Pakistan should reduce tensions with Kabul, create consensus: ICG

  • The report by the International Crisis Group gives Pakistan tips on how to deal with the Afghan peace process and its possible effects.
  • A crumbling Afghanistan could encourage Pakistani militant groups, particularly the Pakistani Taliban, and threaten another massive influx of Afghan refugees, says ICG
  • Islamabad is trying to convince the Afghan Taliban allies to opt for a “peacefully negotiated political solution”.

BRUSSELS: In its latest report, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group gave Pakistan a number of suggestions for solving the current crisis in Afghanistan.

Three of these proposals are crucial in the report entitled “Pakistan: Supporting the Peace Process in Afghanistan”.

The ICG report advised Pakistan to ease tension with the government of Kabul and to build trust with the government of Ghani to cooperate.

The ICG said the rapid withdrawal of NATO forces is undermining Pakistan’s peace efforts and efforts to facilitate the Taliban’s alleged return to Kabul through power-sharing agreements.

Continue reading: Peace spoilers in Afghanistan risk regional instability, says COAS Gen Bajwa

Pakistan should pressure the Taliban to reduce violence by Afghan Taliban living in Pakistan, the report suggested.

An overview of the ICG report

Pakistan’s commitment to a stable Afghanistan has never been so high as violence in that country is escalating and the peace process that began in September 2020 has largely stalled, the report said.

“A split Afghanistan could encourage militant Pakistani groups, particularly the Pakistani Taliban, and threaten another massive influx of Afghan refugees. Islamabad has tried to convince its Afghan Taliban allies to opt for a peacefully negotiated political solution As the deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan is running out, Pakistan should redouble its efforts to get the Taliban out of it convince them to reverse both their attacks and their efforts to reintroduce their version of Islamic governance – so that the peace process can still succeed, “the ICG report said.

Pakistan supported the Afghan peace process primarily because its long-standing Taliban ally could use the talks as a path to power with international legitimacy and the associated economic support.

“She saw an opportunity to push her preferred option – including the Taliban in power-sharing agreements – when the Trump administration began to seek a political solution in Afghanistan as the US prepared to withdraw troops from the country. Washington recognized the role of Islamabad in facilitating the February 2020 US agreement with the Taliban and the ensuing peace talks, also known as intra-Afghan negotiations, ”the report said.

Continue reading: Pakistan can work with the US for peace, not conflict: Prime Minister Imran Khan

But when President Joe Biden took over the US administration in January 2021, the talks reached a dead end.

ICG said the Taliban “continued to rely on violence to strengthen their negotiating position” and that Kabul also appeared “unwilling to make substantial compromises.”

Biden’s decision, announced on April 14, 2021, to withdraw all U.S. troops by September 11, even without a political agreement, has shortened the deadlines for initiating a peace process before the conflict is likely to worsen as the withdrawal moves, ICG said .

At the time the ICG report was released, the withdrawal appeared to have completed even earlier, by mid-July.

The ICG said that since the start of the intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Qatar, on September 12, 2020, the Pakistani military leadership and the PTI government of Prime Minister Imran Khan have “repeatedly emphasized that only a political settlement can end the conflict in Afghanistan”.

“You promise to support an Afghan-led peace process and have repeatedly denied the support of a conflicting party. But the presence of the highest military and political leadership of the Taliban on Pakistani territory gives Islamabad a direct role and thus a large share in intra-Afghan negotiations. The refuge that Pakistan offers the Taliban also increases distrust in Afghan government and opposition circles about Pakistani intentions, “the report said.

Future of Afghanistan: Lessons for India

The report acknowledged that Islamabad is again being pressured by Kabul and Washington to “at least convince the Taliban” to reduce violence to ensure negotiations continue after the withdrawal of foreign soldiers, and the insurgents seem determined be to use force to come to power and an Islamic system of government.

ICG said Pakistan’s “clout” with the insurgents has decreased as they continue to make military gains in Afghanistan. “This influence is far from fading, however, as the Taliban Shura (leadership council) is still operating from Pakistani ports. Taliban commanders in Afghanistan can argue, but will continue to follow instructions from this leadership,” it said.

“It is in Pakistan’s interest to persuade the Taliban Shura, under pressure if necessary, to break the deadlock in the peace talks by reducing violence and moderating the demands for an Islamic, probably Sunni, Deobandi government,” the report said .

“Negotiations stalled indefinitely would exacerbate tensions with Kabul and damage Islamabad’s relations with Washington – a major concern of the Pakistani military leadership,” it said, emphasizing that China, Pakistan’s closest foreign partner, is likely to prefer Islamabad for a move to achieve a more stable outcome than a Taliban victory followed by an attempt at monopoly rule.

“A failed peace process could trigger an all-out civil war in Afghanistan and a massive influx of refugees into Pakistani territory. The violence in Afghanistan would also spread to Pakistan. In the worst case, a military takeover by the Taliban in Kabul, Pakistan, would face the dilemma of dealing with its ally at the head of a regime that would have little outside support and, crucially, very little financial aid, ”concluded the report.


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