Afghan peace talks need focus
One issue which has been threatening peace and stability in the entire south Asian region is the Afghan crisis that has been going on despite many attempts to help resolve it at least partially.
The Afghan peace process that was initiated with much fanfare not only hit a roadblock in January but even a remotest hope of ensuring return of peace in the trouble torn nation seems a remote possibility. The Taliban have started their attacks and this means that peace still is an allusion for the people who had pinned some hopes on the talks that were scheduled to move smoothly.
When talks ended abruptly in January, just days after beginning, both sides submitted their wish lists for agendas. The task now is for the two sides to sift through the respective wish lists, agree on items to negotiate and the order in which they will be tackled.
The priority for the Afghan government, Washington and NATO is a serious reduction in violence leading to a cease fire. The Taliban have said it is negotiable, but until now have resisted any immediate cease fire.
For peace talks to begin and progress there has to be an environment of peace. Not because it is a prerogative but a peaceful environment will help develop mutual trust and understanding.
Interestingly, Washington is reviewing the February 2020 peace deal the previous Trump administration signed with the Taliban that calls for the final withdrawal of international forces by May 1. The Taliban have resisted suggestions of even a brief extension, but a consensus in Washington finally settled for delay in the withdrawal deadline.
There is even a suggestion of a smaller intelligence – based force staying behind that would focus almost exclusively on counter-terrorism and an increasingly active and deadly Islamic State affiliate, headquartered in eastern Afghanistan.
But neither Washington nor NATO has yet to announce a decision on the fate of an estimated 10,000 troops, including 2,500 American soldiers, still in Afghanistan. The Biden administration has emphasized a political solution to the protracted Afghan conflict, retained Zalmay Khalilzad, the man who negotiated the U.S. peace deal with the Taliban and until now avoided any definitive statements about the road forward.
What can prove critical to initiate a meaningful dialogue between the Taliban and the government in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Pakistan is seen as critical to getting the Taliban back to the table but also to press the insurgent movement whose leadership is headquartered in Pakistan to help reduce violence in Afghanistan.
It is important to note that any peace deal in Afghanistan will act as a building stone for other issues that confront important and powerful nations in the south Asian region.