The Afghan government is making way to implement a U.S.-inspired strategy in Afghanistan.
Can anything be done to enforce it without further harming the unity of the Afghan people and stability of the country and region?
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken‘s recent letter to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani shook the already unstable foundations of the Afghan government.
In the three-page message, the U.S. asked Ghani to “move urgently” and “work together” with other Afghan leaders to support a U.S. proposed and U.N.-led peace conference in Turkey aimed at forming an inclusive Afghan government with the Taliban.
The letter warns the incumbent Afghan president “that the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains” in the absence of accelerated Afghan discussions on a negotiated settlement and ceasefire.
For the Afghan president, as the letter explains, “difficult work lies ahead.” It is imperative for Ghani’s government to accelerate the peace process in full consultation and cooperation with the Afghan people.
Ghani and his team should avoid creating more obstacles to negotiating with the Taliban. The political leadership of Afghanistan must move forward in this U.S.-led process of peace negotiations with the Taliban in absolute unity. Afghans should support the current U.S. peace plan. Regional stakeholders should be cautious about the current U.S.-Pakistan consensus and work closely with Afghan leaders.
The consensus centered on Islamabad allowing Taliban leaders to travel to Qatar from Pakistan to establish a political office for themselves in Doha. Without Pakistan’s backing and support, Washington could not secure a deal with the Taliban. The U.S. reached an agreement with Pakistan first, in order to broker a deal with the Taliban.
In Kabul, Ghani and his team, including his first vice president, seem embarrassed. They openly display their displeasure with Washington.
“We will never bow to a deal by some individuals that endangers the system, our achievements and the people’s right to vote,” said Vice President Amrullah Saleh, reacting to the U.S. secretary of state’s letter. It is likely that Saleh leaked the letter to the media.
But such unwise reactions and emotional statements do not scratch the surface of Ghani’s government. The key to any peace deal with the Taliban is with the United States and Pakistan. Ghani’s administration should have questioned Washington on its policy toward Pakistan and the nature of its so-called war on terror long ago.
From the beginning of his first term in office in 2014, President Ghani and his government represented Washington’s interests in Afghanistan. From appeasing Pakistan to escalating the war in Afghanistan and illegally imprisoning Afghans in the name of fighting terrorism, the Afghan government did everything in its power to Afghanize the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Ghani’s ill-advised war policy trapped the Afghan security forces in an enduring U.S. war against the Taliban and other armed groups which were and continue to be based in and operating from Pakistan.
Washington was allowed to have a free hand in conducting war, from drone strikes to unlawful house searches and detention of innocent Afghans. Over a hundred combat operations were carried out on almost a daily basis in the past. A special decree was signed by the president which allowed the “detention without trail of Afghans suspected of planning acts of terrorism.”
Thousands of Afghans were detained without any legal process. Appeasing the U.S. military, Ghani and his current vice president were the first in welcoming and publicly supporting the U.S. military operations on Afghan soil, including the use of U.S. bombs and targeted drone attacks in the country.
In the region, Ghani’s over-reliance on Washington created and strengthened an atmosphere of mistrust and non-cooperation between Kabul and regional powers such as Russia, China and Iran.
Each of these countries, due to their own security concerns, independently expanded their contact with the Taliban. The Taliban’s growing relations with the United States and regional powers further isolated Ghani’s unpopular government.
At home, the Afghan government’s unrealistic and shortsighted policies have caused divisions and problems among the country’s diverse ethnic groups.
Widespread war, insecurity, corruption and unemployment have driven people away from the government. The leadership’s incapability to provide security for the country’s capital has led to many civilian casualties. Daily magnetic bombs kill innocent Afghans, including children, women and youth.
In addition to the general hatred and pessimism of the nation from the current government, lately religious scholars have also raised their voices against Ghani and his team. The protests of religious scholars representing different parts of the country last month in Kabul was a clear demonstration of people’s anger.
Instead of serving the people, the government tried to silence the voices of change through fake demonstrations in Kabul.
In lieu of securing and protecting Kabul from bombs and crimes of robbery, murder and kidnapping, the government has resorted to false slogans and propaganda in defense of the so-called republic.
I think the current administration has lost the trust and support of its people. Things are already out of control in Kabul. The security circle around the green zone, where the presidential palace is located, is getting narrower day by day. According to media reports, in some areas of Kabul, there is already no sign of Ghani’s government.
It seems unlikely that it will now be able to survive the current crisis. Ghani’s government has no choice but to step down.
Under pressure from the worsening situation in the country, Afghans seem satisfied with the plan to replace Ghani’s administration with an inclusive and participatory government, in which the Taliban will also have a stake.
The current U.S. arrangement with the Taliban is certainly not perfect and there are genuine reasons for Afghans and all responsible stakeholders in the region to be watchful. The alternative will lead Afghanistan into more war and chaos with undesirable and far-reaching consequences for the region.
A peaceful solution to the conflict in Afghanistan must become a top policy goal for India, Russia, China and Iran.
To achieve durable peace and stability in Afghanistan, the United Nations should play a key role in shaping the way forward and forge new regional and global consensus based on fairness and inclusion.