They say peace is the period after war for the preparation of the next war. The peace talks between the Taliban and the United States in Doha are aimed at that sort of peace.
As I had written about my prediction in this space here before, an alliance of convenience could emerge between the Taliban and the United States — one aimed at fighting against the looming threat of Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan. The IS views the region including Afghanistan, India and Pakistan as part of the Khorasan region in their greater Islamic state.
Now that the IS has been defeated in Syria to a convincing extent, there is more reason to believe that their remnants would look east to the fertile grounds of Afghanistan and would actually start the long march to regroup. And now IS would be focused on taking revenge from the United States more than ever. Their soft launch in Afghanistan from few years ago would soon be replaced by a hard and aggressive one.
Five of the men representing Taliban sitting across the table from the American negotiators were inmates in Guantanamo Bay for 13 years until they got a lucky break when the Taliban in Afghanistan captured the American soldier Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, the only American POW held by Taliban, who was later swapped for these five men. One of them was Mullah Khairkhwa.
Some Taliban leaders during talks with the Americans give emotional speeches urging that America must leave Afghanistan now. The American negotiators, led by Zalmay Khalilzad, in return try to explain how withdrawal being a complex process required time. The peace talks at times resemble a poker table. Controlling the emotions is the key. That’s why Khairkhwa, who used to be a governor as well as an acting interior minister during the Taliban rule, checks his emotions at the door before entering the room for talks.
He says, “In important moments like this, my own personal troubles don’t come to mind. I am really not thinking about who is sitting across from me and what they had done to me. What is important is what we are talking about, and what is in it for our interests, for our goal and for our country.”
Accused of being a narco trafficker in Afghanistan in the past, Khairkhwa is looking beyond his prison hardship and grievances.
Contrary to the general belief of Americans becoming war-weary after a long conflict, they have actually become reason-weary. Many Americans I have talked to didn’t tell me that the US should mind its own business and stop fighting wars abroad.
Instead, they argue that Iraq’s was an unjust war and while Afghanistan was a just war, Bin Laden and Mullah Omar are long gone, so America should just come home. And then many of them add that there are more threats from other countries like Russia, China, and Iran that should be focused on. So, the way I see it is that it is the actual specific war that the Americans get tired of not the idea of going to war.
No wonder the peace talks with the Taliban have started to sound like war plans between former inmates and their captors. Gen Austin S Miller, the commander of the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan who had narrowly escaped death in a Taliban attack that killed Gen Abdul Raziq, directly told his former inmates, “We could keep fighting, keep killing each other or, together, we could kill ISIS.”
The next war would be against IS with the Taliban as the mercenary army. Expect enormous profits for Erik Prince. Expect the American media calling the Taliban revolutionary freedom fighters or something similarly heroic. This peace dialogue is a prelude to the next war.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2019.
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