The present situation of Afghanistan can be described as a bus standing at a station, for instance, in Lahore with all its passengers having bought valid tickets to travel through it. However, astonishingly enough, a group of passengers wants the bus to drive them to Karachi while the remaining passengers want to travel in the opposite direction: Peshawar. Now the bus administration is also perplexed as to where to go for all the passengers, having the tickets, have a legal right to travel through the bus to reach their respective destinations.
There come some ‘neutral mediators’, pretending to be the well-wishers of the passengers and bus administration who try to resolve the issue. But in reality, they are not sincere to do this but just to continue playing the role of ‘regional policeman’.
The two main stakeholders—the Afghan government and the Taliban —both are trying to present themselves as the genuine political leadership of Afghanistan, separately claiming to have the capability and public mandate to run the war-torn country after the withdrawal of the U.S. forces.
Both the groups have different ideologies to govern the State. The Ashraf Ghani-led Afghan government emphasizes on Taliban to abandon violence and take part in the elections in line with the Constitution of the country. And if voted into power, they would have a legitimate right to run the country as per their theological ideology.
On the other hand, being obsessed with the feeling to have compelled the U.S forces to hold talks and sign a peace agreement with them, the Taliban categorically claim that they have fought the invading forces for two decades and it is their right to establish the government in Afghanistan of their choice. They have also announced to establish the governance system which was prevalent in Afghanistan 20 years back when the U.S forces dismantled their government in the backdrop of 9/11 kamikaze attacks.
Nevertheless, they have assured the international guarantors, especially Qatar, of bringing changes in their policies vis-à-vis fundamental human rights, women’s rights, and girls’ literacy, etc.
The significant question here is that who will bring the Taliban and Afghan government to the negotiating table to hammer out a solution to the problem, acceptable to both groups? This is an issue to which no one has any solution, at least soon. And the international players having little stakes, if any, in Afghanistan are least interested to settle down this issue once and for all. And even if they agree to play a positive role to put Afghanistan on track to peace and tranquility, they would not be in a position to bring the warring Afghan groups to a settlement on one hand, and the regional and international players, eying economic and strategic gains in the post-US withdrawal scenario, on the other.
Let’s elaborate so that the role of international players also gets clear. The U.S. is withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan: would it withdraw completely and disassociate itself from intra-Afghan wrangling in Afghanistan among different power-mongering groups. The answer is a big ‘No’. The U.S. will continue supporting the groups through which it can influence regional politics. In that very case, the Afghan government would be an ideal tool for the U.S., but at the same time, it has given free hand to the Taliban to keep on strengthening their hold on different provinces of Afghanistan. Presently, as many as 22 provinces of the country are witnessing fierce armed clashes among the Taliban and Afghan government and this seems to turn worse in the days to come.
The delegations of the Afghan government and Taliban militants are expected to hold a peace meeting either in Doha or somewhere in Afghanistan going to be led by Zalmay Khalilzad. But the analysts on Afghan affairs are not optimistic about the success of such talks.
On the other hand, the international economic giant China seems to be supporting the Taliban. In a recent meeting of the foreign minister of China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, it underlined the need for mainstreaming of Taliban in national politics for which it has shown its consent to work in collaboration with Pakistan. The bid is aimed at avoiding bloodshed after the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
In the new emerging situation, Pakistan is also accused of not using its influence on the Taliban to shun violence. But Prime Minister Imran Khan has clearly said that the immediate withdrawal of the U.S. would create an impression among the Taliban to be triumphant and they would get out of control. Even Pakistan would not be able to put a leash on them. This is, indeed, a very valid point because Pakistan would be at the receiving end in case of any tug-of-war in Afghanistan.
The allies of China and the U.S. would have to re-design their strategic and economic goals in the wake of China’s One Belt One Road project engaging Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia. Especially, when the European Union, the main ally of the U.S., has also failed to compete with the burgeoning economic supremacy of China in the international market.
However, one thing is crystal clear that until and unless the question of as to who will govern Afghanistan is settled down amicably Afghanistan would continue to bleed.