Afghan Peace Process


  • The US began the war in Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 attack. The aim of the US-led coalition was to overthrow the Taliban.
  • The war in Afghanistan, however, was derailed as the U.S. changed focus from 2003 towards Iraq.
  • As the Taliban launched their insurgency in 2005 after recovering, regrouping and refinancing themselves from their refuge in Pakistan, the final goal of a secure and peaceful Afghanistan started to recede.
  • The rebellion has since gained traction and also revealed the political vulnerabilities of the U.S.

After taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama approved an increase in the number of U.S. troops with the intention of achieving a decisive victory over the insurgency.

  • At the same time, he declared that the drawdown of forces would begin in 2011, and that the Afghan security forces would take over all military operations by 2014.UPSC Prelims 2024 dynamic test series
  • This only encouraged the Taliban insurgency, however, and revealed the vulnerabilities of the Afghan army and police forces in terms of numbers, training and facilities to deal with the post-2014 situation.
  • In 2014, the U.S. declared the withdrawal of the majority of soldiers, but under Operation Resolute Support, a few thousand U.S. troops were to remain behind to "advise, train and assist" the Afghan security forces.
  • In 2017, the United States For "Afghanistan and South Asia," President Donald Trump set out a plan.
  • His strategy was different from that of his predecessors as it claimed that "not for nation-building" but limited to "killing terrorists" was American participation in Afghanistan.UPSC Prelims 2024 dynamic test series

With a change from a time-driven approach to one based on circumstances, he called this strategy "Principled Realism".

 

There were two pillars behind this policy:

—Military participation: additional troops playing two roles: counter-terrorism operations and training of the Afghan powers.

—Political Involvement: If the situation shifts in that direction, a mediated political settlement with the Taliban.

  • Since October 2018, representatives of the Taliban and US officials have met to conclude a peace treaty.

 

ROLE OF USA IN AFGHAN PEACE PROCESS:

  • A proposed peace plan has been concluded by U.S. and Taliban negotiators. This plan for a structure was based on years of direct and indirect discussions between the two sides.
  • Under the arrangement, foreign terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State will have to be refused safe haven by the Taliban, and have to enter into direct negotiations with the Afghan government, and also agree to announce a ceasefire.
  • In return, within eighteen months of a definitive agreement, the United States will withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

OTHER COUNTRIES' CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PROCESS:

  • Attempts to achieve this draft peace structure have been made possible at various stages with the assistance of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar.
  • However, the proposal does not explain the position that regional states will play in reaching a final settlement.
  • Just like the long war in Afghanistan was fueled by regional rivalry, regional states have a role to play in resolving it.

 

  • Pakistan:

-- Pakistan has been a key player in all stages of the long war in Afghanistan.

-- The US has vowed to follow a policy of pressure to punish Pakistan for its malignant behaviour, including by allowing Taliban leaders and fighters to live and organize freely from within its territory.

-- However, Pakistani civilian and military leaders are hopeful about the new draft structure, because its pursuit has slowed the escalation of the pressure campaign.

-- A limited agreement that does not require Pakistan to take responsibility for its past actions in Afghanistan is probably the best-case scenario for Pakistan.

 

  • In China:

-- The interests of China in Afghanistan are more closely associated with Pakistan, while the fears of Beijing regarding violent extremism and terrorism are out of line with the actions of Pakistan.

-- The U.S. and Chinese negotiators have worked together to help the peace process in Afghanistan, and Beijing would want to be adequately active to resolve its counter-terrorism and border security issues.

-- China has a lot to offer in terms of promoting the peace agreement in Afghanistan, especially economically through investments in Pakistan (the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) or Central Asia (the Silk Road Economic Belt) under the Belt and Road Initiative.

 

  • Russia

-- Russia held a second round of Taliban talks without the involvement of the Afghan government in February 2019. -These talks risk alleviating pressure on the Taliban and improving its position further, but could be leveraged to assist the U.S. diplomatic effort.

