LAHORE - In finding a regional solution to Afghan conflict in the wake of its likely exit from Afghanistan, the United States is not only facing the tough challenge of uniting all Afghan factions to agree on the contours of a future setup for the war-torn country, it is also confronting the uphill task of convincing the regional powers to take its ownership.
After all, it did not take any of the countries, bordering Afghanistan, into confidence when it invaded Afghanistan maddened by 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. With the only exception of India, none of the neighbouring countries had welcomed the US invasion of Afghanistan undertaken on the pretext of eliminating Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), an organisation working for political reconciliation and development in Afghanistan since 2002, is also worried about the possible chaos in Afghanistan that may follow after the US leaves the war-torn country.
The said UN organisation could not achieve landmark progress in achieving the set objectives due to inflexibility of hostile Afghan factions and warring Taliban. The Istanbul Conference followed by a similar event at Bonn, both aimed at initiating intra-afghan dialogue with an ultimate objective of bringing on board all Afghan factions for general reconciliation and formation of consensus government seem to have yielded no results so far.
The leadership of UNAMA feels that no workable solution for Afghanistan could be found out as long as all the regional countries including China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and India are on board. In Pakistan’s case, it is of the view that they have to deal with two different governments, i.e., the civilian and the military establishment. “We feel easier to talk to the people in Foreign Office compared to those sitting in the GHQ”, a source close to UNAMA told TheNaion speaking on the condition of anonymity.
He further said that UNAMA was wondering if the exit of General Pasha from ISI would make any difference and pave the way for a workable and lasting solution to the Afghan conflict. It also believes that India can be a player in any future arrangement for Afghanistan while the people in Pakistan are averse to the idea and the government has its reservations.
According to the source working closely with UNAMA, the credibility of Karzai and his government is very low. “Therefore, the US wants to bring in India.” Asked if an initiative by Loya Jirga would work for a future consensus government in Afghanistan, the answer was a big No. There is a feeling within UNAMA that unless the interests of regional countries are protected nothing would ever work.
The source was of the view that Americans are in a terrible hurry to leave Afghanistan and it would be a big mistake if they pulled out of the country without putting in place a workable arrangement. The reason for this haste is said to be domestic pressure on US administration.
It is mind-boggling for many here that contrary to its earlier stance and policies, the US now wants to come to terms with the Taliban and also wants the Karzai government to fall in line and accept them as one of the major stakeholders in the future setup. But the problem is that Taliban don’t trust Karzai and have more trust in India perhaps.
“The basic objective is to bring Taliban into the main stream, but the trouble is that they don’t trust Mr Karzai”, the source in UNAMA told TheNation speaking on the condition of anonymity.
There is also a feeling within UNAMA that even if they succeed in bringing all tribes closer together to reach a power-sharing deal, the arrangement is not going to work for long. They will fall apart after some time, they think
As the peace agreement in Afghanistan will require the assistance and approval of all major stakeholders in the region, the US administration’s idea of finding some solution to Afghan imbroglio with India also being on board is not acceptable to many countries, especially Pakistan, which has its serious concerns over the issue, though it has declared to support any Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to the conflict.
China, Russia and Iran have also their stakes in Afghanistan and would not like to become part of a solution affecting their interests. This is the reason that US is struggling hard to seek their approval but with little success so far.
For Pakistan, a worst-affected country as a result of US-led war in Afghanistan, the US’ double standards are hard to fathom: In Afghanistan, it is supporting dialogue with Taliban, but on other side of the border, it is putting pressure on Pakistan to take action against them.