The US Bids Adieu to Afghanistan?
Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the Biden administration, wrote a letter to Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan. The letter came after the Biden administration had announced previously that it would review the decisions taken by the Trump administration with regard to the Middle East and the Afghan peace process.
According to the contents of the leaked letter, the review of the decisions is still underway. However, an “initial conclusion” has been reached by the Biden administration and they would like to see things moving through, to end the war in Afghanistan. Mr. Blinken, in his letter, has outlined four steps in which he and his administration would like to move forward with regard to the stalled peace process in Afghanistan.
First, United Nations will be asked to convene a high-level meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Russia, Pakistan, China, Iran, India, and the United States itself to discuss the way forward for peace in Afghanistan. Curiously enough, the letter does not make any mention of inviting the Afghan government or Taliban to this meeting.
Second, Zalmay Khalilzad is to meet with Ashraf Ghani and present proposals that contain steps for moving forward with the peace process. These steps involve laying the foundations of the new constitution that are to be adopted after the withdrawal, arrangements for an “inclusive government” which essentially means sharing power with the Taliban, and identifying terms for a permanent ceasefire.
Third, Turkey will hold the next round of meetings between the two remaining warring sides for finalizing the peace agreement. Lastly, the Afghan government is to take permanent steps for reducing the current surge in violence and also to prevent the Taliban from launching the Spring Offensive by being diplomatic and realpolitik.
Towards the end of the letter, Antony Blinken says, as a matter of factly, that the US government is looking at all options. The option of withdrawing by the May 1 deadline, originally contained in the Doha agreement, is also on the table. Last but certainly not least, the Secretary of State impresses upon the beleaguered president that he should “understand the urgency of my tone” and that he wants to make it “clear” to him that he should give up his adamant attitude and seriously think of post-war Afghanistan.
If he really wants to salvage the peace process and end the longest war of the living memory then he should be well advised to know that violence may escalate when Americans will have fully withdrawn and the Taliban could make “rapid territorial gains”.
This letter is the latest development in the Afghan peace process. Although meetings between Khalilzad and second and third-party stakeholders have continued to take place, no significant progress was seen in recent months. Partly because of the US presidential elections and partly because of the stubbornness of the Afghan government and Taliban, the peace process suffered.
The recent spate of targeted killings has taken the lives of high-profile women which include judges of the Supreme Court. A few messages which can be deciphered from the letter from Washington would serve all the stakeholders well. The first is that the US government, especially the Biden administration, is getting serious about the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The US administration has also begun to understand that the Taliban want peace in Afghanistan on their terms. The US and the Afghan government cannot go home with a deal that will leave the Taliban high and dry. Taliban would rather fight for another generation than give up just like that for what they have fought for for the last couple of generations.
Biden administration, through this letter, has also tried to prompt President Ghani to show “urgent leadership” for the daunting task ahead. After so many years in power, it must be difficult for Ashraf Ghani to entertain the thought of sharing power with the Taliban. However, the US desires the Afghan President to settle the peace process. Otherwise, he may be up for a surprise, come May 1.
It would be a biased argument if nothing is said about the Taliban. They should understand first and foremost that man is a slave of his time. If he cannot accept what time has to offer and if he cannot change as time changes then he will disappear in the midst of it.
They fought their way out of the invasion but that does not absolve them of all the atrocities committed by them or in the wake of their armed struggle by other militant groups in and around Afghanistan. They must ordain the due rights of women laid down in Islamic jurisprudence. It is going to refine their society to be more inclusive and progressive. They must come down hard on the drug trade and the militant warlords.
This is a rare moment in the forty-year war when everybody stands to gain from peace. The people of Afghanistan deserve peace, but It falls upon the warring sides to be flexible about it. The Afghan government needs to be ready to give up some of its share in power.
The Taliban need to abide by the commitments in the Doha agreement in letter and spirit and they need to be ready to be flexible about the social contract that still remains to be negotiated between the Afghan government, Taliban, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and other minority groups. As is said, they should all “give peace a chance.”
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