Peace, Two Steps Back, One Step Forward
There seems to be little acknowledgment of the fact that
a successful negotiating process with the conflicting parties in Afghanistan
requires a strong understanding of their facts, the way they function, and
their intentions and aims. The aim of the Taliban is to rule over Afghanistan
and implement a new narrative of Jihad. This is due to similar reasons that
many other international terrorist organizations emerging in Afghanistan. The
likes of which also include: the
powerful Islamic State of Khurasan (IS-K) that emerged in the year 2014 in
Afghanistan. The IS-K group consists of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),
senior members from Khyber Agency and Orakzai Agency of Pakistan1.
However, the war in Afghanistan has entered a strategic stalemate2
where none of the parties have been able to gain military victories in the Afghan
One possible resolution could be a regional consensus on
the conflict, where the possibility of terror spilling over into other
countries is feasible. More than five years after the drawing back of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s troops, the security situation and violence in Afghanistan remains constant but,
for sure violence will stop if regional countries support the Afghan government.
There should be strong backing from China and Russia, as they are responsible great
powers in the region. The US should maintain mutual trust and win-win
cooperation strategies by collaborating with China and Russia to defeat
terrorism in the region.
Stand alone military solutions are not momentarily possible
or cost effective, and any such approaches are therefore less significant to the
US working with others is the only option. In order to defeat the Taliban and
IS-K militarily the US should work with neighboring countries, especially the
regional powers. But regional actors and the Afghan government In particular
need to shift their focus on to the
security situation inside Afghanistan.
With waning global focus on Afghan imbroglio the
conflicting interests of different external and internal players continue to
undermine a peaceful settlement to the issue. Though the majority of neighboring
countries are willing to support an Afghan-owned Afghan-led peace process for
the settlement of the issue, China and Pakistan reinforce peace with the
Taliban as an Afghan peace.3Previously,
the International community had launched several programs to integrate the Taliban
into Afghan society but most of these programs failed miserably due to one reason
or another. These programs involved disarmament, demobilization and
reintegration (DDR 2003-2006).However, not all the warlords who fought against
the Taliban during the 90s disarmed themselves. Another program included the
United Nations supported “Afghanistan New Beginnings Program” (ANBP), which also
included the disbandment of the illegal Armed Group (DIAG 2005)4.Such
other initiatives as launched by the International community failed to solve
the problem of Afghanistan. The foundations laid during the first Bonn
over Afghanistan in the year 2002 wasn’t favoring all the groups belonging to
Afghanistan but, selective groups, with one in particular which has benefited most
from that process. The idea of political negotiation and peace reconciliation
with the Taliban has seen much assistance from regional countries especially
China, Pakistan, Russia, and US. However there are some reports indicating that
Russia developed linkages with the Taliban through Pakistan6;Russia
have their own strategic interest in Afghanistan and they continue to play such
connections against IS-K and to maintain Central Asian Republics (CAR’s)
security at any cost, though for the Afghan government this could be a winning
opportunity to convince Russians to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
State of Khurasan (IS-K) factor
ISIS gained support in Afghanistan and Pakistan shortly
after it declared its “Caliphate” in June 2014. 7A
contingent of the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban or TTP,
formed ISIS’s most important support base in the region. The TTP splintered
rapidly after the death of its leader Hakimullah Mehsud in November 2013. The
then TTP’s spokesman Shahidullah Shahid privately offered his allegiance to
ISIS several times during this period. Shahidullah might have maintained links
to a senior member of ISIS’s predecessor Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which could
have encouraged TTP’s decision. 8 The
former Pakistani Taliban have continuously been operating in the areas of Nangarhar
and other parts of Afghanistan, reaching as far as the Northern part of the
country. To my knowledge, as the Pakistani Taliban joined the IS-K wing, the
Afghan Taliban might for all intents and purposes do the same in case regional
countries do not play an active role in the Afghan peace process.
These Afghan Taliban will be assimilated into the IS
group of Khurasan. Peace and reconciliation with this group will backfire and
there will be no need to have peace with the IS-K, as it’s not an Afghan
oriented group (most of these people are Arabs, Chechens, Uyghur, Uzbeks and
Tajiks from the Central Asian Republics).The Afghan government will not be
responsible to make a peace with all these Central Asian inhabitants as they do
not belong to Afghanistan;
Afghans will have peace and peace talks with Afghans.
There are 20 militant groups operating in Afghanistan,9 at
the same time the country’s security is not only fighting the Afghan battle but
joining the greater regional and International wars against terrorism. In this
respect Afghanistan can be considered the “frontline state against the war on
terrorism”. These fundamentalist terror groups are not only the problem of
Afghanistan. They are a collective problem. They can pose a risk to CARs,
China, Pakistan, Russia, Iran and India in the future. It’s not just a domestic
issue to be dealt by Afghanistan alone; it’s a regional issue and should be
dealt with accordingly on a regional basis. The warning level of the threat should
be higher than we expect, as all regional countries need to work on one policy directed
at eliminating the danger inside Afghanistan, hence the danger to them.
