Recently concluded Doha Agreement between the US and Taliban has created a new wave of hope for the peaceful solution of Afghan’s issue, but there stand some challenges, which are hard to address and may jeopardize the entire process of amicable settlement.
The following are the challenges to peaceful solution of Afghan’s issue:
Taliban are not the sole power in Afghanistan. Power is also exercised by a number of ethnic and regional groups, warlords and several terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and IS (Khorasan). Non-Pashtun groups consider Taliban as their bitter enemy. Their bitterness against Taliban is linked back to the atrocities they suffer at their hands during their occupation of Mazar-e-Sharif in 1997. Many non-Pashtun are in favor of American presence and ask Washington to eliminate Taliban completely before leaving the territory. They fear that, one they are back in the government, even in coalition; they will resume their atrocities. Thus, under these circumstances, it will be nearly impossible for the Taliban and other groups to agree on the governance structure composed of all powerful ethnic groups to run the affairs of the country, which is the basic condition for the withdrawal of the US and peaceful solution of Afghan’s issue.
Ashraf Ghani and Modi will act as spoiler:
Ghani and Modi want status quo in Afghanistan. The former does not want to share his power while the latter has spent billions of dollars on Afghan’s building infrastructure, military and bureaucracy to develop its soft image and fulfill its evil interests. Once the peace is achieved and Taliban are back in power, as a coalition force, India will be kicked out of Afghanistan because of Taliban’s personal hatred towards New Delhi. As a result, the dream of India to sandwich Pakistan from the Eastern and Western border during crisis and build alternative economic corridor to dwindle the influence of CPEC will be reduced to the ashes. Besides, the peaceful settlement will eliminate the two strategies of India-supporting Baluchistan Liberal Army (BLA) to destabilize Baluchistan and militants of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to wreak havoc in Pakistan using Afghan soil. Hence, they both will try hard to spoil the peace process by convincing the Afghan’s elite that Taliban will be disaster for them or targeting non-Pashtun communities like Tajik, Hazara and Uzbeks through their proxies to jeopardize the talks.
Consensus among the regional countries:
Peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved without the support of regional countries like China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran. It is necessary for all of them to agree on the governance structure of Afghanistan. Foreign minister of Iran has already declared that Tehran would not accept Taliban as the dominant force in the future power structure of Afghanistan. Iran enjoys good relations with Tajik and Hazaras and could disrupt the peace process, if Tajiks and Hazaras are not given adequate position in the government. On the other hand, Pakistan was in favor of Taliban domination. However, from the recent attitude of Islamabad, it seems that Pakistan has decided to favor negotiation rather than imposed settlement. Russia wants balanced approach and China prefers diplomacy. Thus, the agreement among these countries will be as difficult as intra-Afghan consensus.
Although, Taliban have promised that they would not allow their land to be used by the terrorist groups, but they lack capacity to defeat them completely.
The US will not withdraw completely:
The US will not withdraw completely from Afghanistan and insist to keep small counter-terrorism force for two reasons: Firstly, the complete withdrawal will create its negative image in the globe that the small irregular forces of militants defeated the super power. It may withdraw, if given face-saving revenue, but seems difficult under the current circumstances. Secondly, the terrorists groups like Al-Qaeda and IS are still operating from Afghanistan and the US does not want to leave them un-checked. Although, Taliban have promised that they would not allow their land to be used by the terrorist groups, but they lack capacity to defeat them completely. A combine operation of regional countries would be required to eliminate the terrorism, but China would not involve in any conflict that could cost money. It is therefore, the US will not withdraw from Afghanistan completely unless it receives guarantee from the regional power. However, they will not engage in any issue that may drain their resources.
Financial assistance of newly formed government:
Lets suppose for a while that intra-Afghan consensus has been reached and the US has also left Afghanistan completely. How would the newly formed government sustain without adequate budget? At present, the US is spending around $45 billion in Afghanistan. Approximately, $6-8 billion is spent on its military. The tax revenue of Afghanistan is not enough to run the affairs of the government. The US would not even financially support the government after the withdrawal as it faces numerous economic challenges at home. Without money, the vast army would be dis-integrated and cause problem for the government. Saudi-Arabia and China would need to step in for the financial assistance. Riyadh’s own economy is now affected owing to COVID-19 and China is not as generous as the US. Thus, Afghanistan would be caught in the vortex of fresh civil war afterward.
Thus, intra-Afghan consensus, aversion of Ashraf Ghani and Modi, disagreement among the regional powers, non-withdrawal of the US and financial issue of Afghanistan will act as a stumbling block in the way of peaceful settlement of Afghan’s conundrum. Since the crisis is linked to the regional peace, China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran ought to play a crucial role and need to have some sort of compromise to solve the decades old issue.