The United States wants to accelerate the Afghan peace process as the deadline looms to withdraw troops from the war-ravaged nation by May 1. There have been fears of the Afghan Taliban taking over the country in case of a hasty withdrawal without a lasting ceasefire.
US special envoy Khalilzad rushed to Doha and Islamabad on a whirlwind tour to expedite the process. He met with army chief Gen Bajwa to revive the stagnant peace talks. Khalilzad was part of the Trump administration who signed a historic peace deal with the Taliban. Now Biden wants a more dignified approach and wants a UN-facilitated conference of all regional countries and stakeholders including Russia, China, Iran, India, and Pakistan.
The US has hinted at drastic changes in Afghanistan and is considering an interim government to settle the matter. Khalilzad has been tasked with proposals to accelerate discussions on a negotiated settlement and ceasefire and eventually develop a roadmap to a new, inclusive government and the terms of a permanent ceasefire. This means that the current government will be replaced until a new constitution is agreed and elections are held while a joint commission monitors the ceasefire situation.
This will certainly irk Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and even the Taliban who have long objected to key ideas in the proposal. The interim government could see Taliban members in parliament or remain suspended until elections are held. It also calls on the Taliban to abandon safe havens and military ties. More controversial is the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which could revisit the horrors of the decades-old conflict as the nation heals itself.
The Russians have also stepped in their efforts and will host a conference in Moscow next week to end the deadlock. The US had urged Pakistan to extend support and develop a collective mechanism to ensure an independent, peaceful, and self-sufficient state free from terrorism and drug trafficking. Regional countries including Pakistan, China and Iran have recognised the Taliban as a political entity and have consensus over the peace plan.
It is imperative that all stakeholders make efforts to keep the peace process moving forward and ensure that Afghanistan does not slip into a civil war as it could pose a threat to the entire region. There should be political settlement even if it involves a transitional government to bring peace in the country.