THE increasing violence and the continuity of trans-national terrorist syndicate’s sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s peripheral regions have scared the neighbours of the country. They are worried about the regional terrorist groups increasing association with the IS (Daesh). The IS fighters’ foothold and the continuity of protracted warfare in Afghanistan would be having deleterious spill over effect on the neighbouring states national security. Accordingly, the neighbours of Afghanistan are endeavouring to prevent it from further descending into dreadful chaos.
The Russians have convened a 12 nations meeting for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan on April 14, 2017, in Moscow. China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India and Central Asian nations are among the invitees to the Moscow conference. Many analysts believe that the Russians practical involvement in the Afghanistan affairs is a continuation of its assertiveness in the Eurasian region. Secondly, it’s efforts to prevent IS from spreading its tentacles in the war-torn Afghanistan. Besides Russians, the Chinese are also actively participating in the Afghan peace efforts. Beijing is equally scared from the spread of IS influence in Afghanistan. The forthcoming meeting accentuates Russians and Chinese convergence of opinion over the peace process in Afghanistan and thwarting IS making inroads close to o the borders of Central Asian countries.
Since the rise of IS in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the Russians have been alarmed about its expansionist agenda. The Russians took seriously IS announcement about the establishment of ‘Caliphate’ and its provinces in different parts of the world. The extension of the Caliphate to the ‘Khorasan province ‘encompassing Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan and Iran validated Moscow’s fear. Moreover, IS associates conducted terrorist acts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Moscow realizes the vulnerability of its soft belly especially Chechnya. According to press reports, the Chechens form one of the largest foreign contingents in IS war in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, Moscow considers IS gradual penetration in Afghanistan horrendous happening. To impede the IS intrusion in Afghanistan, Moscow established direct contacts with the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Unity Government expressed its announce and compelled the Russians to terminate their contacts with the Afghan Taliban. Conversely, the Russians seem convinced that without the cooperation of Afghan Taliban the rise of IS could not be obstructed in Afghanistan.
Although, Trump Administration has not publicised its policy on Afghanistan, yet it is an open secret that Washington would not abandon Afghanistan. The continuity of Obama Administration policy is expected. Moreover, United States has strategic interest in Central and West Asia and thereby it cannot ignore South Asia in its foreign and strategic calculation. In this context, Washington has been cementing its strategic partnership with India. It is also facilitating New Delhi role in Afghanistan.
The recent Moscow’s contacts with Afghan Taliban and its neighbouring states irritate Trump Administration. The latter considers the former contacts with Taliban as a direct interference in the Afghanistan affairs. American analysts professed the Moscow Afghanistan peace initiative; President Putin smart tactic to increase Russians influence in the region. Hence, the Trump Administration declined the invitation of the Moscow to participate in the multinational meeting scheduled on April 14, 2016. The absence of the United States in the meeting obviously reflects the divergence of opinion of the Great Powers over the peace process in Afghanistan.
Islamabad’s earnest desire is to abolish terrorist sanctuaries located in Afghanistan. Without erasing these sanctuaries Pakistani law enforcement agencies could not completely annihilate Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Therefore, it sincerely participated in quadrilateral dialogue process. Unfortunately, President Ghani’s flippant attitude resulted in increasing mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad. Instead of realising and mending his own government’s shortcomings, he blamed Pakistan.Consequently, quadrilateral dialogue process was shelved without any tangible outcome.
Presently, Islamabad is supporting Russians’ Afghanistan peace initiative. It participated in the three trilateral meetings that were held for deliberation during the recent months. Indeed, the forthcoming Moscow multilateral meeting is the outcome of Russians, Chinese and Pakistani officials efforts. Moreover, Afghan Taliban leadership was approached to participate unconditionally in the peace talks with the Afghan government. Afghan Taliban, however, expressed their disinclination to participate in a meeting in which Afghan Unity Government representatives would be partaking in peace negotiations. The absence of Afghan Taliban in the multinational peace conference certainly cast a shadow over the Moscow Afghanistan peace initiative.
To conclude the forthcoming Moscow multinational meeting is a timely regional peace initiative to end the 16-year devastating war in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, without a direct dialogue between the Afghan Unity Government and Afghan Taliban the peace in Afghanistan would remain a mere optimistic fantasy.
Pakistan Observer, March 30, 2017