There is much hype being noticed in the international media and other circles and a kind of cautious optimism being shown following the recently completed peace talks held between the US and the Afghan Taliban in Doha. The tangible results of the talks can, however, be seen only after a passage of time when all the stakeholders would settle down to take a stock of the situation arising out of the latest talks.
Against this backdrop, it seems imperative to make a fresh appraisal to clinically examine the implications emerging or likely to surface in the aftermath of the critical talks. The parleys, generally described by many security analysts and Taliban watchers, as not so tangible have arrived at some kind of consensus.
US , which has been desperate to pull out of Afghanistan after a stay of 17 long years seem to be exhausting it's options as US troops' withdrawals also featured in Donald Trump's election propaganda . Engaging Taliban in any peace pact was also a part of a design of a face saving mess from the prevailing imbroglio - largely an US creation!
Meanwhile, high profile US diplomat of Afghan origin, Zalmay Khalilzad remained the effective negotiator in carrying forward the contours of Taliban linked peace talks. Whenever, he sensed that Taliban was asserting, he threatened to increase the number of the US military on the Afghan turf displaying a hardened stance to prevail upon. This means he had a Carte Blanche approval from a powerful quarter in US to decide and proceed further.
We, therefore, see that going was not always an easy ride, in Doha; it was inconsistently up and down. There was an occasion when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rushed his National Security Advisor, Hamdullah Mohib to the UAE to preempt any likely stalemate that could abort the talks. This also happened showing the Kabul based National Unity Government (NUG) attached, to ensure a complete success of the talks.
On the other hand, Taliban was represented by all powerful Mullah Akhund Baradar, a former deputy of Mullah Umar and as the chief coordinator at the negotiations. Due to his hardened activities, Baradar was under Pakistani detention for nearly a decade and was released in not so distant past.
He now continues to be a force to reckon with has direct supervision over different Taliban field formations in Afghanistan. He is a critical individual and needs deft handling to maintain peace. On his part, Khalilzad has to rein him in more than one way to keep the flock together so as not to allow further threats looming over Afghanistan.
All said, important achievement of the negotiations, as seen by anti terror experts, is the perceived delinking of Al Qaeda (AQ) from the Taliban affiliation. This factor has always been worrisome for the pacifists as inspired by AQ, there had been a spurt of a large number of Afghans taking to Islamic State (IS) ideology and fighting in Syria and adjacent areas.
In the past, President Trump flexed muscles by repeatedly warning Pakistan to control Taliban in both sides of the Afghan border stifling their Pakistan support. His warnings went unheeded and Taliban continued to strike at will causing enormous devastations in Afghanistan infrastructure and high value individual targets.
Just held talks have raised hopes, albeit for the short period, to usher in a temporary calm in the region. That notwithstanding , Indian agencies need to up their antenna to see a resurgent Taliban, after their self acclaimed triumph in the peace negotiations do not try to develop linkages with their sympathizers in Kashmir and also not make any move to derail Indian infrastructural development programmes in Afghanistan and monetary assistance related to multiple welfare and humanitarian projects .
Pakistan, in all likelihood, may also step up covert plans to drive a wedge between Kabul and New Delhi. Both these places are slated to hold elections in July and May this year. US intelligence has already sounded caution (Jan 29) to remain alert fearing consolidation of communal forces in around the coming Indian elections and likely violence in Afghanistan.
The NUG, in the meantime, must seem to be steadfastly closer to India and amongst other things, try to keep AQ out of Afghan soil as it has, since 1996, strengthened its footprint in the region. In sum, all stakeholders, in the new emerging scenario, must consciously brainstorm to ensure that peace is not short lived, the hopes of the proud Afghans are not dashed, taking the society into further regression affecting the women emancipation and education.
Also, withdrawal of US troops, as planned by Trump administration, gives a leeway to Taliban and its sympathizers in Pakistan, to resort to the dark days of Taliban days striking at free will from 1996-2002.
The writer is a security analyst based in India
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