion” among key players — the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan —had floundered the peace effort. Pakistan has shown support at the highest level for any track of dialogue that the Afghans deem important, yet Islamabad has been accused of delaying the talks. President Karzai recently complained that the British leaders in London were using the peace talks as a lever against his government. On the other hand, the US media also reported that both Kabul and Washington were frustrated with Pakistan for not monitoring the activities of Taliban prisoners it released in recent months. Pakistan counters this allegation by pointing out that it freed the prisoners at the request of the Afghan government and doesn’t have the resources to keep control on them. The US media also reported that Kabul had asked for the release of the Taliban’s former second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, but Washington urged Islamabad not to release him. The Taliban have demanded that any negotiations should be between themselves and the United States and not with the western-backed Kabul Government. There is a threat to London conference between leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Britain that aimed to work towards a peace settlement within six months. The militants broke off tentative contacts with the US in Qatar in March last year after their failure of attempts to negotiate a prisoner exchange as a ‘confidence building measure’. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Ehsnaullah Ehsan, in a video interview expressing their willingness for conditional peace talks with the government, the Pakistani Taliban called for the top three politicians of the country (Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Ameer Syed Munawar Hasan) as guarantors for Taliban-government negotiations for stopping the conflict in the tribal areas of Pakistan. As the mistrust and blame game continues to play between the stakeholders, Pakistan is determined at strengthening joint efforts to address extremism and advance regional peace and stability.
The US and Pakistan share common interests in disrupting, dismantling, and defeating Al Qaeda, and in long-term regional stability, including a durable political settlement in Afghanistan. The militant and terrorist networks that operated in Pakistan’s territory also threaten Pakistani stability, endanger the prospects for a settlement in Afghanistan, and undermine regional stability. It is on record that more terrorists had been killed in Pakistan than anywhere else since 9/11 and that would not be possible without Pakistani cooperation. Pakistan supports an Afghan-led process, as it will benefit from improved stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s overland trade with Central Asia is still at a very rudimentary stage – with many Pakistan-Afghanistan economic mega projects including TAPI are linked to peace and stability in Afghanistan. Allowing Pakistan to develop its trade with Central Asia, thus generating revenues for Afghanistan and creating an economic interdependence, is clearly in Afghanistan’s interest. On the other hand, Afghanistan remains overwhelmingly dependent on Pakistan’s ports for its trade with the rest of the world. Therefore, Pakistan is working forthrightly with Afghanistan to mitigate any suspicions or misunderstandings. Besides, the United States’ long-term investment in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the field of energy, economic development, education, and health also depends on the stability of the region. The United States is committed to a cooperative and long-term partnership with Pakistan, broader than any one issue and centered on areas of mutual interests. Acknowledging past mistakes committed by the US in 1989 when it abandoned the region, the US ambassador to Islamabad Richard Olson insisted that his country would not repeat them when foreign forces pull out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Many international observers say that even after the reduction in NATO’s footprint in Afghanistan, the United States will still need the Government of Pakistan's cooperation on certain issues, particularly ensuring supplies reach the Special Operations/intelligence personnel staying back in Afghanistan. All depends on the peace and reconciliation process. It may be cumbersome but it could make possible an endurable peace in Afghanistan.