A bristling peace |The Indian Express
Context: US and Taliban have recently signed an agreement for bringing peace in Afghanistan. As part of the agreement, US and its allies will withdraw their forces from Afghanistan and begin the Intra-Afghan dialogue.
Political divisions in current Afghanistan government and Intra-Afghan Dialogue: Intra-Afghan dialogue will begin on 10 March. As part of the dialogue, Taliban will negotiate with Afghanistan government to reach a political agreement and accept the 2020 Afghanistan elections. But, the current Afghanistan government is divided into almost two equal parts. The divisions in current Afghanistan government are explained below.
- Though President Ashraf Ghani came to power after 2020 elections, his victory has been disputed by Abdullah Abdullah, who was CEO of Afghanistan till March 2020 and exercised powers similar to a prime minister. Abdullah Abdullah belongs to the non-Pashtun Tajik ethnic group. He was a runner-up to the post of President with 39.52%. He announced that he would form the next government. Later, Ghani became President. He belongs to the Pashtun tribe. Diplomatic and political experts hold the view that due to tension between Ghani and Abdullah, Intra-Afghan dialogue could become unsuccessful. Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, who occupy northern Afghanistan, have also suspected the 2020 elections.
- According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Afghanistan government was controlling 229 or 56.3 % of all districts in January 2019. Taliban controlled nearly 59 or 14.5% of all districts. Rest districts (119 or 29.2 %) were neither controlled by Afghanistan government nor by Taliban. SIGAR is a US government authority for overseeing Afghanistan reconstruction.
The data from SIGAR and disputes over the 2020 Afghanistan elections clearly show that the current Afghanistan government is divided and not having authority over the whole country. So, the Intra-Afghan dialogue will involve negotiations with the Afghanistan government that is politically divided and is not having control over the whole Afghanistan.
Will the US-Taliban agreement benefit Pakistan?
Taliban came into existence in1990s in northern Pakistan. Pakistan is one of the three countries recognizing the Taliban when it came to power in Afghanistan. Some experts say that the US decision to sign an agreement with the Taliban may benefit Pakistan. But, it is not true due to following reasons:
- Taliban’s declining control in Pakistan: Pakistan has lost its internal sovereignty in North Waziristan and Quetta in Balochistan by allowing the Taliban to enter in the area. Taliban has exercised control in the North West areas of Pakistan and tried to destabilize Pakistan in these areas. However, Taliban’s control in Pakistan has declined due to military action against Taliban. In 2013, US drone strike killed key leaders of Pakistani Taliban. Due to the Taliban’s declining control in Pakistan, Pakistan may not benefit from US-Taliban agreement. Hence, the argument that US-Taliban agreement will benefit Pakistan is not correct.
- India as a balancing factor in Pakistan’s support to Taliban: Pakistan has allowed entry of Afghanistan’s resistance leaders belonging to Pashtun ethnic group after the Soviet Union attacked Afghanistan in 1979. This created divisions in Afghanistan, with population in northern areas becoming pro-India and the southern population (Pashtuns) becoming pro-Pakistan. So, India’s influence in Afghanistan will play a balancing role if Pakistan supports Taliban after US- Taliban agreement. So, the argument that US-Taliban agreement will benefit Pakistan is not correct.
- Iran’s Afghanistan policy as a balancing factor in Pakistan’s support to Taliban:
Due to cultural links with Hazara Shia Community and killing of its military commander by US, Iran’s Afghanistan policy is likely to remain anti-Taliban.
- Cultural links: Due to common cultural links with the northern region, Iran has tried to help Pakistan’s northern region. Taliban is targeting Hazara Shia community in Quetta city of Pakistan. This community is living in Iran also. So, Iran may try to protect interest of this community by following an anti-Taliban policy.
- Killing of Iran’s military commander: In the past, Iran formed good relations with leaders of Taliban. It allowed the Taliban to build a command and control center in its Mashhad city. When US drone killed a key Taliban leader in May 2016, the leader was travelling back from Iran. But after signing the US-Taliban agreement, Iran is likely to remain anti-Taliban as Iran’s military leader Qasem Soleimani was recently killed by the US.
Thus, Iran’s Afghanistan policy is likely to remain anti-Taliban. This will play a balancing role if Pakistan supports Taliban after US- Taliban agreement. So, the argument that US-Taliban agreement will benefit Pakistan is not correct.
Do you agree with the view that the recently signed US-Taliban agreement will benefit Pakistan? Substantiate your answer. (150 words)