With the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) carving bloody paths in Afghanistan now more than ever is there a need for dialogue. The last fortnight has seen three high-casualty attacks in Kabul and a range of detailed analyses indicate that the Taliban and their affiliates either control or strongly influence large parts of the country and not only their traditional strongholds of the south and east. The area of IS influence is much smaller, and they hold no significant territory but have an operational capacity that exceeds the footprint of their physical presence — they are deadly and effective when they do strike.
A delegation of leading security officials from Afghanistan came calling at the request of Afghanistan itself on Jan 31st. They are here to discuss security cooperation and a reciprocal visit will be made by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua on Feb 3rd when she visits Kabul. The fabric of the bilateral relationship is in urgent need of repair and restoration, and the trust deficit between the two states has grown rather than diminished in the last six months. Much of the reason for this is Pakistan constantly being fingered for being at the heart of all that ails Afghanistan, if not directly then by implication. Nothing is forever and whatever the errors of Pakistan’s past and they are many, it has made monumental efforts in recent years to dislodge and eliminate extremist elements from within its borders. Many of them have migrated to Afghanistan where they find ready sanctuary in the vast swathes of territory beyond the governance of the Kabul regime. This element seems to get lost in the undergrowth of political inconvenience for Afghanistan.
The visit was in all likelihood prompted by a trip to Kabul by US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan earlier in the week. The Americans are keen to keep dialogue alive at this level as every other form of dialogue, no matter who it has brokered by, has cardinally failed to produce an inch of advancement towards a peace process. They are not even at the level of ‘talks about talks’. We wish the dialogue well but are not holding our breath.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd, 2018.
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