Moscow conference — landmark peace talks
PAKISTAN, Russia, China and Iran wish to see peace and stability in Afghanistan, because peace, progress and prosperity of the region hinge on peace in Afghanistan. It was in this backdrop that Russia held international meeting on Afghanistan in which eleven countries of the region participated. The significant part was that for the first time Taliban’s official delegation participated in the conference, and also agreed to attend such meetings to find real peace in Afghanistan. In 2016, the Taliban had declared that it would not take part in peace talks brokered by representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States until the foreign occupation of the country ended. Now the Taliban leaders are not averse to holding dialogue. But since the Taliban leadership is firm on its stand that US forces must be withdrawn, Moscow conference or direct talks between the Taliban and the US would be an exercise in futility.
In 2015, Qatar-based representatives of the Taliban had rejected the negotiations that were held in Islamabad in July that year. Apart from an internal rift within the Taliban, there are internal contradictions between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah. Anyhow, Afghan government and former Northern Alliance elements are opposed to any dialogue with the Taliban also due to the bitterness of the past. Late Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum had created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and those under the control of Dostum. After 9/11, when the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, they had supported the invasion and had the lion’s share in the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai. Even today, President Ashraf Ghani is surrounded by elements from former the Northern alliance.
There is a perception that the US is interested in the continuation of instability in Afghanistan to justify its presence in the region. While Washington verbally supported the negotiation process, in reality it aimed to derail it, as peace can diminish the American influence and increase the Russian and Chinese influence. The US has been accusing Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and providing safe havens particularly to Haqqani Network. It had been suspicious that Pakistan played duplicitous role, whereas Pakistan had a point that TTP militants were provided safe havens in eastern Afghanistan by RAW-NDS nexus, and were encouraged to attack Pakistani posts and villages. It has to be mentioned that Pakistan had captured the maximum Al-Qaeda operators than all countries combined, and lost 70,000 citizens including 6000 personnel. The war has devastated the infrastructure and caused displacement of millions of citizens.
One could infer from the statements of President Donald Trump that that the objective of the US is not to win the war, but to undermine Afghan peace talks initiated by Russia, China and Pakistan. As Moscow, Beijing and Islamabad have been paving the way to reduce tensions in the region, Washington has been hurling threats on Pakistan over its alleged terrorism ties. But any attempts to put pressure on Islamabad, such as imposing sanctions, cutting aid or threat of discarding its position as a non-NATO ally are likely to push the nation further toward Russia and China. Anyhow, the US does not wish to see peace in Afghanistan, as it wants to set up a permanent base in the war-torn Afghanistan under the pretense of fighting terrorist groups especially ISIS in the region. Once, the US had considered putting India – Pakistan’s arch rival – at the forefront of solving the Afghan crisis.
But they do not understand that when more than 100000 US and NATO forces, and 250000 Afghan forces and Afghan police raised by them could not rein in the Taliban who continue to control large swathes of land in Afghanistan, they still blame Pakistan for their failure. In fact, the US and its allies failed to understand that Afghans have always guarded their independence religiously, and throughout its recorded history no power could subjugate them except for a brief period as in case of British or later Soviet occupation. The result of three Anglo-Afghan wars was either defeat of the British Empire or at the most what it called a tactical victory. In the 1970s, former Soviet Union had occupied Afghanistan on the pretext that Afghan government led by President Noor Muhammad Tarakai had requested to send two battalions for his personal security because he smelled conspiracy from Hafizullah Amin who was suspected of being an American agent.
After Hafizullah Amin had overthrown in a bloody coup and took over the charge, Soviet troops invaded Kabul on December 25, 1979, on order from Moscow to replace the radical Hafizullah Amin with the Soviet-endorsed Babrak Karmal as head of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Anyhow, the Soviet Army had to face stiff resistance by Afghans, and the US on finding an opportunity to make Afghanistan Soviet Union’s ‘Vietnam’ tried to chanelise the Afghans’ energies and their passion for jihad. Using international media, jihadis from all over the world especially from Arab countries were inspired, motivated and funded by the US. Pakistan was indeed the frontline State against Communism; yet neocons continue to denigrate Pakistan. Before last elections, as a frontrunner of Republican Party Donald Trump had termed Pakistan “a vital problem for the United States because they have a thing called nuclear weapons.”