Prospects of a peace deal in Afghanistan
After a long delay in the Afghan election results, Ashraf ghani claimed the throne of Afghanistan. Ghani secured the chair at a time his country has entered its most perplexed stage since the Afghan war began in 2001. Trump’s haste to withdraw with or without a deal with the Taliban and stalled peace talks uncovers the gravity of the situation.
When the US President met with US soldiers at Bagram airbase during Thanksgiving in late November, he indicated clearly that both a political solution to the problem and the unilateral withdrawal of US troops were feasible options on the table for the US.
The irrelevance of the Afghan government during the peace process gives less hope to the possibility of a deal that is satisfactory to all. When Trump’s predecessor visited Bagram in 2014, then President Hamid Karzai made clear that he would host Obama in the presidential palace instead of visiting him at the airbase.
It should not be forgotten that while Trump was boasting about offers of a peace-deal from the Taliban, Ashraf Ghani stood among the soldiers being addressed, like a stranger in his own country. All this further strengthens the narrative for the Taliban that Ghani is nothing more than a ‘puppet’ of the US.
Surely Trump must remember that this is not one of his pre-president era business deals back home where he backs off to build pressure on an opposing party to secure a better deal. The situation with the Taliban is grave, real, violent and more mature than ever.
Trump is desperately in need of at least one foreign policy success, especially after the misfire of Soleimani’s killing and the Trump administration’s confusion over Iran policy.
The prisoner swap late in November between the Taliban and America with the Afghan government and Pakistan as facilitators, was seen as a positive step to contract the trust deficit between the stakeholders.
But despite media reports of Dec. 30, the Taliban have no reason to announce a cease-fire (a precondition by the US for a peace deal), when Trump’s re-election depends primarily on his promise of ‘bringing the soldiers back home’ regardless.
In December last year, Trump decided on a troop draw-down from Afghanistan of 4,000 serving men and women at the earliest, according to US officials. This move could put a major dent in peace talks as the Taliban’s main demand is the complete withdrawal of US troops before any talks begin.
In the same month, Taliban’s senior spokesperson, Sohail Shaheen told NBC news that they were willing to form an inclusive government which represented all Afghani people. But similarly vague statements have been made by the group in the past and this doesn’t rule out the possibility of their monopoly on power once the US exits Afghanistan.
As elections in the US approach, Trump is desperately in need of at least one foreign policy success, especially after the misfire of Soleimani’s killing and the Trump administration’s confusion over Iran policy.
In recent weeks however, Taliban have intensified attacks signalling that they have no intention to slow down or compromise on their demands. If the US leaves Afghanistan without a detailed concrete accord because it wants to come out of the ‘endless wars’ it has begun, the power struggle is only going to lead to a bloodbath in Afghanistan.
As of now, the Taliban have not agreed to involve the Afghan government in the talks and the US has not agreed to a complete withdrawal of troops. The United States’ miscalculation of the insurgent group’s resistance power of the last 18 years has led to the creation of more militants than have been fought. And at the end of the day, it’s only the average Afghan person suffering between the blows.
– Naila Mahsud is a Pakistani political and International relations researcher, with a focus on regional politics and security issues.