Sunday September 26, 2021

Cooperation and peace

November 21, 2020

At a crucial time in the Afghan peace process, as the war-battled country shows dangers of disintegrating once more into chaos, Prime Minister Imran Khan paid his maiden visit to Kabul on Thursday. Prime Minister Khan met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and held a series of talks, during which the two countries essentially agreed to strengthen cooperation and discussion on security affairs over the coming days. Significantly enough, PM Khan was accompanied by the DG ISI and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who met his counterpart in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in Islamabad, the US Charge d’ Affairs met COAS General Bajwa and discussed the Afghanistan situation with him in detail. Pakistan has been involved over the past few years in facilitating talks between the Taliban and the US government in Doha. However, despite the progress on the talks, there is no sign of an end to violence in Afghanistan, which has in fact accelerated over the past few weeks, with Afghan authorities reporting dozens of attacks by the Taliban on key military positions. The Taliban for their part point out that the talks in Afghanistan were held with the US and commitments made to them, not to the Afghan government, which is not recognized by the Taliban.

Pakistan’s role in all this will be significant. It is after all a chief player in the region and its links with the Taliban were believed by the US to be essential to bringing about anything resembling peace in Afghanistan, which as PM Imran Khan pointed out, has suffered nearly 40 years of unrest and warfare affecting its people. The security of Afghanistan is also closely linked to security in Pakistan, and welfare in both countries. But what is to happen next depends on whether the Taliban keep to the commitments they have made during talks in Doha, and at other stages. The group had agreed to a ceasefire. But there are no signs at the moment that this is being upheld.

To complicate matters, US forces are set to withdraw for the large part from Afghanistan by January next year as President Donald Trump ends his term. When this happens on January 20, only around 1500 US troops and a slightly smaller number of Nato troops will be left in the country. Whether these are sufficient to help the Afghan forces, which are believed to be under-trained and under-equipped to ward off the Taliban is uncertain. The Nato chief has expressed his reservations regarding withdrawal and said that a hasty pullout could see the country become a “platform for international terrorists”. For the present, there is news from Doha that some talks have resumed. We can only hope they continue and that the peace essential for the region can return to Afghanistan helping the people of both Pakistan and Afghanistan.