By Ulvi Ahmedli
The United States of America and Taliban representatives signed an agreement after nine rounds of talks on 29 February in Qatar’s capital Doha. The agreement was viewed as an end of the US long-standing war in Afghanistan starting from 2001.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan welcomed the deal and he expressed his wishes for peace for Afghan people who suffered 4 decades of bloodshed. At the signing ceremony, Pakistan was represented by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Pakistan is one of the most sufferers of the Afghanistan war and terrorism. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2014-2015, the conflict damaged US$ 106.98 billion to the Pakistani economy during the 14 years of war. It stressed that the peace and stability in Afghanistan is vital for the revival of Pakistan’s economy. Pakistan has a critical role and ultimate interest for achieving a deal in Afghanistan. Pakistan has not just provided sides with the place for dialogue but also mediated the talks.
Beginning of peace talks
US President Donald Trump signaled to finish the decade-lasting war in Afghanistan in 2017. At first, Trump chose India instead of Pakistan to be a partner for the solution of the conflict. Donald Trump has good personal relations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India supports the Afghanistan government. In August 2017, Trump accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban insurgents. The same statement came in 2018 January. However, Imran Khan rejected all claims and Pakistan’s top diplomat Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that “We have no favorites” in dialogue among the Afghan group.
Pakistan kept saying the world that war cannot be an option and dialogue with Afghan Taliban is the only solution of Afghan conflict
Despite some attempts during the Obama administration, reaching the agreement was not succeeded.
Following the increase of violence at the beginning of 2018, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani proposed peace talks with the Taliban on 27 February 2018.
Peace movement arose in Afghanistan during 2018, the Taliban responded positively to Afghanistan’s offer in June 2018. After a month, US appointed Zalmay Khalilzad to special representative for Afghan reconciliation. US supported the desire of both the Taliban and Afghanistan for peace and it launches the negotiation process over the Afghanistan conflict.
Pakistan’s role in Afghan Peace Deal
Now world understands that rejecting Pakistan or minimizing its role is/was not an optimal decision for reaching a long-lasting deal in Afghanistan. Pakistan is the birthplace of the Taliban in the 1990s, the members of the Taliban got educated in Pakistan’s madrassas. Pakistan also suffers from domestic Islamist resurgence and Taliban did not support Pakistan in its war against Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan TTP), a foreign sponsored terror group. However, Pakistan kept saying the world that war cannot be an option and dialogue with Afghan Taliban is the only solution of Afghan conflict.
While Qatar is the headquarter for talks, Pakistan provided mediation efforts for the Taliban and the US. Pakistan also arranged back-door dialogues. It determines Pakistan’s role in the conflict as a mediator.
The main representative of the Taliban in the deal is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar who was released by Pakistan on 24 October 2018. By this decision, Pakistan started to play an active role in peace talks.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani visited Islamabad in June 2019 for discussing the situation. Pakistani officials warmly welcomed him. Before this meeting, Pakistan had received the Taliban officials. Foreign Minister of Pakistan Mr. Qureshi stated that trust needed between sides in order to reach the final deal. Pakistan attempted to construct a bridge between conflicting sides.
In order to reach the deal, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan held three meetings with US President Donald Trump. Imran Khan met with Donald Trump in July 2019 first time ever. During the conversation, Donald Trump announced that the US is (was) working with Pakistan over Afghanistan talks. Trump stressed that Pakistan had a special power that other nations do not have with respect to Afghanistan.
The negotiation process was going to rise hope for peace after 18 years. However, the Taliban’s September 2019 attack heavily damaged talks. The attack killed US soldier and several others in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, according to United Nations statistics, the US and Afghanistan forces killed more civilians than the Taliban in the first half of 2019.
Following the attack, Trump halted talks with Taliban called talks are dead. After a month, Pakistan hosted the meeting between Taliban representatives and U.S. special representative, Zalmay Khalilzad. He highly valued the positive role of Pakistan in facilitating the peace process. Islamabad meeting revived the talks from “dead point” and saved the negotiation process.
Following the first meeting, Trump and Khan met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2019. The leaders discussed mainly the situation in Kashmir but they also touched upon the Afghanistan conflict. Imran Khan emphasized the stability of Afghanistan directly means the stability of Pakistan.
Two leaders also met on the sidelines of World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Davos, on 21 January 2020. Both leaders posed positive signals on the deal in Afghanistan.
After one month from this meeting, the peace deal was signed between Taliban representatives and the US on 29 February in Doha, Qatar. The sway of prisoners between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan were stated in the deal. All of these steps can make trust and peace in the region.
Afghanistan deal is the main achievement for maintaining peace in South Asia. Throughout the history of the Afghanistan conflict, Pakistan has been part of initiations for peaceful solutions. Pakistan skillfully used its relations with the Taliban for reaching a deal in Afghan-US talks.
If we analyze the roles of third parties to the Afghanistan peace deal, Pakistan played a mediator role by actively participating in the process as we mentioned above. Qatar provided good offices by helping conflicted sides to enter into the dialogue.
Finally, the agreement was reached but it is not the end. Pakistan’s role through the negotiation process made fruit but Pakistan must continue its efforts to maintain the deal in the future. Many issues remain unresolved like the future shape of government and constitution. We expect Pakistan’s activeness for holding and following the terms of the peace deal. Peace in Afghanistan is equally needed for Pakistan but there are many spoilers standing at the corner of Kabul and the world at large must discourage these spoilers to much needed lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Writer of this article Ulvi Ahmedli is Baku Based Research Journalist who has specialization in Regional Affairs and Economy. 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.