-- The governments of the U.S. and Afghanistan should find ways to take advantage of the initiatives of Moscow and turn up to any talks hosted by Russia, even if only to deny the Taliban an uncontested boon.

 

  • India

-- India plays a role as a responsible democratic nation and a true friend and neighbour to Afghanistan, with minimal intervention options in Afghanistan.

 

INDIANS ARE ACTIVE IN AFGHANISTAN IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS:

  • Social infrastructure growth, such as hospitals, schools;
  • Public facilities such as the Salma dam and the construction of Parliament;
  • Humanitarian aid, for example, medical missions;
  • preparation of soldiers and military officers;
  • Military combat, such as military helicopters and helicopter repairs from the old Soviet period.

-- India is possibly worried that any negotiation that could bring the Taliban back into the Afghan government could dilute its political power in Afghanistan.

-- India's hedge against Iran could pave the way for a continuing economic position by investing in the construction of the port of Chabahar (the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean).

 

AFGHAN, AS INDIA'S ENIGMATIC ADVANTAGE:

  • Afghanistan is the gateway to India's North-South Corridor.
  • Having a rich source of oil in Afghanistan will help India fulfil its demand to the full.
  • India has established the port of Chahbar to increase imports and exports to Afghanistan and to fight Pakistan in the West Sea.
  • Elusive peace in Afghanistan could support TAPI 's India project.
  • Help India resolve the one-road-one-belt projects in China.

Indian impact if the Taliban comes to power:

  • Pakistan will gain tremendous strategic leverage and the same will be lost to India.
  • Entry to central Asia from India will be impaired.
  • The Taliban may turn to India after conquering Afghanistan to increase terrorist activity.
  • Pakistan would then concentrate solely on the Indian frontier.
  • It will use it against India, as China has also increased its stakes.

 

REASONS FOR INDIA TO BE A PART OF THE TALIBAN RECONCILIATION PROCESS:

  • Regional stability: security and stability are the pillars on which it is possible to construct growth. Peaceful communities and a trouble-free regional environment would provide the regimes with room to focus more on growth as Taliban threats of violence in the region are reduced.
  • Countering the vested interests of China and Pakistan: India should play a significant role through the Quadrilateral Party, plus 2 talks to thwart China's attempts to position puppet regimes that can play according to its own vested interests. This could be contrary to the hopes and concerns of India.
  • Connectivity with Central Asia: India will largely depend on Afghanistan's domestic environment to trade with Central Asia and to reap the benefits of enhanced connectivity. A stable and cooperative Afghanistan would be a crucial pillar of India 's strategy towards Central Asia. The new Indian trilateral transit deal. It is a big step in this direction for Iran and Afghanistan.
  • TAPI for Energy Security: Violence Free Afghanistan is desideratum to complete the TAPI project and to maintain its benefits through Turkmenistan's energy supplies.
  • Gateway to the strategy of 'Connect West': Afghanistan will serve as a gateway to the growing rigour of India's West Asian strategy.
  • Afghanistan minerals: the cost of access to minerals would be minimal and helpful for the expansion of Indian industry development.

 

WAY AHEAD:

  • India needs to make its stance on Afghan issues tougher. India needs to pull together other stakeholders, such as Russia to Iran, to make their stance clear.
  • India should make the US more vocal that leaving the Taliban unfinished would leave the area in the same or worse situation as it was before. The Taliban 's complete surrender is good for the stability of the USA and the region.
  • India needs to use soft image as a tool and it should emphasize that the voice of the Afghan people is most important, so the US should try to stabilize the region instead of giving power to some form of government.
  • It is a fact that there is no military solution to the conflict. But instead of placing a diplomatic effort behind the full power and wealth of the United States, successive administrations have preferred to place the military mission first. They have often deployed just enough resources to have an effect on the ground, while minimizing attention from increasingly weary constituents in the United States. It is long past time for a different approach.
  • The U.S.-Taliban draft structure is precisely the kind of high-stakes diplomacy necessary to end the long war in Afghanistan, or even just the U.S. duration of that conflict, which is the longest war in U.S. history.

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