By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Political developments in and around Afghanistan are too fast to catch. Taliban were reluctant to talk with Afghan government in past but now Afghan Government and Taliban are ready to sit together in 11-party “Afghanistan Peace Conference” scheduled to be held in Moscow on April 14.
Washington has regretted to attend “Afghanistan Peace Conference”, stating that it would support any initiative that can bring peace into Afghanistan. Meanwhile, US authorities claim that host country—Russia is supplying weapons to Taliban.
Pakistan, China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran are working together to stop Daesh in Afghanistan due to the proximity of Afghanistan to their borders while India does not wish to leave Afghan peace talks because it has become a “stakeholder” in Afghan issue since its inclusion in “Heart of Asia—the Istanbul Process” that was established in November 2011.
Situation in Afghanistan has become complex after abrupt rise of Daesh due to vacuum created in southern areas after Taliban disappeared from Konar, Khost, Nagharhar, Paktia, Logar, Paktika and Zabul provinces in late 2015.
Taliban claim that leaving Konar, Khost, Nagharhar, Paktia, Logar, Paktika and Zabul and moving towards Northern areas was their strategy to gain their positions in provinces where Taliban had no access in past including Kanduz where they had never been before in power even during their rule over 70% of Afghanistan (Year 1995-2001). Taliban successfully consolidated their positions in provinces bordering Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan including Nimruz, Farah, Herat, Helmand and Kandahar.
There is no doubt that Central Asian states are scare of Daesh phenomenon therefore they are ready to accept presence of Taliban at their borders because they believe that Taliban would resist rise of Daesh towards Central Asian borders. “Choice between the two evils is the “only choice left” with Central Asian states, commented a former intelligence officer when he was asked to comment over latest situation in Afghanistan.
Pro-US circles in Kabul claim that Taliban are getting weaponry support from Russia as well as from Pakistan. However, Afghan government is avoiding accusing Russia officially for supporting Taliban. These circles actually rebroadcast allegations leveled by General John Nicholson, Commander of the U.S. and NATO Forces in Afghanistan who said that Russians were supplying weapons to Taliban.
Sane elements sitting in government of President Ashraf Ghani accept privately that Kabul is losing its writ in almost every province of the war-torn country.
Last week, Taliban fighters captured Tala Wa Barfak district and also captured the strategic district of Sangin. Local Afghan commanders and military officials confirmed to US media that Sangin district is no more with Afghan government.
Reports coming from Kabul suggest that extensive fighting is going on between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in Baghlan province since March 23.
Russian strategic circles believe that Taliban would gain ground by every passing day to solidify their position to have bargain edge over Afghan government in forthcoming Moscow talks.
Russia is providing weapons to Taliban or not is a debatable point but there is no doubt that Afghan establishment is habitual of blaming others of almost everything that goes wrong inside Afghanistan. Russians claim that they wish a peaceful solution of 35 year long Afghan civil war and want to stop advances of Islamic State (Daesh) towards Central Asian States. “Better to fight Islamists on Amu Daryan than on the Volga”, is the strategy opted by Putin administration.
Russia is afraid of rise of Daesh in Afghanistan because Daesh can infect former Russian states including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Russia imports over 40% workforce from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for its construction industry. If these two countries are infected with radicalization, then it would be a great threat to Russia because citizens of these countries do not need visas to travel and work in Russia.
Russia is openly criticising Afghan government for its defeats and believes that Afghan government must sit with Taliban and try to take Afghanistan out of civil war. Certain elements in Kabul ruling elite considers Russian attempt to broker peace as “moral support” to Taliban because President Ashraf Ghani and his team did not wish to talk to Taliban in past and believed that they could defeat Taliban with the support of NATO and US soldiers.
Sources claim that Afghan government is ready to sit with Taliban in Moscow owing demand come from Chinese government because China is the biggest investor in Afghanistan but has halted all mega projects due to grave security situation.
It may be mentioned that Russia hosted a Trilateral meeting in Moscow in December 2016 that was attended by China and Pakistan.
Trilateral meeting cautioned that influence of Daesh is (was) growing in Afghanistan. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova after Trilateral meeting in Moscow said that peace in Afghanistan has (had) become top priority of Kremlin after rise of Daesh.
It is worth mentioning that Russia took initiative of holding trilateral meeting in Moscow after failure of China, Pakistan, United States and Afghanistan to get any result out of their “Quadripartite talks”.
Russian think tanks believe that US can act as “spoiler” in forthcoming Moocow Conference because it (US) has failed to bring peace to Afghanistan even after using brute force along with NATO countries for 15 years.
“Can US allow Russia to broker peace in Afghanistan successfully?” is the question which would be answered by future only.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.