The worsening political and military crises in Afghanistan will adversely affect Pakistan and other neighboring states unless there is an early resolution.
The US has clearly conceded too much in its year long dialogue with the Taliban, while the Taliban have refused to deal with the Kabul government and President Ashraf Ghani unless they accept all of the Taliban demands.
President Ghani has not been able to win the support of the Afghan political opposition which largely consists of the non-Pashtun groups although some Pashtuns are also deeply critical of Ghani. Dr Abdullah Abdullah one of the opposition leaders who claims to have won the election has appointed himself President while Ashraf Ghani had done the same. Afghanistan has two presidents at present – an untenable situation.
When there are multiple parties involved in the conflict and the subsequent talks – Kabul, Taliban, the United States and the Afghan political opposition – there was an inherent danger for the US that would pursue a cease fire and troop withdrawal timetable that only involved two players – the US and the Taliban.
The main Taliban demand was to engage only with the US in initial talks and they got what they wanted almost without conditions. They then refused to accept a ceasefire with Kabul and upped their demands by insisting that Kabul free some 5000 Taliban prisoners. When Ghani offered an initial 1500 to be freed, the Taliban rejected the offer. The one concession they granted the US was to not allow terrorist groups to use Afghan territory but that concession still has to be tested. The US signed the Doha agreement without even being able to persuade the Taliban to enforce a ceasefire. The US has conceded a great deal without conditions or monitors being put in place. There is now a dangerous stalemate. The Taliban continue to be in a more powerful position than all of the other players.
The crisis is likely to suck in all the neighbors. Pakistan is still being blamed by Ashraf Ghani for supporting the Taliban and Iran is probably doing the same with its Shai Hazara constituency. If Afghanistan descends into civil war once again, there will be a flood of refugees heading for Pakistan, a load that the country cannot bear at the moment.
With Pakistan’s present economic crisis and the virus Pakistan needs to urge its Taliban allies to swiftly come to an acceptable agreement with the Kabul regime that can also result in a ceasefire. So far the Doha agreement has not benefited the Afghan people.