KARACHI: This is with reference to the trilateral summit held in Kabul on July 19. It seemed high on hype but low on substance. The summit failed to answer the one primary concern that all those associated with the ‘future security and stability of Afghanistan’ have: that will the Taliban be willing to become part of the political process? Will they agree to participate in the peace negotiations that may lead to the resolution of the Afghan conflict? Without answers to these questions, the participants of the summit could only hope for a peaceful transition in Afghanistan.
One should be reminded that it was not US policy to negotiate with terrorists. But today, the reality is such that ‘negotiating with the terrorists’ seems to be the most sought-after solution. If dialogue is the weapon of the weak then the Taliban will not be so naïve not to understand why they are being offered dialogue. Those who offer dialogue today were yesterday using Daisy-cutters and Hellfire missiles in the past.
In an irregular war, the biggest virtue is patience. No matter what the cost, there is always an appropriate time for hitting back. The Taliban presumably understand that the time for them to hit back at the coalition forces and the regime in Kabul is now and during the process of withdrawal and even beyond that. Hence, they would not be interested in dialogue.
The summit also recognised Pakistan as the facilitator who will bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. While commitments at the summit were made by the Pakistani prime minister, the fact remains that Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan is tightly controlled by the military. The real question is will the army allow anyone else to have a say in a matter that it considers to be of vital national interest. Will the army commit the Taliban and the Haqqanis to peace agreements without assigning them a role in the future to neutralise Indian influence in Afghanistan?
Haqqanis are believed to be strategic assets by the army and so will commit them to peace only if the Taliban carrying out acts of violence inside Pakistan from hideouts in Afghanistan are stopped. To achieve peace in Afghanistan, a trilateral summit involving Afghanistan, India and Pakistan is needed. The leadership of these countries must agree to stop fighting proxy wars with one another. Until this happens, peace will remain elusive.
Muhammad Ali Ehsan
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.
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