US-Taliban Peace Talks & Role Of Pakistan
The US-Taliban peace talks refer to the negotiations to end the ongoing war in Afghanistan which started in 2001 after the incident of 9/11. Negotiations intensified in 2018 with the Taliban which is the basic insurgent group fighting against the Afghan government. Also with the NATO troops and the USA. This conflict also involves other armed groups such as ISIS and Alqaeda.
In Afganistan, 20000 troops of the USA maintain their presence within the country to support the Afghan government. ISIS have their influence in Northwest and Northeast of Afghanistan. Both the Afghan government and also the Taliban hold strong control in their regions. According to the report, 40% of American arms are in Afghanistan. The US wants to withdraw from Afghanistan and for that purpose, Washington needs the help of Islamabad.
Therefore, the US started US-Taliban peace talks in June 2011. Mostly negotiations take place in Doha. The mutual talks between the US and the Taliban are expected but before that peace talks between the Afghan Government and Taliban are necessary. Pakistan plays its role efficiently in facilitating the peace talks because there are also so many implications for Pakistan.
On September 09, 2001, when 19 terrorists under the leadership of Alqaeda (Osama Bin Laden) hijacked 4 plans and hit the twin towers and Pentagon in the USA. On this G.W Bush declared GWOT & said in the National address. “Either you are with us or with the terrorists”.
Moreover, he called this act as a security threat to the world. For all this purpose Pakistan is the best choice due to its geographic location and ethnic affiliation. For the USA, Pakistan is a passage to transport weapons and military to NATO in Afghanistan. The main objective of GWOT to eradicate world terrorism and to punish Usama Bin Laden who is the prime suspect of the bombing.
In October 2001, the USA launched Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Pakistan recognized the Taliban regime in 1994. Now Pakistan took a U-turn against them and supports USA-Taliban peace talks. US-installed Karzai and Taliban didn’t accept the US-led Afghan Government and said we will rule over Afghanistan.
Obama Era- US-Taliban Peace Talks
In May 2011, Osama Bin Laden captured and shot dead in Abottabad, Pakistan. In 2011 and 2012 Obama Planned to withdrawal troops from Afghanistan. For this purpose following steps were taken in Obama Era:
- A plan was developed that 10000 troops will leave till 2011.
- 23000 US troops would withdraw till Sep 2012.
- The QEF ended in 2016.
- A drawdown of troops will continue slowly till handing over the security to the Afghan Government.
- In 2015, the mission of NATO and the USA was only training, advising and assisting the Afghan forces.
Trump Era & Current Situation
In recent months the President Donald TrumpTrump decided to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Washington realizes that it affects the economy of the US and the war is too much costly for them. The USA has spent $133 Billion in various forms in Afghanistan over the past 18 years to sustain ANDSF economic development.
Taliban controls 40% area in Afghanistan and war is also useless and very costly in Afghanistan for the USA. Pakistan also faces many problems due to GWOT. Now Trump engages in diplomatic efforts to end the war through the US- Taliban Peace talks. Afghan government representatives do not directly involve in US Taliban Talks.
Key Objectives By US
Following are the objectives of the USA:
1. Assurance by the Taliban that Afghanistan will not be used by groups to launch terror attacks.
2. Mutual agreement on US troop’s withdrawal.
3. Intra- Aghan dialogues.
4. Permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.
Demands By Taliban
Following are the demands of the Taliban from the USA:
1. They demanded the removal of foreign forces within a few months.
2. Taliban wanted the abolition of the Afghan Government.
3. No presence of the Afghan Government in the peace process.
4. No ceasefire until the announcement of a complete withdrawal of US forces.
In Sep 2019 the US-appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as a representative in Afghan Taliban talks. Then, for almost a year Khalilzad held a continuous series of meetings with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar. Then In August 2019, a conclusion was made that assured the US withdrawal. But the USA said after Intra Afghan talks.
The USA decided to leave 5000 troops from 5 bases within 135 days until 2020. It is was only possible if the Taliban reduced violence from Kabul and also from Panwar. In return, the Taliban demanded the removal of foreign forces. On September 05, 2019, the Taliban attacked Kabul and Doha talks were canceled by the USA. 17 US troops killed in combat 2019.
On November 28, 2019, the Taliban said to the USA. ” The Americans walked away from negotiating table and so, now the ball is in their court” like it’s up to them whether to solve the matter or not. According to US analysts: If the US would withdraw without a ceasefire and Intra Afghan negotiations then it is a danger for all.
This situation also led to the failure of 18 years of GWOT. As it will create a vacuum-like situation as it was created after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union.
Involvement Of Pakistan- US-Taliban Peace Talks
Moreover, the involvement of Pakistan is of great importance. But it is regarded as Pakistan played an active but negative role. USA, India and the Afghan government believes that Pakistan maintains its ties with Taliban groups and provide safe haven in Quetta “Shura” organization. It is regarded as a threat and instability in Afghanistan.
Therefore, it is a great challenge for Pakistan to improve its image because the US already announced plans to suspend security assistance to Pakistan. Therefore, this is a decision that has affected billions of dollars of aid. Since 2018, Trump seeking Pakistan’s support for facilitating US-Taliban Peace Talks. One important step that Pakistan took is the release of Mullah Abdul Ghani who was captured in Karachi by US Pakistan operation in 2010. Therefore, this act of Pakistan facilitate talks in Doha.
Recommendations & Implications For Pakistan
Read this carefully:
1. Pakistan should play its role as a negotiator by being neutral between the US-Taliban Peace Talks. Because Pakistan cannot take the side of either party. On the contrary, if Pakistan goes against the US then it would create a great problem for Pakistan. If it goes against the Taliban then it is a direct security threat to Pakistan. If the Taliban get hold of Afghanistan in the future, then Pakistan will face threat from that region.
2. Pakistan and Afghan relations are already Complicated due to the [presence of millions of refugees and border conflict. So if Pakistan sided the US then relations between them becomes more complicated. The stability in Afghanistan is beneficial for Pakistan.
3. If the US withdraws then terrorist activities would intense in Pakistan because the Taliban would expand throughout Pakistan.
4. Indian Influence in Afghanistan increases which becomes a challenge for Pakistan.
5. In any case, Pakistan must prefer peace talks first between the Taliban and Afghan Government and then between the USA and the Taliban.
There are some facts about the USA and Afghanistan, Kindly read them also.
The content is opinion based.
Written by: Maryam Naveedmaryam@asianthinktank.com