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Zamir Ahmed Awan: Expectations for Afghan peace deal

Thursday,Mar 05, 2020

Taliban fighters attend a surrender ceremony in Jalalabad city, capital of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, February 8, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

By Zamir Ahmed Awan, a senior fellow with Center for China and Globalization(CCG)

The expectations were very high regarding the Afghan peace agreement signed on Feb 29 in Doha, the capital of Qatar, between the US officials and Taliban, aiming to end the United States’ longest war, fought in Afghanistan since 2001. The signing ceremony was attended by the representatives from Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which will pave the way for the US to gradually withdraw its troops in a period of 14 months.

Forty years of instability in Afghanistan was a major hurdle in the peace, stability and prosperity of the whole region. The regional nations, especially the neighboring countries, very much desired peace and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan was a country which suffered for four decades due to the situation in Afghanistan. The net loss of 8,000 precious lives, an estimated economic loss worth $250 billion was in addition to political and social damage to Pakistan. Drug culture, gun culture and terrorism were the gifts of Afghan unrest. Pakistan will be the first country wishing peace in Afghanistan.

For the signing of the Afghan peace deal, credit goes to President Trump, as the previous administration of President Obama, in spite of efforts, could not manage to reach such a peace deal. The deal may benefit him in the presidential elections to be held in November 2020. On the other hand, it paves the way to withdraw troops from Afghanistan with dignity, without losing face. The US spent two decades, almost a trillion dollars, and allied forces of up to 200,000 from 46 nations, but could not gain control over a single inch of Afghanistan. The public in the US was asking for accountability for their tax money and achievements in Afghanistan. There was huge pressure on the US administration. The peace deal will save any further loss to the US and will also serve for face-saving purposes politically.

Is this peace deal a permanent solution for Afghanistan? Will there be perfect peace in Afghanistan? Will the common man get relief? Will this deal have any positive impact on the region, especially in terms of stability and prosperity? Many more similar questions come into our minds.

It is good to be optimistic, but we also need to be realistic too. I think the deal lacks many vital components, like the share of the Taliban. The Taliban, who fought for two decades and control most of Afghanistan as an actual pillar of power in the nation, were undermined and given less of a share. The current Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani or the previous one led by Hamid Karzai, both backed by the US, funded heavily and supported out of the way, have failed to control any part of Afghanistan, yet were given more than their due share, which is totally unjustified.

It was the desire of the US to give India a role in Afghanistan. Yet India has no border with Afghanistan; no cultural, language or religious link with Afghanistan; and no common interests or historical linkages. It also may not be able to deal with Afghanistan. The Indian foreign minister, in Kabul recently, is considered out of context. In fact, Pakistan shares rivers, mountains, borders, religion, culture, language, history and traditions with Afghanistan, yet the two nations have been kept apart. Pakistan was approached only for bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, and Pakistan did it very well.

Regional stakeholders such as Iran, Tajikistan, China, Russia, Pakistan and other central Asian countries were not involved. The stakeholders were supposed to be taken into confidence and given a role or ownership for implementation, for a sustainable solution.

It seems President Trump was interested in using it during his election campaign and withdrawing troops without losing face. He might achieve both goals. But the peace in Afghanistan is still rather far away. The first setback has appeared in the release of Taliban prisoners, which is part of the peace deal but was denied by the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani. More issues are expected to appear soon. The Afghan government was fighting against the Taliban for almost two decades, and with their mutual hatred at a peak, reconciling is an uphill task. The Taliban cannot accept the upper hand of the Afghan government, which was only backed by the US. The Taliban has sacrificed a lot and expects an appropriate return for their struggle and sacrifices.

There are foreign elements in Afghanistan who may also sabotage Afghan peace, as it suits them to have an unstable Afghanistan, where they can exploit the situation for their own interests, like Israel and India.

China has built advanced infrastructure in Pakistan under CPEC and would like to extend this to Afghanistan and other countries of the region for enhanced connectivity. Economic activities could be enhanced rapidly if Afghan stability is restored. All neighboring countries wish for a sustainable peace for Afghanistan. They have suffered for four decades and that should come to an end. Our best wishes are for the people of Afghanistan only.

About Author 

Zamir Ahmed Awan is a senior fellow with Center for China and Globalization(CCG) and a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology.

From China Daily,2020-03-05
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