Role of Russia & Iran in Afghan peace
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.