Doha Talks and the Endgame
14th April, 1988: the Geneva Accord was signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the United States and the Soviet Union serving as guarantors. It remains comical to the common sense of the common Pakistani, how! The Russians started the war on a non-aggressive neighbor; how the US entered the war in 1984 with supplies of arms and funds to down its cold-war rival; how the US created Al-Qaeda, that would remain a terror card for times to come; and how the two nations that suffered all the atrocities of the war, and backed each other in tough times, only to safeguard their right to freedom were made to sign the Accord, as if they were the two belligerents!
In the Doha talks, the US is posing as the Big Brother who want to set all things right by assuring an implementation of democracy in Afghanistan after it leaves, it is pretending to be leading the Talks, when in reality nothing is in its hands anymore. At the most what the US government is looking for right now is nothing more than a face-saving and a safe exit.
The talks based on the proceedings of the High Peace Council that was initiated by the Karzai administration, in the June 2010 Peace Jirga held in Kabul. The document of the HPC says:
‘…(an) Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, with a focus on securing the collaboration of Pakistan, as well as support from other regional and international countries…’ (Source)
One clause of the document says:
‘Pakistan to facilitate direct contact between the HPC/Government of Afghanistan and identified leaders of the Taliban and other armed opposition groups.’
It is like saying that Pakistan has fuller access to the HPC, the Afghan government, the Taliban, and all other possible factions active in Afghanistan, more than the Afghan regime itself, and more than the state-of-the-art military machine that is sitting inside Afghanistan for the last 10 years. It again raises the questions: did Pakistan occupy Afghanistan; did Pakistan make Al-Qaeda; or did we even create the TTP. Coming to the broader picture, this does not point a finger towards Pakistan’s intrusion in the affairs of its neighbor, so much as it points to the inaptness of the occupiers and their puppets, who with all their equipment and bribe money, have not been able to secure anything beyond the green zone in Kabul, which has often been turned blue.
One must contemplate on the reason why the Afghans in general and the Talibans in particular would accept Pakistan as a truce maker, rather than Karzai who might have spent millions of dollars worth of aid upon the welfare of his people, and who might have saved Afghanistan from still being the world’s largest heroine provider; or the US occupation that might have delivered democracy beyond the green zone or empowered the Afghan women beyond the Karzai Cabinet; or the Indians who might have made multi-billion projects to make it a modern state, and who might have made schools in the far flung villages.
The truth is that for 10 years, the whole country has been a war zone, with no viable communication system, with no way for an independent journalist to travel, and a radio telecast that goes from Kabul to all over Afghanistan but no voice from outside Kabul can partake in it.
In such scenario, when it is impossible for the US or the Indians to bring the Taliban on the table, the setting of Doha might have served as a lure, to somehow bring the Taliban out of their natural environment and into an artificial one to somehow change their minds. The stakeholders who could not have bought anything but enmity of the Taliban inside Afghanistan, might have been looking for possibilities of maneuvering the stubborn Taliban, but to no avail.
Patricia Gossman, of the US Institute of Peace, in her detailed report in 2011, said, “In spite of the talks, no one in Washington or Kabul has clarified what reconciliation means in practice, particularly with respect to accountability for abuses that occurred during the rule of the Taliban as well as those that occurred when rival factions fought with each other before the Taliban came to power.” (Source)
This is a double statement; for one, it admits that no definite outline for peace exists in the peace plan, rather it would be open to hit and trial; the other is complete denial of the abuse that occurs under occupation and war, and complete dismissal of its responsibility. If this is the one side approach the US is going to take, then the likes of the Taliban would rather prefer ‘war’ over ‘peace’. If the US and the Indians would not have taken such a one-sided hegemonic approach from the beginning, they might have been already in a peaceful Afghanistan.
The truth is that some stakeholders of the peace talks are suspicious upon the outcomes and each is blaming the other. Karzai, at different occasions in June, has said, “there is a contradiction between what the US government says and what it does regarding Afghanistan peace talks”; “the peace process should not be a victim of foreign plots”; “some countries are trying to control the peace talks to achieve their goals”; and that ‘he will not pursue peace talks with the Taliban unless the United States steps out of the negotiations’.
The Guardian, in an unruly post by Jon Boone, has portrayed the Taliban as a lesser kind of humans. “They say they want to change the Afghan constitution, but when you ask which bit it takes them two months to answer,” he said. “They need help, they need coaching by someone who can help them articulate their issues.” “When I asked him what his political platform would be he said he wanted to build a market. That was it.”
In fact ‘peace’ is a different thing for each stakeholder, a factor that renders it an impossibility. For Karzai, peace means his permanent position in Afghanistan, a democratic system. , a democratic system, with either the US or the Indian providing him military security. For the US, it is a face-saving, a safe-exit and any possibility of prolonged influence in Afghanistan, be it through the Talibans if not Karzai. For the Taliban it would be the ousting of the occupiers and their dummies and the reinstatement of ‘Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan’ as they would like to call it. For Pakistan the prospect should be broader, it should be a guarantee that no bounty hunter remains in Afghanistan, and it should be the choice of a democratic set-up for the people of Afghanistan, which can be the only way that power is permanently vouchsafed in the hands of the people of Afghanistan.
The same Guardian post, expresses clearly the wishful thinking of the West, it says, ‘that negotiations through these men might lead to successful elections in Afghanistan next April’, ‘The Taliban, it is hoped, will not only refrain from attacking the process, they may also tacitly back a presidential candidate. “Sleeper” Taliban candidates may even run for the provincial council elections on the same day.’
It will be a scenario, where, stakeholders who have tried to corner the Taliban will face a humiliation, by the same process, through which they choose to humiliate them, as the electoral process may bring the Taliban on the leads because of their majority. Afghanistan, is the key to regional peace and stability and this time around, many have learned their lesson well, and should avoid confrontations, that can disrupt a well strategized and steered policy being sought by the two prime stakeholders.