Friday, 12 August, 2022
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US-Afghan peace deal relies on old flaws, dated assumptions. Taliban of 2020 has changed

Afghan deal menu was made by Pakistan, cooked by US, paid by Doha. Taliban gets the starter, Pakistan & Trump campaign gets main dish, Afghan govt, the dessert. 

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Qatar’s capital city Doha has joined the list of cities that have hosted meetings between various parties to find a durable political settlement of the Afghanistan crisis since 1979. The list reflects a truly global map, including New York, Moscow, Geneva, Islamabad, Peshawar, London, Tashkent, Tehran, Nicosia, Mecca, Bonn, Paris, Beijing, Ashgabat, Abu Dhabi and Jeddah. Can Doha distinguish itself as being able to decipher the Afghan enigma?

The Doha deal contains elements that would satisfy US’ security and economic concerns. Washington’s endgames have been either a safe exit from the Afghan quagmire or an affordable presence at the heart of Asia. If the deal succeeds, we get the latter, if it fails, we will be left with the former.

Previous attempts to arrive at a ‘peace deal’ failed due to an inability to address both the immediate issues, such as ceasing hostility, and long-term concerns, primarily creating and sustaining an inclusive and functioning constitutional order.

This failure was compounded by the imposition of external demands over the Afghan political settlement. For example, during the 2001 Bonn conference, Pakistan’s wish to install a malleable Pashtun, Hamid Karzai, was fulfilled against the collective decision of the intra-Afghan meeting that elected another person.

Also read: India took the high moral ground by not talking to Taliban and lost influence in Afghanistan

Breach of UN’s legal system

Unfortunately, the Doha deal has carried out preceding flaws. It is essentially aimed to address Washington’s immediate and long-term needs. The Trump administration is desperate to show something for his 2020 presidential election campaign. In an election year, a photo opportunity with the bearded Taliban is a gamble that President Donald Trump is ready to take.

In addition to inadequate reciprocity between the two sides in favour of the Taliban, this deal between a UN-designated active terrorist group and a permanent member of the UN Security Council is a clear breach of UN’s legal system. It also undermines the legitimacy of the Afghan government, and risks setting a precedent for deals with other proscribed groups such as the Al-Qaeda.

Also read: India has invested too much in Afghanistan to let Taliban hold sway again with US blessings

A cooking analogy

The US-Afghan peace deal can best be described with a cooking analogy: The menu has been chosen by Pakistan, which is to be cooked by an American chef, Zalmay Khalilzad, in a German kitchen to be served in a Norwegian restaurant. The bill has been paid by Qatar.

The Taliban will get the starter whereas the main dish will be divided between Pakistan and Trump’s election campaign.

The Afghan government would get a part of the dessert. Afghanistan’s democratic constituencies, including women rights, would be given the leftover, if any.

Some paid and orientalist experts and organisations such as the United States Institute of Peace (USIP­) would act as marketing agents, followed by the UN in charge of issuing a health certificate. Of course, the copyright belongs to the UK.

Also read: Why India should leave Afghanistan to Pakistan as US signs peace deal with Taliban

Deal based on old assumptions

Unfortunately, this deal is based on dated assumptions, mindset and actors, and hence the expected outcome.

But the Taliban of 2020 is different from its early generation. While being media savvy, today’s Taliban resembles more a drug/mercenary cartel rather than an organised government-in-waiting. Unlike the all-powerful Mullah Omar or business savvy Mullah Mansour, current Taliban leader — Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada — acts mainly as a manager rather than a supreme leader.

The rest of the elements in Afghanistan have also significantly changed. Despite its serious flaws and poor performance, the post-2001 constitutional order has taken root within the Afghan polity and regional and international system. Recent public surveys have found an overwhelming support for a republican and democratic political order among the citizens of Afghanistan.

The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) have denied the Taliban any strategic gains. Notwithstanding political posturing, the regional and global powers support existing political order in Kabul, as the alternative ones, the return of the Taliban or the collapse of the political order would bring in unmanaged chaos and disaster. Despite the projection of victory, much of Taliban is conscious of its loss, humiliation, displacement, war fatigue and early misrule and miscalculation.

