By: Harriss Ali Akakhail
U.S President special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, recently concluded his second trip to the south Asian region, where U.S is fighting its longest war in her history i.e. Afghanistan. This trip can fairly be termed as part second from a series of trips, which are to be ushered in future. The first trip, where Zalmay Khalilzad had a stopover in Kabul, Islamabad, Jeddah and Doha, this trip focused primarily at Kabul, then Doha and back to Kabul. First trip was more over a typical maiden visit and an ice breaker. But its hall mark was the token of good will gesture by U.S with Taliban towering figure, Mullah Abdul Ghanni Baradar getting a release. This made Taliban a bit comfortable that it seems things shall move in a right direction and a formidable peaceful deduction is achievable. With the arrival of Zalmay Khalilzad for his second trip in first half of November, Taliban financial wizard Mullah Samad Sani and Haqqani’s commander Mullah Salahuddin aka Hammas got a release from the captivity of Pakistani agencies. These high-profile releases were done upfront before Zalmay Khalilzad hop over to Doha to have a sitting with Taliban Qatar political office.
This time, it was the first ever visit of any U.S official to Kabul in 17 years, with a mindset to end the war. But was Afghan government at Kabul willing enough to sit with Taliban and cushion them in and formulate a compromise over the behest of U.S, remains the million-dollar question. To figure out, at Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad met from President to ministers, to old Jihadies and political lot to prominent figures and shared his piece of mind which he got over from Washington. While in return, he heard Afghans with a big hear and steady calmness. A feeler of acceptance is always there as everyone wants the war to end but men at Kabul do have jitters as to how Taliban shall behave and is U.S that serious to exit, as that’s the prime demand of Taliban but not by the men at Kabul. Even if so U.S plans to exit, men at Kabul wants a firm assurity that U.S will guarantee something that will make them stay alive rather not vaporize like in late 80’s, when Russians left Afghanistan too abruptly.
Zalmay Khalilzad flew to Doha, in between his trip to Kabul, for 3 days and returned back to see Ashraf Ghanni once again. At Doha, marathon sessions were held with Taliban Qatar political office to formulate an end state for Afghanistan. Zalmay Khalilzad stuck to his guns with asking Taliban time and again that they cannot win over the battle field, so better it is that they accept the U.S demand of sitting directly with Kabul government and accepting it as a legitimate government, representing the people of Afghanistan. But contrary to his forceful inclusion, Sheer Abbass Stnakzai, chief of Taliban Qatar political office officials, aided freshly by two Guantanamo bay returnees, stuck to their version that in no way Kabul government can be accepted as a legitimate entity. As if that is to be done, than the reason to fight this war for last 17 years evaporates in thin air.
U.S President Donald Trump has successfully defused North and South Korea feud and brought both nations to an intimate level and surprised the world. It’s vividly evident with Zalmay Khalilzad quip and crisp actions to draw a conclusion in Afghanistan, that Donald Trump wants to surprise the globe once again and present himself as a statesman. He seems in a hurry to leave a more prosperous and a peaceful world where U.S stays at its home base. With that pre-requisite in mind, both parties held prolonged sessions at Doha and finally a way out was approached with cohesive ending to the war in Afghanistan, at least for now. U.S to announce an exit date from Afghanistan and Afghan Taliban within that time frame of exit, sit along Kabul government for peace talks with all wide-ranging subjects from governance to commerce, from sports to media and education to curbing of opium production. From Doha, Zalmay Khalilzad flew back to Kabul while two messengers of Afghan Taliban also flew to the region to appraise the rehbari shura (guidance council) of Afghan Taliban about the points of authority shared. It was agreed in principal by Zalmay Khalilzad and Sheer Abbass Stnakzai to get a firm word from Washington and guidance council, while meeting back at the same rendezvous within a month.
Zalmay Khalilzad straight away head back to Kabul and discussed the proposal, mildly, with Ashraf Ghanni and then flew back to Washington. While guidance council sat amongst themselves and pondering till now, way out to sharpen the deal. For now both parties seems satisfied for the grounds covered, in such a short span of time. Vibes from both sides seems positive as with this proposal at hand, Taliban and U.S have shown tremendous flexibility and formulated a win – win situation. Meanwhile on the other hand, Ashraf Ghanni also met all important men of Afghanistan in separate compartmentalization mode, where he shared the proposal conveniently reached between U.S and Taliban with his interlocutors. As of those discussions, Ashraf Ghanni have now constituted a 11-member consultancy board on peace talks with Taliban, while Taliban are seriously thinking of sending over Mullah Ghanni Baradar to Qatar to head Taliban Qatar office for further talks with Kabul government.
If one peeps into the near future, we may see a breakthrough by end of December. But before that breakthrough, some more packages of prisoners shall be released from both sides and some more hard grinding talks to proceed. After that, both parties will decide guarantors of these talks as USA shall not present it to the world that it’s being decided between USA and Taliban, as if that is done, it would be a disaster to USA foreign policy determinants and standing at world arena. So, rather, actual face of talks will be between Taliban and Afghan government while U.S sits at the back end. Main body of talks are to be led by Qatar political office of Taliban and Ashraf Ghani consultative board about constitution of Afghanistan, whether it be pure Islamic or having a tinge of preset day world order, with rest of topics under that banner. This mechanism gives peace a fair chance and all parties to present to the world later that it was win for all. Finally, the ardent desire of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan also gets fulfilled that USA pulls out from Afghanistan and leave it to Afghans to decide their fate amongst themselves.