March 30th, 2021 

By Rehan Piracha 


LAHORE

Experts say the peace process in Afghanistan is in no danger despite recent statements by the United States and the Taliban where the US said it will be hard to meet the deadline of May 1 st for withdrawing troops and Taliban in retaliation called for Jihad against the US if it did not withdraw by the agreed date in Doha.

Pakistan on Tuesday again cautioned the international community against the role of spoilers, both within and outside Afghanistan, in the Afghan peace process.

On March 25, United States President Joe Biden said it would be hard to meet the May 1 deadline set by the Trump administration for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan. Responding to the Biden statement a day later on March 26, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warned that the Taliban would launch Jihad if the United States didn’t fulfil its commitment and prolonged the stay of foreign forces in Afghanistan beyond May 2021 under the Doha peace accord signed in February last year. The US-Taliban agreement set a deadline of May 2021 for withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban committed to preventing other groups, including Al Qaeda, from using Afghan soil to recruit, train, or fundraise toward activities that threaten the United States or its allies. The Taliban have not attacked US or international forces since the signing of the pact.

Taliban might agree to extension troops withdrawal deadline: Ahmad Rashid

According to Ahmed Rashid, a veteran expert on Afghan affairs and author, the Taliban warning will not unravel the peace process in Afghanistan. “The Taliban will accept the fact that the Americans want to delay their withdrawal of troops,” Rashid told Voicepk.net in an exclusive interview. The Taliban might agree to a new date or an extension of six to 12 months in the May 1 troops withdrawal deadline from Afghanistan, he said.

Rashid pointed out that the Taliban had never given up violence in the war-torn country. ”They are trying to assassinate members of civil society, judges, lawyers, journalists, and women. It’s a very critical situation. They are trying to drive out all the educated elements in the Afghan society so that they are left with the Taliban only,” he said.

Referring to the Taliban government in the 1990s, Ahmed Rashid said the Taliban had no professional people in any ministry. “If we are to see a repeat of the Taliban govt, Afghanistan is frankly doomed,” he said. The author hoped that the Taliban would see some sense and do end the violence in the country. “The violence is being perpetrated by them and not by somebody else,” he added.

US still in contact with Taliban: Yousfazai

Veteran journalist on Afghan affairs, Rahim Ullah Yousafzai, also believed that it was too early to say that the Afghan peace process was in doldrums after statements by Biden and the Taliban. “The United States is still in contact with the Taliban,” he told Voicepk.net, adding that there were plenty of opportunities for discussion in the conference on Afghan peace process in Turkey next month and followed by a UN-sponsored meeting of foreign ministers. Yousafzai said that it was difficult for the United States, a super power, to implement an accord with a non-state actor like the Taliban.

Asked about suggestions of a transitional peace government in Afghanistan flouted recently by the United States, the veteran journalist said neither the present Afghan regime of Ashraf Ghani and nor the Taliban have expressed enthusiasm for a transitional government. “Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has rejected the proposed transitional peace government and instead has suggested early elections,” Yousafzai said.

According to the veteran journalist, Pakistan has improved its international image significantly by facilitating the Afghan peace process. Secondly, Pakistan is working along with Iran, China and Russia, all neighbours of Afghanistan, to keep afloat the peace process. “Pakistan will try to press the Taliban for engaging with talks and the peace process,” he added.

However, Yousafzai warned that the unravelling of Afghan peace process will not bode well for Pakistan. “Islamabad will be tagged once again as facilitator of terrorism,” he said, adding that the chaotic scenario might lead to another resurgence of local Taliban in the tribal districts, bordering Afghanistan.

Negative forces are a hindrance to the Afghan peace process: Brigadier Shah

Brig (r) Mehmood Shah, a former secretary of erstwhile FATA region, pointed out that ‘negative forces’ are impacting the peace process in Afghanistan. “The present Afghan regime is not in favour of the peace accord while the United States wants to give India a role in Afghan peace process,” he said, adding that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi favours that the present regime in Afghanistan should remain in control of the country. “It’s very difficult for the United States to take along all factions in the peace process,” he said.

Pakistan cautions against spoilers within and outside

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan will continue to support a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan at peace with itself and with its neighbors. “Today at the 9th Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference in Dushanbe, I expressed Pakistan’s confidence that the “Dushanbe Declaration” would reflect our common resolve to standby and support the Afghan people at this most consequential time in their history,” he tweeted after attending the conference.

Calling it a defining moment in the Afghan peace process after 40 years of strife, Qureshi, however, told participants that the historic opportunity of peace in Afghanistan was laced with formidable challenges. “We have consistently cautioned against the role of spoilers, both within and outside Afghanistan,” he said.

The international community is trying to ensure that the Afghan peace process moves forward and any impediments are removed through talks and deliberations to pave the way for lasting peace in the region.

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