Also read: Trump’s peace deal with Taliban is bad for India

An incompetent Trump administration

The Taliban, however, is fortunate to deal with a desperate negotiator, the US and is being guided by a masterful player, Pakistan and a rich host, Qatar. A more autonomous Taliban would struggle to impose a unilateral deal on its fellow Afghans.

As demonstrated in the Middle East, Iran nuclear deal, North Korea, Venezuela and recently in Doha, the Trump team lacks competency, experience and trustworthiness to be called a peacemaker or a fair and skilled mediator.

US’ chief negotiator, former ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, is a disciple of the school of “regime change” and “managed chaos”. The current political stalemate in Kabul is mainly his design and trademark, first by imposing “a winner-take-all” strong presidential system on the Afghan constitution in 2002 and later by systematically undermining the Afghan constitutional order, including his effort to cancel the 2019 presidential election.

Condescending Europeans and opportunistic regional actors are unqualified to drive the Afghan peace process. The Afghan political entrepreneurs have also lost the legitimacy and capacity to lead the process.

The three fundamental issues

So, the Afghan peace needs to become a truly nationally-owned endeavour to succeed. This includes the venue of the negotiation. The city of Herat, known as the “abode of saints”, has been cited as a suitable venue to host the negotiation.

There are three fundamental issues that drive the Afghan conflict: legitimacy of its constitutional order, state capacity to provide public goods and its vulnerability to Pakistan’s hegemonic ambition. If and when these three interconnected issues are addressed, a durable political settlement will be born and sustained.

The author is director of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies and former senior policy adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Views are personal.

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  1. US-Taliban “Peace” is a farce.
    There can be no “peace” with Islam. Only surrender as per the terms of Quran and Hadith. The Taliban, by definition are students and practitioners of Quran and Hadith. The Jihadis that ALL Moslems are exhorted to be.

