Afghanistan Peace Process, Challenges and Opportunities

17 years’ War stricken Afghanistan is going for peace talks, since 7, October 2001 when US underway (OEF-A) Operation Enduring freedom-Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and Taliban, Millions of people have been killed so far. Neither The Taliban nor US and their Allies in Afghanistan in position to defeat others and win peace in Afghanistan. Recently, Peace talks have taken place in Russian capital Moscow. It was a new and fresh addition to the Afghan peace process. President of Afghanistan Asharif Ghani interested in peace talks with the Taliban in order to bring peace, stability, development and progress in Afghanistan. Kabul has restarted peace process since June, 2017.

The Taliban rejected several offers of peace talks in the past, they demand for withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and they affirmed they will not participate in any type of peace talks till the presence of foreign troops on Afghan soil. It is optimistic that later on Taliban agreed on peace dialogue with the interference and pressure developed by neghbious and regional powers over the Taliban. They show their interest in direct peace talk with US and they are not interested in talking with Afghanistan government. The Taliban has already declared Afghan Government as puppet of US and they will not participate in peaceful dialogue with them. They are interested in direct talks with the United States of America. On other hand Afghan government not participated officially in Masco peace talks.  Rather Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) participated in Peace talks held in Moscow. High Peace Council, is a counselling body for peace talks with the Taliban. It is a significant shift in the Taliban strategy. Taliban is still powerful and influential insurgent group in Afghanistan. It enjoys support of rural population, especially in Pashtuns dominated areas of Afghanistan. It is also proved that International and regional power give them legitimate status.

Neighbors and regional powers interest in Afghanistan peace process is a sign of hopes. They support the peace process in order to achieve their own interests in Afghanistan and to stabilize their own security and defense. Moscow interest in Afghan peace talks is two folded; Security threats and geo-economical and geopolitical challenges. Russian President Vladimir Putin considered that “IS (Islamic State) presence in Afghanistan is a big threat and security challenge to his country interest”. Islamic state of the Kharasan Province present and activities is a threat to Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavror pointed out that “IS presence in Northern and Eastern Afghanistan is rather serious, there are already thousands of gunmen”

After, 9/11 China refused to participate in direct military operation in Afghanistan. China role in Afghanistan was passive for many years. In 2006 China signed a treaty of Friendship, cooperation and good neighborly relation with the Kabul government. Due to proximity to China, Afghanistan has direct influence on china security. The East Turkestan Islamic movement through Afghan border wakhan corridor into Chinese province Uighur. China one belt one road project and CPEC connectivity cannot materialize without peace and stability in Afghanistan. Currently, China is the biggest foreign investor in Afghanistan. Moreover, China is interested to play their role in Post withdrawal US and NATO Forces from Afghanistan.

Pakistan, India and Iran have their own strategic interest in Afghanistan. Pakistan and India pursue its rivalry on the Land of Afghanistan territory. In the past Pakistan supported Taliban while India supported Northern Alliance for their interest in Afghan land. Presently, India pursues its interest in Afghan economy and infrastructure to establish itself as a regional power. India is interested to fill the security vacuum by the US and NATO forces withdrawal from Afghanistan.  India blames Pakistan for militancy, military training and Taliban support. On contrary, Pakistan blamed India for using Afghan soil against Pakistan. Thus, the blame game is ongoing between Pakistan and India over Afghanistan.

Iran has their own strategic interest in Afghanistan, Iran wants such type of Government in Kabul who favors the Iranian interest and it is also observed that Iran interest to minimize the Pashtuns influence in Afghanistan Politics. It is argued that Iran interested in the limited Pakistan role in Afghanistan and they are closely cooperative with India in Afghanistan to prevent Taliban reemergence in Afghanistan. Iran faced several security challenges due to presence of IS and anti-Shia militant organizations in Afghanistan.

It is argued that US is interested to prolong its presence in Afghanistan and to continue instability in the region particularly to counter China OBOR project and Russia role in the region.  Russian and Iran don’t want the United States of America prolong stay in Afghanistan because they feel its threats to their interest. As, both Russia and Iran have worst relation with US. India growing influence in Afghanistan is a threat to Pakistan. It is noted that both Pakistan and India have worst relations. So, Neghbious and regional powers have their own interest in Afghanistan peace process.

Nevertheless; Russian current initiative for Afghan peace talks will bring positive results and a road map for Peace in Afghanistan in the near future. The Neighbors and regional powers should assure that “Afghan owned Afghan led” peace talks will be fruitful because only Afghan have right to decide their own future.

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