Alwaght – Zalmay Khalilzad, the US president’s special peace envoy to Afghanistan, arrived in the Afghan capital Kabul in early October and since then he has been preparing the ground for the peace talks between the government and the Taliban.
As part of the efforts, the special envoy pushes to arrange a five-member team for serious negotiations with the militant group that has been fighting the central government for over a decade. The efforts even led to re-opening the group’s representation office in Doha, Qatar.
The push towards negotiations with the insurgent group raises a question about the past US strategy: Has the US strategy to talk from a strong position failed?
Seeking answer for this question and others, Alwaght has talked to Pir Mohammad Molazehi, an Afghanistan affairs expert, who thinks that the Americans have started a new effort to share the power between the Taliban and the government of Ashraf Ghani and that the top priority now is to remove opponents of the negotiations.
Trump Afghanistan strategy seeks power sharing between Kabul and Taliban
Touching on the US military strategy in Afghanistan, the Iranian expert said that military strategy to settle the Afghan crisis has failed and that is what the US and other NATO members are convinced about. He added that the situation is currently in a way that on the one hand the Taliban cannot fully defeat the central government, seize the capital, and reinstate their Islamist government in the country as it was before the US invasion in 2001, and on the other hand, the NATO-supported government cannot inflict a full defeat on the Taliban. “So, we can talk about a political impasse in Afghanistan. In this situation, the peace dialogue can help get the country out of the deadlock,” he said.
He continued that as a result of Afghanistan’s complicated circumstances, the American president decided a new strategy for the country and appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as his special envoy to the crisis-hit nation. Currently, the important stage of the efforts is the US-Taliban negotiations in Qatar, something strongly objected to by the government of Ashraf Ghani. As a result, the current idea is that the dialogue should be intra-Afghan and should not only be between the Taliban and the US.
“The fact is that the US plans to incorporate the Taliban into the Afghanistan power. This reminds of the old plan presented by General David Petraeus according to which the Americans will push for handover of the rule of 13 provinces in the east and south of the country to the militant group. Furthermore, a couple of ministries of the National Unity Government will be filled with Taliban ministers. This scenario should be taken very seriously. Because we can see now that Pakistan government has shown a more positive reaction to the program. So, the chances of success are higher than in the past.
Removal of anti-negotiation Taliban figures
The Iranian expert has also talked about the start of a project to remove opponents of the Taliban negotiations with the central government.
On Thursday, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, dubbed the “father of the Taliban”, was stabbed to death in Rawalpindi in Pakistan’s Punjab. The incident, according to Mr Molazehi, can speed up the success of the peace talks.
“We can hardly link between Sami-ul-Haq assassination and the peace talks but the fact is that Sami-ul-Haq was the founder and head of the Haqqani Madrasa from which many radical figures graduated. Two top Taliban leaders studied in this school: Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqani. So, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq had an influential position among the extremist groups. He essentially believed in jihad and negotiations made no sense to him. Knowing his beliefs, we should see if there is a connection between his assassination and the peace negotiations. The fact is that it is hard to draw a link between the two issues but we should not ignore that a project has been launched to kill the political figures opposed to the talks.”
ISIS rise in Central Asia is Russia’s main concern
Mr Molazehi was also was asked for comments on the Russian intention to hold a conference on Afghanistan in next month and the Moscow’s interests in the involvement in the Afghan politics.
“The Russians have a very bitter experience of defeat in Afghanistan. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Soviet Russia sustained a heavy defeat during its military presence in Afghanistan as the West helped the jihadi groups there. Now the Russians have a very import issue to be worried about in Afghanistan. It is the emergence of ISIS in that country. They know that like in the past, ISIS has high potentials of striking a secret deal with Washington.”
He said that this discomforts Moscow. Any agreement between ISIS and the US to transfer the group from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan and Central Asia which borders Russia will pose a serious threat to the Russian national security. So, Russians think that supporting Taliban and strengthening it can contain and weaken ISIS. “But it is so significant to see which factions of the Taliban will take part in the Russian summit,” Mr Molazehi noted.