As President Biden despatched Zalmay Khalilzad to yet another mission related to Afghanistan he did not mince words describing adhering to the target of withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan on 1 May, a tough decision to take. He added that he was still in the process of determining when the forces should leave and pointed out that the Trump agreement in this respect was not a very solidly negotiated deal therefore the discussions are held with American allies to see what the future course of action is to be adopted. Ambassador Khalilzad, who negotiated the deal with the Taliban for the Trump administration, has been retained by the new administration as well.
Zalmay Khalilzad had been sent to an Afghan peace conference in Moscow that is also attended by Pakistan. Earlier Khalilzad had said that he was wrapping up his second, two-day visit to in Kabul during which he discussed the latest developments on the Afghan peace process with President Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, and a wide range of other leaders, including those in civil society and advocates of women’s rights. After his first visit to Kabul last week, Khalilzad spent several days in Doha discussing the peace process with senior Taliban leaders. He also visited Islamabad where he held a series of meetings with senior civil and military leaders and sought Pakistan’s continued support for his efforts to seek a peaceful end to the Afghan conflict.
It is widely held that the Americans may be finally heading towards spelling out the terms on which they would end their two-decade long involvement in Afghanistan. It is not very conducive to observe that even after two decades of the American efforts to modernise and liberalise that notoriously difficult land and the current situation is that the Taliban forces once more control the countryside and appear poised for a final spring offensive against the parts of Afghan cities that remain under government control. The situation is very tricky for Joe Biden to continue the process begun under President Barack Obama and ramped up under president Donald Trump, to cut losses and get out of Afghanistan and this seems to be the seems to be taking.
The Biden administration has taken the initiative by sending a letter to Ashraf Ghani and, in something unprecedented, sending a copy to the public and making its content public. The letter has covered a great deal of ground as it contains a warning to the Afghan President that he had to move to bring peace to his troubled nation. The missive also mentioned that the time had arrived to prepare the country for the entry of the Taliban in the system of government and until that happened, an interim government should be established and given the responsibility for drafting a new constitution. It emphasised the need to protect female rights in the country along with defining the role of religion in Afghan society as well as involving some regional powers in overseeing the process that needed to bring peace back in Afghanistan.
Though making it clear the need of a breakthrough worked out on some new grounds but the Americans did not rule out the option of the full withdrawal of our forces by 1 May. In this context the Biden administration proposed sweeping plans for an interim power-sharing government between the Taliban and other Afghan leaders. It provided some directions in this respect whereby the transitional Peace Government of Afghanistan should include separate but coequal executive, parliamentary and judicial branches adhering to the current 2004 Constitution until it can be revised. While proposing such a solution the Americans did not ignore the basic need of the problem pertaining to a comprehensive ceasefire and for it indicating making a request to the United Nations to convene a meeting among foreign ministers of regional countries and the US.
The American proposal also includes asking Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and India to come forward and share an abiding interest in a stable Afghanistan and must work together for this purpose. Washington would ask Turkey to host a senior-level meeting between the Taliban and the Afghan government. The letter proposed that once a peace agreement is signed then each side will immediately announce and implement an end to all military and offensive operations and hostile activities against the other and the process of transition should be watched by a joint commission from each side, with three international observers, that would follow written rules for monitoring.
Many observers are of the opinion that the long control exercised by the Taliban over a majority of the areas of the country has created a strong footprint and may not be able to be wiped out just by signing few accords. This is the reason that many observers believe that there are no winners in this fighting and there are no losers in peaceful settlement. The global sentiment is that continuation of the war does not have any support anywhere in the world and it will simply aggravate the situation. The emphasis in this respect is on developing the trust factor within the country itself and within the region. The situation of war in the country is in existence since more than four decades and there is certainly no option left now but ushering in peace.
Many observers are concerned that the campaigners of Islamism in Afghanistan have effectively started to infiltrate the existing state framework. They portray themselves as political actors and justify the use of force as the legitimate coercive instrument supporting their stance that they are fighting a foreign invader. This stance has seen some degree of acceptance by the majority Pashtun populace that feels frustrated for not having decisive say in the country despite being in majority. The resistant outfit aims to force their way into Kabul as the Afghan capital is the sign of domination and control. The probability of a collapse of the central Afghan government may not be imminent as is often projected could be low yet the consequences would be severe, both sub-nationally and internationally. If the allied Taliban take over in Kabul, US decision-makers would need to consider the risk of destabilisation or even civil war spilling across international borders.
It is keeping in view such potential possibility that has enhanced expectations from the Moscow Dialogue and Istanbul process. These steps are considered move to the next level in order for the process to be re-energised with the support of all of the countries. Analysts suggest a face-saving compromise on the US withdrawal could be hashed out with Washington saying it has met its obligations while leaving some US experts attached to Afghan forces in advisory roles. However many observers opine that the Biden administration has realised that US troops will need to stay in Afghanistan for a very long time but was reluctant to share this realisation with the American people.
In this context it is encouraging to note that Afghan proponents have agreed to attend or send delegates to upcoming international engagements for a lasting political settlement and permanent ceasefire. To strengthen the arrangements, UN Secretary-General Antonio appointed veteran French diplomat Jean Arnault as his personal envoy on Afghanistan and regional issues. The appointment comes a day before Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, a delegation of top Afghan officials and opposition leaders and Taliban negotiators meet in Moscow in an attempt to kick-start deadlocked peace talks. TW