A UK defence committee earlier this week warned Afghanistan could descend into civil war within a few years of the expected withdrawal of Nato troops in 2014. The warning came from a Commons cross-party defence committee, and had MPs claiming the start of an Afghan-led peace settlement with the Taliban was vital to ensure the country’s future stability.
Some Afghan and former Taliban leaders advocating peace have issued similar warnings in regard to peacefully ending the 12-year conflict ahead of the withdrawal.
However, the Afghan Presidential Palace was quick to reject the British committee’s findings and President Hamid Karzai’s spokesperson, Aimal Faizi, maintained all national institutions were functional. He claimed Afghanistan had struck strategic deals with major powers that would have a presence in the country even after the withdrawal.
Faizi is perhaps unaware of the fact that after the withdrawal, Afghan forces will be left to contain the Taliban on their own if a peace deal is not reached.
But the peace process hit a roadblock last year when the Taliban suspended “exploratory” talks with the United States in Qatar, blaming the Americans for adopting a “shaky, erratic and vague standpoint”.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told The Express Tribune the Taliban would not beg for further negotiations. However, at the same time, he urged the US to take confidence-building measures such as freeing Taliban prisoners, recognising their political office in Qatar, and removing Taliban leaders from the UN sanctions list.
Yet, although all actors seem to be aware of the impending bloodshed following Nato’s withdrawal, it seems little is being done to avoid it.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Karzai, in a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Chequers in February, agreed to take all necessary measures to achieve a peace settlement in the next six months. However, little has been done to pursue the six-month peace plan over the past two and half months, with ongoing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan further complicating matters.
Afghan officials criticised Pakistan days after Karzai publicly accused the country of killing or arresting militants willing to further peace process with the US. Karzai’s spokesperson accused Islamabad of “sabotaging” reconciliation efforts, while the Afghan deputy foreign minister proclaimed his government could pursue the peace process without Pakistan.
Pakistan must also accept part of the blame as it has failed to honour commitments made to its neighbour over the past few years.
Pakistani leaders had earlier promised in an official statement to help organise a conference between religious scholars from the two countries in Kabul in March. However, Pakistani scholars boycotted the conference fearing the forum could be used against the Taliban and Islamabad failed to mention a single word in respect to why five of its clerics had refused to attend the moot. Meanwhile, the notion of the conference being used to accuse the Taliban was strongly rejected by Afghan clerics.
US, the Taliban and Karzai will be among those responsible for more bloodshed if they do not change their stubborn approach. Time is running out fast and all players will have to set aside their own interests to save the war-torn country from repeating the events that took place after the fall of the communist regime in 1992.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2013.
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