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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 39, New Delhi, September 19, 2015

Blow to Afghan Peace

Sunday 20 September 2015, by Harish Chandola

The recent car-and-truck bomb attacks in Kabul, killing several, and the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani’s demand that Pakistan crack down on the Taliban, appear to have ended the prospects of peace in that country generated by the July meeting between an Afghan Govern-ment delegation and senior leaders of Taliban insurgency in Murree in Pakistan. By holding that meeting, the Afghan President had taken steps to improve relations with Pakistan, whose influence he hoped would sway the Taliban. The rise of the Islamic State in that country seemed to have created pressure on the Taliban to moderate its activity. The Taliban was concerned over some of its field commanders going over to the Islamic State, believing the new Afghan Government had become feeble and weak after the end of the Hamid Karzai regime. The Taliban felt concerned after some of its men went over to the Islamic State fighters.

After they were driven out of Kabul in 2001 on losing power, the Taliban seem to have given up the hope of ruling the whole country again. They appear to be wanting to enter the country’s politics. That would lead to the end of the war. It is not known if Ghani will be willing to share power with them. Many Afghans might also not want that, but would accept their participation if that would end the four decade old war in the country.

The meeting between the Afghan Government delegation and the Taliban was held in the hill town of Murree, outside Islamabad. The agree-ment there was for the parties to meet again after the fasting month of Ramadan to discuss their concerns and demands. There are factions within the Taliban and one does not know which faction held talks with the Afghan Government delegation. Earlier, the Taliban had refused direct talks with the Kabul Government which they called an American puppet. The Taliban have links with the Pakistan spy agency, the ISI.

Meanwhile, China has got involved in the Afghan problem and it wishes to encourage talks between the Kabul Government and the Taliban. It has considerable influence on Pakistan and is very concerned over the radicalism among its Uighur Moslem people in its Xinjiang region, next door to Afghanistan. In May it had organised an informal meeting in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi between the Taliban and Afghan officials.

After the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan last year, the Taliban field commanders had stepped up attacks on the Afghan Army. The Taliban’s position in any serious negotiations in the future would be strengthened by the military gains it obtains.

The author is a veteran journalist.