Role of Rus­sia & Iran in Afghan peace

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Ali Ashraf Khan

PAK­ISTAN is again in a pre­cari ous sit­u­a­tion; Afghan pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani has blamed us for the Kabul at­tacks that cost the lives of so many peo­ple though of course it was a clear se­cu­rity fail­ure of the Afghan agen­cies. Or did Ghani want Kabul and Afghanistan be run from Islamabad? As a mat­ter of fact both the Afghan and Pak­istani gov­ern­ment seem un­able to un­der­stand why their peace ef­forts re­main fruit­less. They are un­able to un­der­stand that peace is only pos­si­ble when all sides are ready for it and that this is some­thing that can­not be achieved by pres­sure.

There­fore, all de­mands that Pak­istan should ‘put pres­sure’ on the Tal­iban to come to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble are in­formed by a wrong un­der­stand­ing of what a peace process is all about. Pres­sure will not help. How will Tal­iban that come un­der pres­sure to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble be pres­sur­ized to im­ple­ment the peace that is agreed to? That will need more pres­sure if Tal­iban are not there out of their free will and be­cause they want peace and rec­og­nize the util­ity of it.

We have to an­a­lyse and un­der­stand the back­ground of this gim­mick which started as part of cold war be­tween the two su­per pow­ers and Afghanistan was made a scape­goat. If you look at video clips cir­cu­lat­ing in so­cial me­dia of Afghanistan and Kabul be­fore 1985-6, Kabul was a busy busi­ness city with all kinds of so­cio-eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity go­ing on in nor­mal way. Afghanistan lo­cated in South-West Asia di­vided by Hin­dukash moun­tain range, where many peo­ple are semi-no­madic live­stock herders can­not be tamed eas­ily to fol­low the dot­ted line of West. Af­ter US launched Osama bin Laden loaded with dol­lars and arms to over­see Ji­had, which was later co-spon­sored by OIC. When Rus­sians with­drew and left af­ter the war, the US not only aban­doned Afghanistan but sup­ported Tal­iban rule in Afghanistan in which then US Am­bas­sador Robert Oak­ley, then In­te­rior Min­is­ter Gen Naseerul­lah Babar (Retd) and Gen Hameed Gul also played their role, as long as they thought US will get their pipe­line deal se­cured. Only when the Tal­iban let that deal col­lapse that pro­vided a rea­son to at­tack af­ter 9/11 to fur­ther turn this coun­try into ru­ins, a chess game un­der clash of civ­i­liza­tion or war against reli­gion ex­panded in Asia and the Mid­dle East - dream that has gone soar now for US and West.

The Tal­iban do not so far rec­og­nize the util­ity of peace though many of them must be tired of war and the in­con­ve­niences and dan­gers that are part of their daily lives. That is be­cause they have a cause and that cause has not been achieved yet. The cause is free­ing Afghanistan from for­eign oc­cu­pa­tional troops and from a for­eign po­lit­i­cal sys­tem that had been later pressed upon Afghanistan through the Bonn process by the West. For many years now this is what they have voiced and in­sisted upon and for Pak­istan to be­lieve that one day they would change their mind is just day dream­ing and a ba­sic flaw in our for­eign pol­icy ap­proach.

In any case for the Tal­iban to be able to come to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble out of their free will they would have to say good-bye to both these causes of their strug­gle. Is that prob­a­ble or pos­si­ble to hap­pen? The peace that is aimed at by the Quadri­lat­eral group in­cludes the ac­cep­tance of US troops in Afghanistan un­der the bi­lat­eral se­cu­rity agree­ment and the ac­cep­tance of the Afghan con­sti­tu­tion that is a va­ri­ety of west­ern po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. And be­cause the Tal­iban are not likely to throw away 15 years of fight against for­eign oc­cu­pa­tion and ide­o­log­i­cal rape es­pe­cially not now when they are so suc­cess­ful in the bat­tle­field and when the US in­stalled Afghan stooge gov­ern­ment is crum­bling the peace talks in the cur­rent for­mat are un­suc­cess­ful and will re­main so.

This is what the Rus­sian en­voy to Afghanistan, Mr Kab­ulov, just said re­cently. He said that Rus­sia con­sid­ers the cur­rent for­mat of the peace talks, spon­sored by the four-power group of Pak­istan, Afghanistan, the United States and China, in­ef­fi­cient. He added that Rus­sia was ready to join the stut­ter­ing peace talks on Afghanistan if the in­ter­ests of all par­ties tak­ing part in them are re­spected, in­clud­ing Afghanistan it­self. One of the in­ad­e­qua­cies of the cur­rent for­mat that Mr Kab­ulov was re­fer­ring to im­pliedly is surely that im­por­tant re­gional pow­ers like Rus­sia and Iran are not in­cluded in the talks while the US though without any le­git­i­mate in­ter­est in the re­gion is part of it. In any case it seems that the Rus­sian ini­tia­tive to join the ef­forts is a good sign. Rus­sia has its own in­ter­ests and ex­pe­ri­ences in Afghanistan and can surely con­trib­ute pos­i­tively. But Moscow is rightly com­plain­ing about the for­mat of the talks and its join­ing of­fer is de­pend­ing of the cre­ation of a new for­mat which should not be con­sid­ered if we are se­ri­ous about world peace and pros­per­ity in re­gion.

Nev­er­the­less, while the ad­di­tion of Rus­sia – and hope­fully Iran- would be a step in the right di­rec­tion there re­mains the mat­ter of what kind of peace is there to be ne­go­ti­ated. The Tal­iban are ready to stop fight­ing and join apo­lit­i­cal process but not un­der the pres­ence of for­eign troops, and a con­sti­tu­tion that is based on west­ern val­ues and po­lit­i­cal prac­tice which amounts to the nega­tion of Sovereignty and free­dom of Afghanistan un­der the UN Char­ter. Peace in Afghanistan can­not come till the time this ground re­alty free will in com­ing to talks and of in­clud­ing Iran and Rus­sian in peace ne­go­ti­a­tion is not ac­cepted by peace-lovers, oth­er­wise they will re­main very much alone at their ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble and re­sult of their ill-con­ceived pre-emp­tive war­fare will lead them to fi­nal doom. May God grant lit­tle seren­ity to these ad­ven­tur­ists to ac­cept re­al­ties. —The writer is a se­nior colum­nist based in Karachi.

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