Home »Editorials » Ghani’s grand initiative

The US President may not be interested in talking to the Taliban, but Afghanistan's President is. The US President may not be appreciative of fast-changing ground realities in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan's President is. The US President may not be receptive to truth, but the Afghan President is. The US President may not be sick of the protracted Afghan war, the Afghan President is. The US President may not be aware of the downsides of his predecessor Barack Obama's Asia pivot strategy, the Afghan President is.

Speaking at the start of an international conference attended by officials from around 25 countries involved in the so-called Kabul Process and aimed at creating a platform for peace talks, President Ghani therefore offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group as part of a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks. He proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners as part of a range of options including new elections, involving the militants, and a constitutional review as part of a pact with the Taliban to end the conflict. The United Nations mission in Afghanistan has welcomed the offer and said it "strongly supports the vision for peace through intra-Afghan dialogue".

One of the key elements of Ghani's offer is that his government is not making this offer with preconditions, nor is it addressing the Taliban as 'the enemies of the Afghan nation'. "The Taliban are expected to give input to the peace-making process, the goal of which is to draw the Taliban, as an organization, to peace talks," he reportedly said, adding that he would not "pre-judge" any group seeking peace. The change in Ghani's tone betrays his anxiety about Taliban's recent direct talks offer to the US. In a statement issued Monday, the Taliban called on US officials to talk directly to their political office. Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells has said the US is keeping the door open to dialogue. It was about four weeks ago that Trump said, "I don't see any talking taking place," at the start of a White House meeting with members of the UN Security Council. "I don't think we're prepared to talk right now. It's a whole different fight over there. They're killing people left and right. Innocent people are being killed left and right," Trump had said.

Be that as it may, one would be only deficient in worldly wisdom and informed judgment to believe that Ghani's initiative lacks much-needed US support. It is also interesting to note that Ghani, who recently helped launch the latest stage in a major regional gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, said the momentum for peace was building from neighbouring countries that increasingly saw the necessity of a stable Afghanistan. "The Taliban show awareness of these contextual shifts and seem to be engaged in a debate on the implications of acts of violence for their future," he said. The present situation suggests that sanity is ultimately gaining ground in Kabul. It is heartening to note that President Ghani has included Pakistan, a country he always described as an 'epicenter of terrorism', among states that are serious towards bringing to the simmering Afghan conundrum to an end in the interest of greater peace in the region. President Ghani's approach towards working out a broader peace strategy clearly reinforces Pakistan's argument that advocates an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace solution. There is therefore a legitimate hope that the Taliban would examine and respond to Ghani's offer in a positive manner in the greater interest of peace in their homeland where they have been waging a just and legitimate freedom struggle against foreign occupation forces. Not only has Ghani offered to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate stakeholder in Afghanistan, he has weaned them off al-Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist groups forever.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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