A prerequisite for peace
The Afghan peace mission has arrived in Islamabad at a time when the relations between the two neighbours have further deteriorated. Karzai’s statement on the eve of the delegation’s arrival that the war on terror did not need to be fought in Afghanistan but in the sanctuaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan is not likely to go well with a powerful section of the establishment. Meanwhile, another development has added fresh bitterness into relations between the neighbouring countries. Failing to persuade Pakistan to initiate military operation in North Waziristan, the Karzai administration has allowed the TTP elements to use areas along its side of the Durand Line for raids inside Pakistan. There is a perception that the US-led ISAF has ignored, if not connived at, the harbouring of Pakistani militants. Scores of tribesmen and tens of security personnel on the Pakistani side have died in these surprise attacks. Retaliatory shelling from Pakistani side caused furore in Afghanistan. This also led to the postponement of the visit by Salahuddin Rabbani’s peace mission, originally scheduled for August. Ironically, the Afghan High Peace Council representatives, led by Rabbani, arrived on the day when Pakistan’s Foreign Office had called Kabul’s ambassador to protest against the shelling from Afghanistan inside Pakistan’s tribal areas. As the delegation arrived a tit for tat struggle was already going on.
While the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan badly need to cooperate with one another to fight extremism and militancy, they are strongly divided over crucial policy matters which helps the militant groups. During President Obama’s first tenure, the US administration was itself divided over how to deal with the Taliban, with one section favouring talks and the other recommending an all out war. Thus promises made to the Taliban to kickstart talks in Qatar were not kept leading the latter to call off talks. In Afghanistan, Karzai wants to hold parleys with the Taliban. Some of his non-Pushtun allies who fought against the religious militia are opposed to the move. Both Washington and Kabul expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Pakistan has promised to try to persuade the religious militia but maintains it is not in a position to guarantee their participation. All the three countries meanwhile harbour suspicions about one another’s motives.
What is needed to bring peace to the region is a joint strategy pursued by the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. A failure to evolve a consensus is likely to leave the region in a worse situation than after 1990 when the US abandoned it in the wake of the departure of Soviet troops.
A prerequisite for peace