By Senator Rehman Malik
THE world media is reporting a deal having been brokered between USA and Afghanistan — a love-hate relationship at the best of times. Afghanistan turned out to be USA’s darling as they were warmly hosted at the White House during the Soviet-Afghan war. The Soviet Union attacked on 25th December 1979 and took over Afghanistan which resulted in the loss of uncountable lives of innocent Afghanis. The United States decided to counter Soviets in Afghanistan and so decided to recruit Muslim Arabs to launch as Jihadists and took help in doing the same from Pakistan. The US supplied arms, finance and logistical support as it gave military assistance to the mujahedeen against Soviets.
The fight between the Mujahedeen started and these jihadists from abroad started fighting with local Taliban and ultimately defeated Russia with the support of Pakistan and the CIA. When the Soviet Union was defeated, the United States ditched the mujahedeen by leaving abruptly from Afghanistan. These Afro-Arab terrorists then revolted against Pakistan and the USA.
The Afghan Refugees influx arrived in Pakistan after this war which marked the beginning of a long period of troubles for Pakistan. There is a long history of how Mujahedeen converted into Taliban and later Taliban turned into Al-Qaeda. The government of Hikmat Yar could not sustain and after the fall of his government, the Taliban took over the rule of Afghanistan. The 9/11 attacks brought the USA back to Afghanistan and since then the hide and seek between both the Taliban and the USA continued and this never-ending war has brought miseries both to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The peace talks began in November 2010, when U.S. diplomats and Taliban representatives met for the first time, in Bonn, Germany in an international conference on Afghanistan. Talks between U.S. and Taliban representative continued till the early months of 2012 when the USA offered to continue peace talks on one condition, if the Taliban agreed to lay off the weapons and agreed to negotiate with the Afghan Government.
As a result of this, the Taliban broke off contact as they refused to negotiate with Kabul. The “cold war” continued until 2013 when the Taliban sent a message to Washington to reopen peace talks and also agreed to meet the Afghan Government through intermediaries in Qatar. This also did not appear to be fruitful as U.S. and Afghan officials refused to address them as representatives of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
In December 2015, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), comprising Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the U.S was organised to hold peace talks between Afghanistan and the Taliban but it also could not prove to be a balanced mechanism to bring lasting peace to Afghanistan like all other former breakthroughs, as it effectively blocked Russia and Iran from the negotiating table. In December 2016, Russia took the initiative to host talks in Moscow on Afghanistan with both Pakistan and China followed by two further rounds of talks in February and April 2017 including India, Iran, the Central Asian states, and the Afghan government in which the US refused to participate because of Russia and ultimately it also got failed.
In November 2018, Russia’s foreign ministry again confirmed the peace on Afghanistan on November 9, wherein it invited Afghanistan, the US, Pakistan, Iran, India, the five bordering Central Asian states, and the Taliban for the talks in Moscow. India was represented by Amar Sinha, former ambassador to Afghanistan, and TCA Raghavan, former ambassador to Pakistan.
In December 2018 and from June – August 2019 again, few more rounds of dialogue were held between USA/Afghan Govt officials and Taliban in Abu Dhabi and Doha. Though the Afghan officials and the Taliban never met face-to-face, but the intermediary countries; Saudi Arabia USA and Pakistan conveyed messages on their behalf. The US officials and a Taliban delegation discussed a potential prisoner exchange and also the Trump administration decided to withdraw half of its 14000 troops from Afghanistan. Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-US diplomat who served as US ambassador to the United Nations (2007-2009), Iraq (2005-2007) and Afghanistan (2003-2005), represented Washington in the said talks.
Since 9/11 the only country that has affected the most due to terrorism is Pakistan and still is bearing the brunt of ongoing insurgency in the region. According to some estimates, Pakistan lost more than 70,000 lives and over 6,000 soldiers in the ongoing war on terror. Along with this, it cost the economy over $120 billion. The peace process with the support of Pakistan is inching toward success which is a piece of great news for Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular and for the world in general.
Nevertheless, this time the USA looks to be very serious because of the directive of President Donald Trump. I have a few observations for direct and indirect involvement in this process on the basis of these factors below:
1. Who will be the Guarantor of the ceasefire?
2.Will Ashraf Ghani step down or will there be a national government with the Taliban?
3. What would be the impact of serious differences between Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani on this deal.
4. Or — pursuant to above, is it a part of the strategy to use the disputed election to accommodate the Taliban in a national government whereas there is no provision of an interim govt in the Afghan constitution?
I would like to extend the highest appreciation to COAS, Gen Qamer Bajwa, as it is his great success the initiative he took under the ”Bajwa doctrine”. The stable, consistent and highly diplomatic role of Ambassador Khalil has been great who continued this mission with great patience with all the stakeholders to achieve despite many ups and downs.
It will be a great success of President Donald Trump before his general election and this withdrawal factor and deal with the Taliban will create a great positive political impact on his forthcoming campaign and subsequent votebank of his election as the President. It is to be seen as what will be the covert and overt reaction of Iran, India, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia and other middle Eastern countries. The main leadership of Overseas Afghan Talban is under the control of Mr. Sirajuddin Haqani with other Taliban groups. It is yet to be seen how the old Northern Alliance, Tajik faction and factional parties show their reaction to this deal.
I understand Pakistan has played a great role and I have earlier also enforced this solid proposal, to request the USA either to withdraw the complaint from FATF against Pakistan or use its influence and get Pakistan cleared. I stand by my earlier statements in FATF that Pakistan will remain in the FATF and half of Pakistan will be convicted on money laundering/terrorist financing until the USA withdraws its complaint. Hence the easy way is to manage through skilful diplomatic efforts through high offices of Pakistan to link this deal to get out FATF. I had stated on 29th November, 2019 and two weeks back on the floor of the house that we must move forward towards USA and not the other 800 participants of the FATF meeting to get out of FATF.
Pakistan must take a wise move and link the exit from FATF with USA – Afghan peace deal. We should request USA to withdraw its complaint from FATF allowing Pakistan to have financial freedom and to create faff free investment environment if the USA wants a favourable outcome of peace talks with Pakistan’s help, as there’s no such thing as free lunch in the world. We need to get out of FATF to block the economic meltdown because of fast sliding economy.
(Senator Rehman Malik The writer is Former Interior Minister of Pakistan, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Chairman of Think Tank “Global Eye”. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @Senrehmanmalik)