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ہفتہ، 16 اپریل، 2011

Talks with Taliban via Turkey

Turkey has long been sincerely trying to play its role to sort out Afghanistan problem and for this purpose it has hosted several rounds of talks between Pakistani leadership and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in an effort to help them bridge their differences and remove misunderstanding. It transpired during visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Ankara that the two countries have agreed on a kind of concrete mechanism with potential to make headway in resolving the conflict.

President Asif Zardari may have backed up the Turkish offer of allowing a Taliban political office in Turkey for a negotiated end to the Afghan war. But the Taliban have stated neither had they asked for it nor are interested in it. Their stance remains unchanged. The occupation forces they insist uncompromisingly must first vacate the country. The other insurgent groups too show no flexibility. Only the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar faction is somewhat ambivalent, at times insistent on occupation’s vacation, at times content with a clearly-defined pullout plan, a condition if it really means it that stands fulfilled from the drawdown schedule laid down by the occupiers for their armies in Afghanistan. Ironically, even the Northern Alliance now seems wanting the occupation’s vacation, though for a different reason. After the Taliban’s ouster, the CIA that held Afghanistan’s satrapy had pampered this grouping of Afghan minorities at the expense of the country’s Pakhtun majority all through these long years of occupation. And now in the efforts for a negotiated peace resolution to the Afghan war, the alliance senses a sort of betrayal by their occupation patrons. So in a huff it too wants the foreign forces out, even though without their shield it would certainly lose the supremacy it holds presently in Kabul’s prevalent power dispensation. But, more to the point, it is the occupiers who must come to terms with the ground realities and instead of beating about bush must recognise them as those are and go by what those realities, no matter how harsh, dictate. For the first thing, they must accept that CIA’s years-long Afghanistan’s satrapy has been a huge disaster and irreversible at that. Instead of pacifying the war-torn country, this American spy agency has frittered away the precious years in playing its favourite games inside Afghanistan and in its neighbourhood. The wreckage of its disastrous act is too colossal to mop up by any military campaign, which in any case has historically never worked in Afghanistan. This option has become all the more untenable for the persistent shunting out of the Pakhtun majority, traditionally the country’s kingmaker, from the power dispensation altogether throughout these times merely because the Taliban predominantly drew their nativity and sustenance from this community. The occupiers appear realising increasingly the impossibility of winning this war militarily. Former British foreign secretary David Miliband has in a recent newspaper article argued that the military option has failed to work and has delineated an elaborate roadmap for a political settlement. Even US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has recently spoken of the three stipulations of renunciation of violence, de-linking with al-Qaeda and acceptance of Afghan constitution as not the preconditions for talks with Taliban and other insurgents but as goalposts of a negotiated settlement. But the occupiers need to be more transparent and more lucid. Hedges or opaqueness wouldn’t do. And they need to create uniformity in their political and military flanks, both necessarily thinking and acting on the same wavelengths. More importantly, they must admit Afghanistan’s problem lies essentially inside Afghanistan and its solution too lies inside the country. Raising outside goblins may give them a face-saver for their collapses, foibles and follies in fighting this war. But the pulsating ground realities would stay on unchangeably. Besides, the occupying military commanders and their political bosses must get out of the bunk talk of insurgents’ spring offensive, winter slowdown and what not. It is the guerilla warfare with which the Afghans have always defeated foreign armies and had in this way humbled the Soviet invaders too, even though they were much better placed than the US-led coalition is presently. Then, Taliban and other insurgents were attacking the coalition and Afghan armies lethally and fatally in the winter, too. Above all, the occupiers have to cajole and embrace the alienated Pakhtun community for any real peace settlement to come about and hold. That necessarily entails involving Taliban and other Pakhtun groups in the peace dialogue. This postulates certain essentials. First, they must forget about winning the war militarily and focus on a political triumph. Second, they must work on the Northern Alliance to forgo its present position of eminence for their nation’s greater good. Third, they must give full backup to President Hamid Karzai in wooing over the Taliban and other insurgents. Even as hated by Pakhtuns for his erstwhile indifference to the community, being a Pakhtun he understands the Pakhtun psyche and may still find a way to bring them aboard a peace dialogue.
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