Peace in Afghanistan

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NINE months after the US and Taliban signed the peace agreement that paves the way for return of Taliban to power in the country, there has been little progress in the intra-Afghan talks so far. On a positive note though, the Afghan government and the Taliban have agreed framework rules for peace talks. The talks hosted by Qatar’s capital Doha are hoped to lead to end of the ongoing two decade long war in the country. But the peace efforts have hardly reduced violence. There has been a steep rise in violence amid an accelerated withdrawal of US troops. Besides Taliban attacks, the ISIS too has increased its footprint in the country.

Meanwhile, despite losing the US presidential election, Donald Trump has ordered a drawdown of American forces in the country to around 2,500 by January. Critics of the peace efforts believe this would embolden Taliban and persuade it to play for time and try toppling the regime once all the US troops have left the country. Such a prospect can plunge the country deeper into civil war.

It will be interesting to see how the new US administration under Joe Biden that will take over on January 20 will deal with the situation. Many observers expect Biden to be more nuanced in his approach. Pakistan hopes its concerns to be accommodated more in the new US administration. In 2008, Pakistan had conferred Biden with the second highest civilian honor, ‘Hilal-e-Pakistan’. Joe Biden and Senator Richard Lugar were behind the proposal to bring $ 1.5 billion non-military aid to Pakistan. Biden will also want to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but he is expected to be a steadier hand.

However, eventually the peace and stability in Afghanistan will have to be the responsibility of the regional powers. And it is unlikely to happen if the regional powers pursue their disparate interests in the war-torn country. The US will also need to make some subtle adjustment in its Afghanistan policy to make it work. In its current form, the policy almost entirely neglects the regional geo-politics, prevailing issues and the contending interests of the neighbouring countries like India and Pakistan which essentially keep the conflict going in Kabul. So rather than an Afghanistan-centric policy, US needs a broader regional approach to work for an integrated solution to the conflicts and the competing interests that in turn fuel the war in Kabul.

Here’s hoping that unlike Trump whose approach was transactional in nature, Biden administration takes a more integrated view of the regional situation in his dealings. This alone will help promote the cause of regional peace than the approach pursued by Trump.

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