–US envoy on Afghan reconciliation meets key civil, military leadership
–Defence analyst Amjad Shoaib says Iran, Russia opposing US bid to keep bases in Afghanistan after military withdrawal
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States on Thursday agreed to share responsibility for the Afghan peace process.
This was decided during the meetings held between Pakistan’s civil and military leadership with the visiting US delegation led by US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Process Zalmay Khalilzad which arrived in Islamabad on Thursday for a four-day visit.
Khalilzad held a delegation-level meeting with the foreign secretary to discuss developments in the Afghan reconciliation process. Khalilzad was accompanied by an interagency delegation representing Departments of Defence, State and National Security Council. Lisa Curtis, deputy assistant to US president and senior director for South and Central Asia and US charge d’ affairs to Pakistan were also present. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua was assisted by senior officials from the ministries of foreign affairs and defence. Khalilzad briefed the Pakistani side on his recent engagements in the region. He lauded Pakistan’s efforts in facilitating direct talks between the Taliban and the US in Abu Dhabi last month.
The foreign secretary reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process to realise the shared goal of peace and stability in the region. It was noted that taking the Afghan peace process forward remained a shared responsibility. Both sides agreed that ultimately the intra-Afghan dialogue would be vital to agree upon the contours of a future Afghan polity where Afghanistan becomes a stable and prosperous country and at peace with its neighbours.
The US delegation headed by Khalilzad and Commander Resolute Support Mission General Austin Scott Miller also met Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the General Headquarters (GHQ). Regional security environment and Afghan peace and reconciliation process was discussed.
The delegation appreciated Pakistan’s efforts towards the peace process. The army chief reiterated that peace in Afghanistan is important for Pakistan and assured continued efforts for bringing peace and stability in the region. Lisa Curtis, deputy assistant to US president and senior director for South and Central Asia and US charge d’ affairs to Pakistan were also present.
Reports have also suggested that Pakistan has been trying to arrange a meeting between Afghan Taliban and Khalilzad and this was the reason that the US delegation’s visit was rescheduled almost four times. According to the reports, Pakistan’s government had been making maximum efforts to convene a meeting between US and Taliban delegations. The Taliban did not announce its agreement to sit down with Khalilzad though sources said that chances of talks between the two adversaries were high. Khalilzad’s visit to Islamabad was delayed and rescheduled to allow the Taliban leadership to consult each other and come up with a firm response, the sources added.
This comes in the backdrop of reports about the arrest of a senior Taliban figure and his subsequent release and raids and arrests of some Taliban commanders to put pressure on the group to return to the negotiating table and also to get them to meet the Afghan government representatives. Pakistan says it supports an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. The Taliban have so far refused to meet representatives of the Afghan government, dubbing them as puppets of foreign occupying powers.
Islamabad has taken Kabul into confidence about its efforts to expedite the peace process. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Envoy Mohammad Omer Daudzai, during his visit to Pakistan last week, also seemed satisfied with the endeavours.
‘PAKISTAN NEEDS RUSSIA, CHINA AND IRAN ONBOARD’:
Speaking to Pakistan Today, defence analyst Lt General (r) Amjad Shoaib said that the US looked in panic and wanted to withdraw its army from war-torn Afghanistan in unnecessary haste. However, the senior military analyst said that without involving crucial regional players like Russia, China and Iran, Pakistan cannot bring Taliban to the dialogue table. Russia and Iran have more influence on the Taliban these days as both countries have been supporting Taliban’s fighting capabilities, he added.
“I think Pakistan’s arm-twisting of Afghan Taliban leaders may backfire. In my view, Pakistan needs to review its harsh treatment meted out to Afghan Taliban leaders, which is not wise. Afghan Taliban are under influence of Russia, China and Iran and they cannot be bullied into talks,” said the senior military analyst. He added that the US is putting too much pressure on Pakistan in this regard.
The veteran military analyst said that according to his assessment, the US wants to leave Afghanistan in haste but it also wanted to keep its military bases in Afghanistan after the forces’ withdrawal.
“However, Russia and Iran, who have more influence on Taliban now, want the US to leave without their military bases in Afghanistan. So, both countries are using their influence on Taliban to ensure that the US army has no bases in Afghanistan after withdrawal,” he added.
He also said that the US also understands that the ‘Moscow process’ would move forward as Taliban are responding to the Russian proposals more.
“In recent talks held in Moscow, the Russians had also invited the Kabul government but Taliban never objected to the participation of Afghan government in Moscow though the Taliban objected to Kabul’s involvement in Abu Dhabi peace process,” he said and added that it was, however, the Afghan government who, perhaps under the US pressure, chose not to send an official delegation to Moscow and rather a delegation of Afghan High Peace Council was sent to attend the Moscow talks.
“I think the US needs to involve Russia, Iran and China in the Afghan peace talks if it wants a meaningful dialogue. Engaging regional players minus India would help succeed the Afghan peace talks,” he concluded.