First step towards peace

First step towards peace

While taking the first step towards peace in Afghanistan, in September 2016, negotiators in Afghanistan signed a draft of a long-awaited peace agreement that has brought a former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, into the government fold while forgiving allegations that he was responsible for serious war crimes.

It’s a misfortune and laxity of the Muslim world; all of them became pawns in the hands of super powers, especially United States. It’s the Jewish agenda, which, very successfully got implemented through CIA and other American intelligence agencies. Every possibility of Israel and Indian intelligence’s involvement can also not be ruled out. The agenda implicated various factions of Muslims, especially in Middle-East region, to fight with each other and the fear to face Israel in minimized. Other benefit from this chess-board game is to slay any threat from the rising power of Iran, which, since long is on the nerves of Washington.

Today, from Yemen to Syria Muslims are fighting and killing each other, so is the case in Afghanistan. Very discretely Washington got a peaceful country like Saudi-Arabia, involved in the Yemen war, and in proxy war of Syria.

There’s no Shah Faisal or Z.A.Bhutto, to fix it up and resolve the fatal differences. Pakistan, still stands with regards and respect from all the countries caught up in the bloody clashes. So, Nawaz Sharif and our government can play a very vital role in resolving the deadly differences and can make them understand to move towards a peaceful solution. China also can be a big source of help in this regard. A peaceful Afghanistan is essentially important for Pakistan. Peace in Syria and Yemen means, peace in whole of Middle-East, and friendly relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran means, a strong Muslim block.

The peace deal commits Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former CIA asset, prime minister and ally of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden who has been involved in fighting in Afghanistan for four decades, to renounce violence, cut ties to extremist groups and respect the Afghan constitution.

Eight years ago, President Obama pledged to wind down the war in Iraq and redouble efforts to settle down the conflict between Taliban and Afghan government. As president, he promised to keep the peace accord in Afghanistan, a top priority. But he could not attain any result. Washington could not settle down with Taliban and Al-Qaeda, both illegitimate babies of CIA, because at the same time their help was required in Syria. What a deceitful way, terrorists on one side and allies on the other.

At the twilight of Obama’s presidency, these goals receded further into the distance as America’s longest war deteriorated into a slow, messy slog. Yet despite this grim reality, there has been no substantive debate about Afghanistan policy on the agenda. Donald Trump has not outlined a vision to turn around, or withdraw from, a flailing military campaign. In fact, pentagon never wants it.

The war in Afghanistan has cost America in excess of $800 billion including $115 billion for a reconstruction effort, more than the inflation-adjusted amount the United States spent on the Marshall Plan. The Afghan government remains weak, corrupt and roiled by internal rivalries. The casualty rate for Afghan troops is unsustainable. The economy is in shambles. Resurgent Taliban forces are gaining ground in rural areas. Despite an international investment of several billion dollars in counter narcotics initiatives, the opium trade remains a pillar of the economy and a key source of revenue for the insurgency.

It does not appear that the Afghan forces in the near future will be able to defeat the Taliban, Nor is it clear that the Taliban will make any significant strategic gains or be able to take and hold on to strategic terrain. It’s a very ugly, very costly stalemate.

The administration’s current strategy commits the United States to keeping roughly 8,400 troops in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future and spending several billion dollars each year subsidizing the Afghan security forces. The goal has been to coax the Taliban to the negotiating table by beating them on the battlefield, a prospect that seems remote.

The accord to grant amnesty to Hekmatyar and leaders of his organization for alleged crimes during the Afghan civil war of the 1990s seems a first step to peace. Hekmatyar’s forces are blamed for indiscriminate rocket attacks against Kabul that killed hundreds of civilians, as well as the forced disappearances of political opponents.

President Trump may be tempted to adopt the Obama policy with a phony hope for the Afghan government. At the very least, the Trump administration needs to carry out a top-to-bottom review of the war, one that unflinchingly addresses fundamental questions.

One such question is whether the Afghan Taliban, an insurgency that has never had aspiration to operate outside the region, a creation of Washington, now, how should be handled that they come on the negotiation table like Hekmatyar, who can also be a good assistance for the purpose.

Another question is what it would take to bring the conflict to an end, either by enabling Afghan forces to defeat the Taliban or by bringing them into the political fold and whether that is something the United States is realistically capable of achieving.

This will not be an easy discussion. But, Afghans, who have endured decades of war, need to plan better than the current policy, which offers good intentions and wishful thinking. The Afghan government's rationale for reaching a peace deal with him is aimed at encouraging other insurgent groups to join the negotiation process, to show that the Afghan government can on its own facilitate a peace talk and succeed.

Ghani's bid to engage the Taliban in talks had collapsed last year while insurgent violence spread. In July 2016, an Afghan government assessment concluded that more than half the country's 384 districts were under threat from insurgent groups.

Hekmatyar, now in his 60s, is both an asset and a liability to an Afghan government that includes former warlords and has formed allegiances with others as it struggles to contain the Taliban insurgency. A former leader of the jihadi campaign was an asset of CIA, who struggled against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, he rose to become prime minister before allying with al-Qaida and later the Taliban against Western forces in Afghanistan. Although Hekmatyar's influence has waned, his return would add another powerful Pashtun to a government already led by members of Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, including Ghani and his top advisors.

Many Afghans oppose amnesty for Hekmatyar. Before the signing ceremony, a few dozen protesters gathered in central Kabul carrying signs with messages such as, "We don't forgive the killer of Kabul." Hekmatyar is not alone in enjoying impunity. None of the Afghan warlords from the 1990s has been held accountable. The failed disarmament of abusive militias, have crippled reforms needed to build effective government institutions crucial for a lasting peace.

The Afghans welcomed the agreement as a step in bringing the conflict in Afghanistan to a peaceful end. Afghan-owned peace process that results in armed groups ceasing violence, breaking ties with international terrorist groups, and accepting the Constitution, including protections for women and minorities, can fetch peace in Afghanistan after four decades of devastation. Peace in Afghanistan means, peace in this region and peace in Syria and Yemen means, peace in the whole of Middle-East. Friendly relation between Saudi Arabia and Iran means, a big stoppage on number of conflicts.

If, G-8 and G-20 can be formed to facilitate each other, if BRICS can be formed (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South-Africa) why can’t a Muslim block be formed? Why can’t an independent Muslim body be formed which should not only help the members to resolve the differences between them, but also cooperate with the development plans among the member nations. Pakistan can play an essential and leading role. China, if joins representing Chinese Muslim community will be an added support. It’s requirement of the time.

The writer is a technocrat and international affairs analyst