US-Taliban Doha deal

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By Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

The US and Taliban , in the presence of Afghan leadership and representatives of key stakeholders, struck an ‘historic’ deal in Doha on February 29, 2020 with a view to pulling the war-torn country out of chaos and turmoil.  The country has been bearing the brunt of upheavals of various sorts for last four decades. Over two million people, most of them, innocent, have lost their lives while millions rendered homeless.

The Afghan nation that otherwise happens to be an industrious and resilient nation, was not allowed to exhibit its real skills and potential because of this turmoil. The peace deal, if it goes well, would ostensibly provide the Afghan people with an opportunity of not only exploiting their capabilities to the full, but also to play a constructive role at the world stage.

However, there are certain issues that may become a hard nut to crack for all stakeholders, especially the key stakeholder i.e Taliban and the incumbent Afghan government for both of them are supposed to sit together and chalk out the future road map as to how Afghanistan shall be governed and by whom. As per the deal, the Afghans will have to find a solution themselves taking everybody on board. There are many factions in Afghanistan that claim to have support of sizeable majority. All such factions will have to be taken on board for a lasting solution. It is the most difficult task, yet not insurmountable. Taliban, in the peace deal vowed to shun past and make a new beginning, which seems quite encouraging development. Former Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdus Salam Zaeef said after the signing of peace deal that Taliban of today are much different from Taliban of the past. According to him today’s Taliban are fully alive to modern day advancements adding they have broaden and enlightened their world vision as well.

According to the deal, the US and allied forces will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months. In return Taliban will have to make sure their ranks are not used for attacks on US or allies and that they full cooperate to make a peaceful Afghanistan. As Taliban leaders would put it, the conditions laid down in the deal are easy to comply with and since there is strong resolve on the part of all Taliban factions that this time the opportunity shall not be allowed to go waste therefore there appears a potential likelihood of peace returning to the war-ravaged country.

Here one has to admit role of the neighboring countries particularly Pakistan, Uzbekistan and China both in ensuring lasting peace in Afghanistan and enabling Afghans to stand up on their own feet in the coming days. All these countries undoubtedly have played significant role in paving way for the Doha deal and it is expected that they would continue to work for stability in Afghanistan with same spirit and interest. And they have to do it for the sake of Afghan people and for their own sake for stability of these countries is directly linked to stability in Afghanistan.

As rightly pointed out by the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan his country stands ready along with the government of Afghanistan and other international partners to participate in implementation of the railroad transport projects Mazari-Sharif – Heart and  Mazari-Sharif – Peshawar which will connect Central and South Asia.

Likewise, CASA 1000 is yet another important energy project that can be completed only when there is peace in Afghanistan. This energy project will ensure cheap electricity to Pakistan.

Taliban even in the deal did not withdraw from their status of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan but as Mullah Zaeef said this matter can be settled during intra-Afghan dialogue, which is likely to start from this month in Oslo, Norway. Further progress in this regard largely depends on the US administration as to how it conducts itself during this period. Unfortunately the US has a history of backtracking from its vows and pledges – a fact that makes this exercise a bit dubious. However this should not negate the opportunity the deal creates for Afghan peace process.