    The Taliban was created by the US allies, Sunni Arabs, in petro dollar funded Mosques and Madrassa all over the World.
    The US and Pakistan created Al Qaeda (the base) to train the Taliban in Asymmetric war to throw the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. Which they did.
    But Taliban, by definition are Sunni Students of the Quran and Hadiths (Talib is the singular) and the Quran exhorts all Moslems to establish the Sharia on the rubble of all civilization (i.e. Jihad bil Saif). Hence Taliban from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan brought down the World Trade Towers in New York on “9/11”.
    So, though Bush, Blair, Cheney and Rumsfeld were forced by Public Opinion to wage war on Afghanistan, they allowed what they thought were their allies, the Taliban (Osama Bin Laden et al) , to escape through the Tora Bora caves to Pakistan where they re grouped.
    Pakistan continued to nurture them as it not only still covets Afghanistan as “strategic depth” but subscribes fully to Jihad bil Saif in general and Ghazwa e Hind in particular which it has adopted as its own particular purpose of existence.
    The US (CIA) continues to maintain covert relations with the Taliban because it sees them as an excellent tool or “boots on the ground” to carry out “regime changes” which has become the leit motif of US foreign policy which was, as a hired gun of Sunni Arabs and the war profiteering Military-Industrial Complex, reflected in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Croatia, Monte Negro, Kosovo, Serbia etc), Iraq, Libya, Arab Spring, Syria, Yemen and now gathering force against Iran.
    The Taliban, meanwhile, broke up into hundreds of Jihadi regiments such as Harqat ul Mujahideen, Boko Haram, Al Shebab, Jaish e Mohamad, Students Islamic Movement of India, etc etc all trained by the heirs, successors and assigns of the US-Pakistan made Al Qaeda.
    A significant mutation of the Taliban took place when a faction repudiated one of the three oaths of the Taliban, the one of loyalty to the guardians of Muqqa and Madhina, the Tent of Saud and formed into the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (the Daesh. ISIS to you and me, ISIL to Obama, and Islam to the Mulla or Erdogan). They broke free of the Tent of Saud and threatened to destroy the Tent of Saud as apostates, and the Royal Sunni Arab control over this regiment of Taliban was lost to the Tents of Saud, Nahyan, Jabah, Sabah and others and reclaimed by the Quran and the Hadiths. i.e. the 4th Calipha Uthman’s version of the Quran and the Hadiths with which he replaced the original Quran and Hadiths which he cremated in order to have a religion more suited to the baser instincts of Man and motivate them to wage Jihad through rape, murder, genocide, slavery and all sorts of crimes against humanity, nature and Brahma.
    Obama’s CIA harnessed the Daesh as their boots on the ground against Bashar Al Assad of Syria with money, weapons and other support that was funneled to them covertly. At the same time, as their doings were found deeply offensive to most non de humanized human beings, the US unleashed the Kurds and the Pentagon against Daesh overtly but with inadequate resources and crippling rules of engagement so that the Pentagon would not succeed in destroying the CIA’s “boots on the ground”. Right now, the US has abandoned the Kurds to the tender mercies of Turkish Sultan Erdogan in a redux of Truman’s 1947.
    This was an essential reflection of what had taken place (the strategy) in Iraq. After allowing the Taliban to escape to Pakistan, the US began a war with Iraq. This took away forces from Afghanistan dooming the Afghan campaign to failure. It sank three trillion US dollars of US cash and erected five thousand new head stones at Arlington, bankrupted the Veterans Administration (health services) by swamping them with the wounded and traumatized, and the US economy never recovered. Similarly, Blair left Britain so debilitated that Britain still cannot afford adequate health, education and law enforcement services! However, the Bush Bandits, Bush (the son) Dick Cheney, the Neo-Cons and their camp followers made a fortune. Billions of dollars in cash of impounded Iraq oil money was flown in to Iraq for “reconstruction” by Dick Cheney’s boys (Black water, Eric Prince etc) which simply vanished without any kind of account. Apart from the profits for the Military Industrial Complex and the benefit to the Sunni Arabs of getting rid of Sadam Hussein whose Iraq used to have the World’s best (and free) education and health systems, discos, bars, unveiled women, and thriving communities of Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, “Hindoos” (such as Yazidi) and others before the US and NATO commenced their “sanctions”, “no fly zones” and, finally, on the back of Colin Powell’s “smoking gun” WMD to erase Hans Blix (UN Weapons Inspector) objections. Blix himself was quickly replaced with Al Baradei, a Sunni Arab more compliant with the US-NATO-Sunni Axis agenda in Iraq. And Iraq was bombarded with Depleted Uranium ammunition, cluster bombs and so on to massacre millions of Iraqis, mainly the vulnerable women and children.
    Now, to Afghanistan. The under resourced Pentagon was set up for failure by the US against the CIA’s Pakistan, Taliban and Islamic State. Exactly as happened in Iraq, Syria and the first time around in Afghanistan
    The Afghan “talks”, therefore, are a farce. An eyewash. A fig leaf that will fool the great unwashed masses whose eyeballs are glued to the US-NATO-Sunni Axis controlled Mass Media and posture as if the US is doing something honourable instead of “cutting and running” as there are no further profits to be made out of this war by the Military Industrial Complex, and the Sunni Arab component of the US-NATO-Sunni Axis and Pakistan would have completely achieved their objective when the US does, finally and inevitably, “cut and run” from Afghanistan.
    The US is a great “Cutter and Runner”. Remember Vietnam? It loses all wars except those that are remade in Hollywood starring Anna Shivajinagar or Sylvester Stallone to inspire new generations, through such celluloid tales of derring-do and US “victories”, to join the US Armed Forces and die for Uncle Sam so that the Military Industrial Complex and the Sunni Petro Dollar Arabs may achieve their objectives. The Mullas of course, are busy producing Taliban, inspired by the Quran and the Hadith, to produce the obverse of this coin.

  2. Though it may look like Pakistan is at drivers seat, it is just a facilitator and it’s job is done.

    During intra Afghan talks afghan Taliban will oust Pakistan Taliban from its rank as it genuinely believes in peace this time. A country exporting terror and economy in shambles cannot dictate the future and afghan Taliban knows it.

    Till they root out Pakistan Taliban lasting peace in Afghanistan is a pipe dream.

    Territory wise afghan Taliban may have upper hand but the majority populace is under the current afghan government.

    This will play key factor in intra afghan talks.

    Lastly India which has been missing will be key player in arriving a power sharing agreement during intra afghan talks.

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