In the past year the Taliban have abandoned attacking the
Afghan civilian population and the Afghan government. On the other hand IS-K
has carried out multiple attacks on Shia10
sect inside Afghanistan and the overall infrastructure of the Afghan government
is damaged .This shows that the Taliban are willing to have peace with the
Afghan government and are not simple terrorists at face value.
Peace is possible with a regional policy towards Afghanistan. At the
moment every country has a different approach to the pressing issues inside
Every country is on a different page in regard to its Afghanistan policy.
The US have their own agenda of containing Russia and
China, China and Russia are playing the same game to prevent the spread of US
influence in the region both militarily and economically…
This trust deficit between China, Russia and the US have
to be resolved through diplomatic channels if Afghanistan is to see solid
result wielding support.
Furthermore, given the deep-seated domestic, regional and
International issues surrounding the Afghan conflict, the transition to a
peaceful state is expected to be much more complex, lengthy, and varied process.
Increased insecurity and instability in the region has a direct link with
insecurity in Afghanistan, the motivation of which is to locally and
Internationally pursue a more comprehensive mechanism of strategy to end the
conflict. While conflict remains constant, different parties visualize their
own solutions, because these parties all have their own geopolitical interests.
The US and their allies will not secure their interests if Afghanistan
continues to be embroiled in an increasing instability.
It’s necessary to have a shared vision for a peaceful
Afghan state and build indigenous capability to accomplish this goal.
Studies MA International Relations at Zhejiang University, China
He can be reached at [email protected], he tweets on @ihsan_asif
Abdul Wali Arian. “20 Terrorist Groups Fighting
Against Afghan Government.” Tolo News, 2017. http://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/20-terrorist-groups-fighting-against-afghan-government.
Matt. “ISIS Declares New Islamist Caliphate.” Wall Street Journal, 2014.
Garret Johnson. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.”
Washington DC, 2016.
McKirdy, Ehsan Popalzai. “ISIS Suicide Bombing in Kabul Kills Dozens.” CNN.
Watson. “Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Says War ‘still in a Stalemate.'”
CBS News, 2017. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/top-u-s-commander-in-afghanistan-says-effort-is-still-in-a-stalemate/.
Waldman. “‘Golden Surrender?’ Discussion Paper 03.” Afghan Analysis Network,
Qingsheng. “Chinese FM: Afghanistan and Pakistan Agreed to Improve Bilateral
Ties.” CGTN, 2017.
Marissa. “Peace-Building and Democracy Promotion in Afghanistan?: The
Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme and Reconciliation with the
Taliban.” Routledge 347, no. October (2017): 554–74.
Ramani. “Understanding the Russia-Taliban Connection.” The diplomat, 2017.
Intelligence Group. “TTP Spokesman Shahidullah, Five Officials Allegedly Pledge
to IS,” 2014.
1Casey Garret Johnson, “The Rise and Stall of the
Islamic State in Afghanistan” (Washington DC, 2016),
2Katryan Watson, “Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan
Says War ‘still in a Stalemate,'” CBS News, 2017,
3Meng Qingsheng, “Chinese FM: Afghanistan and Pakistan
Agreed to Improve Bilateral Ties,” CGTN, 2017,
4Matt Waldman, “‘Golden Surrender?’ Discussion Paper
03,” Afghan Analysis Network, 2010,
5Marissa Quie, “Peace-Building and Democracy Promotion
in Afghanistan?: The Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme and
Reconciliation with the Taliban,” Routledge
347, no. October (2017): 554–74, https://doi.org/10.1080/13510347.2012.674362.
6Samuel Ramani, “Understanding the Russia-Taliban
Connection,” The diplomat, 2017, https://thediplomat.com/2017/08/understanding-the-russia-taliban-connection/.
7Matt Bradley, “ISIS Declares New Islamist Caliphate,”
Wall Street Journal, 2014, https://www.wsj.com/articles/isis-declares-new-islamist-caliphate-1404065263.
8SITE Intelligence Group, “TTP Spokesman Shahidullah,
Five Officials Allegedly Pledge to IS,” 2014.
9Abdul Wali Arian, “20 Terrorist Groups Fighting
Against Afghan Government,” Tolo News, 2017, http://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/20-terrorist-groups-fighting-against-afghan-government.
10Ehsan Popalzai Euan McKirdy, “ISIS Suicide Bombing in
Kabul Kills Dozens,” CNN, 2017,