Peace in Afghanistan, a desire that is being pursued by the Afghans first and others later yet, the warmongers and beneficiaries have been making all-out efforts to keep the battleground alive so as to reap as much as they desire. Those, who have worked tirelessly for the peace must be aspiring to witness the occasion of the peace signing ceremony on February 29, 2020. Let’s hope that Afghan’s dream comes true and peace prevails.
During September 2019, Afghan Taliban stated that they are ready to negotiate and their doors are open for discussion. Recalling the efforts of last year, hopes were high and expectations were that peace deal would be inked but President Trump’s statement of abandoning the talks stalled the process and things went wary for the time being. Sense prevailed and the negotiations were resumed after a break in December 2019. During this uncertainty period, presidential election results were announced and Ashraf Ghani was declared the President.
The ongoing peace negotiations have finally met one of its mile-stone of temporary cease-fire or “Reduction in Violence” as per understanding between the US and Taliban, for one week starting from 22 February till 29 February. Another development or speculation or announcement is the signing of peace deal that is to be held on 29 February 2020. After the seven days, if the outcome is positive, both sides will move to the next phase of inter-Afghan dialogue.
So far, the progress on reduction in violence is encouraging and hopes are high about the signing of a peace deal. The General populace in Kabul are hopeful and happy over the developments. The political uncertainties are making the atmosphere a little tense. Abdullah Abdullah, declaring himself as president and Dostum supporting him with challenging the IEC election announcement, is a hurdle in the proceedings. Inter-Afghan dialogue, which has to kick start after 29 February, after peace agreement signing ceremony will be facing the challenge of who and whom to talk.
The peace process is likely to face: the legitimacy of the president, who will be leading the talks from the government side so, the political uncertainties will be contributing to an uncertain peace process. If the situation of political divide persists where will Kabul be moving to? How will the US react to the crisis? Will we witness another unity government like resolve or sense will prevail, according to some, and Abdullah will set-aside in wake of peace and settlement? The questions are worth consideration.
If the confrontation between the two presidential rivals continues, the option which looks workable for the US is to install an interim government. A setup that would be broad-based, comprising political cum warlords cum religious leaders, so as to avoid any criticism from Taliban especially. Most interesting would be to include ethnic representation, Pashtun from both sides, the Taliban and Afghan government side will have to form part of the group holding discussions. This way the US will be able to exercise all its options of materializing the perceived peace and settlement.
The hurdles in way are the reaction and response of political leaders like Karzai, Ghani, Abdullah, Dostum, Mohaqiq, Zia Masood and few others. The sitting parliament is likely to react with more hardened stance, as they have been electorally elected through parliamentary elections after delay of years. Taliban would agree to the interim arrangement as that would suit their long-standing mistrust over the sitting government and leadership. However, the groups within Taliban rank and file, though speculated, is also a problem which may cause delay of continuation of unrest.
The general populace response is predictable and that would be wait and see, as they are fed-up with uncertainties and are desperately looking and expecting peace and security. Warlords are the most unpredictable faction, as they will be expecting share in interim and subsequently also. Anything short of their demands will create further instability and may stall the second step of the peace process, the Intra-Afghan Dialogue.
The situation is encouraging, in context to reduction in violence but is serious in context to political developments. Ghani and Abdullah’s match over presidential result is adding to difficulties for the US and Zalmay will again be at shuttle diplomacy drive to resolve the ongoing political crisis, this time not with Taliban and Pakistan but within Afghanistan. Ghani is a US favorite and the US will try to make things go Ghani way, but making Abdullah agree is also not an easy task.
Afghanistan is not as calm as it appears, Taliban response to intra-Afghan is also to be seen in context to recent political developments. The interim set-up arrangements will also attract resistance. Other waring factions like Da’esh may also contribute to insecurity. The spoilers like India, who does not look at Taliban as an option even, may work towards their vested ends. Pakistan is likely to respond in following the US way of handling, as that suits Pakistan’s option of peace with broad-based arrangements at Kabul.