To the table, finally! | Pakistan Today

To the table, finally!

  • But who brought whom?

After almost two decades of war, with thousands of lives lost on all sides, and billions of dollars spent, has the world’s super power came to the realisation that talks, and dialogue, perhaps, are the only possible way out for them of the war stricken country, and for a prosperous Afghanistan to prevail? A missing piece of the puzzle to regional security, and stability, and that of the world at large. The US recognition of dialogue as the way forward from here is in itself an endorsement of Pakistan’s viewpoint that force should only be used to make way for an effective dialogue to be carried out; rather than being considered as a sole means to the desired end. Although the realisation has come late in the day, yet it comes with appreciation and acknowledgement from all sides as being the appropriate means to a desirable, and durable end to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

After all, as the saying goes, “it is better late than never”.

The United States realising the significance of engaging in a dialogue with the Taliban in an attempt to figure out a possible, workable, and sustainable solution to the long Afghan conflict may very well be, at the end of the day, the factor that would differentiate the present day’s super power from that of the past i.e. the Soviet Union. Ultimately this may very well contribute to a different and a more desirable fate for the US as compared to that of the Soviets.

With the United States taking the new road, Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation at the US State Department, actively pursued relevant stakeholders inviting them to play their respective role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table. The US President Donald Trump had also sent a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan demanding to do more yet again, only this time asking Pakistan to use its influence on the Taliban to join in the dialogue process. Let us not be mistaken that the do more conundrum is over for us. It is very much still there, apparently in a different form now.

The first round of talks between the United States, the Taliban, and several other countries that took place in Abu Dhabi (UAE) revolved primarily around the withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan putting an end to the oppression being carried out by the US and her allies. The Taliban emissaries and the Afghan government representatives did not meet face to face during the talks. The meeting aimed at promoting intra-Afghan dialogue towards ending the conflict was termed as “productive” by Zalmay Khalilzad on Wednesday. In a meeting with the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Jawed Bajwa, he also appreciated Pakistan’s efforts towards peace building inside Afghanistan, and encouraging the Taliban to engage in the peace oriented dialogue.

But in this entire episode, is it really the United States that can, and should, be credited for these peace talks? Were peace talks with the Taliban even ever on the list of US options for Afghanistan? Probably no, as the US from the very beginning of the war on terror was focused on crushing the militants in Afghanistan by use of mere force. For the US, the possibility of a dialogue with Taliban apparently never existed. However, nothing stands final neither in politics, nor in diplomacy.

Undoubtedly, war is always the last option countries resort to in settling their outstanding disputes; with talks always being the first

Now the question arises that who brought whom to the table? Did the US really force the Taliban to come forward; or did the Taliban bring the world’s super power down to her knees seeking a dialogue? Was it the country host to the entire conflict that made way for talks; or was it the neighbouring Pakistan that had been insistent all along on talks being the ultimate way forward?

Whereas maybe all of the aforementioned factors might have contributed towards easing the way for peace talks between all stake holders in general, and Taliban-US-Afghan government in particular, the real hero to be credited here is the war itself. Nothing more than war can make way for talks eventually. But how can war make way for peace dialogue? One may very well question. Undoubtedly, war is always the last option countries resort to in settling their outstanding disputes; with talks always being the first.

The answer lies in the understanding of a simple fact. Talks are always the first, and the last option that countries resort to. War only lies in the middle, and is never meant to be successful in acquiring the desirable end for any side. When talks between two or more sides fail at first, war merely erupts for a time bound period, until the stakeholders bear witness to its horrors, and crimes, and ultimately revert to the table. That is precisely when talks work out. The present day situation in Afghanistan is no different. All sides, witness to the war’s horrors, now unanimously agree on engaging in a seriously effective dialogue aimed at the greater good of all i.e. the host country, its neighbours, the region, and the World at large.

Talks, dialogue, and negotiations only bear fruit when all sides reach a consensus on the realisation that they are the only way forward, and the only possible way out for greater prosperity to prevail. War is merely a road that ultimately leads to the table talk. Only if the world can give up being smart, and be wise enough to see that only talks have achieved (in the past), and can achieve (in the future) what war has never, and perhaps, can never.

The world will surely be a better place to live in if humans take credit for talks aimed at prevalence of greater prosperity, rather than war.