Envisioning Afghan peace

July 30, 2019

Prime Minister Imran Khan assured his American counterpart the US President Donald Trump last week that Pakistan “will do everything within its power” to facilitate the process aimed at ending Afghanistan’s nearly 18-year war adding that the world owed it to the people of Afghanistan to bring about peace after four decades of conflict. Afghanistan remained the main point of deliberations held between the Pakistani and US leaderships in Washington, D.C. last week. Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged to pursue the Afghan Taliban leadership to initiate talks with the Afghan government. Maximum of US leaders and officials acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan’s role in bringing the Afghan Taliban to the table for talks. The US administration politely requested Pakistan to continue playing a constructive role in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan’s leadership categorically agreed to take up the task. The State Department has meanwhile approved a proposed $125 million support program for Pakistan’s F-16s. It has however simultaneously reminded Pakistan government of its commitment to urge the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government. There is a need on the part of the government to sort out the matter with the Afghan Taliban who either control or dominate most of the Afghan provinces on the other side of the Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan has faced sanctions on the presumption that it had provided sanctuaries to the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network. Despite this, it arranged meetings between the religious militia and the USA. Pakistan now needs to ask the Taliban to help put an end to terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. The Prime Minster was accompanied by the COAS and ISI chief during the Washington visit is an indication of the goodwill prevailing. It shows the government and the establishment are on one page, something rare in Pakistan’s recent history. The Afghan Taliban have made it known that they are waiting for an invitation from Imran Khan to come to Pakistan for talks. This is an ideal time to persuade the Afghan Taliban to hold talks with the Afghan government and announce a ceasefire to end the ongoing bloodshed. Although Taliban have denied the news of talks with Afghan government but the MoU between the US and Taliban for withdrawal of foreign troops can ensure intra-Afghan talks. For Pakistan, restoring its relationship with the US is important not only for speeding up economic recovery but also for re-balancing its regional geostrategic position. Pakistan delegation’s visit to the US is bringing the country back onto the regular diplomacy tracks.

To keep this momentum, Pakistan has to deliver on Afghanistan, but the US in charge of security there also must assure that no militant plotting from Afghan soil takes place to destabilize this country.