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Endgame in Afghanistan

265 8 468
20.01.2019

THE endgame in Afghanistan is evolving rapidly. Expectations of an end to America’s long military adventure in Afghanistan have unleashed multiple moves to shape the country’s future.

Current diplomacy may lead to either a political settlement which brings a semblance of peace to Afghanistan and the region or a unilateral or disorderly US-Nato withdrawal which sets the stage for the next iteration of Afghanistan’s 40-year civil war. Yet, other scenarios are possible, as several forces clash and coalesce in the endgame.

The most visible force is the momentum of the Afghan Taliban insurgency. It is now dominant in 60pc of the country and exerting relentless pressure on the demoralised Afghan security forces. Brimming with self-confidence, the Taliban refuse to negotiate peace with the beleaguered Ashraf Ghani government and want to talk only to the US about a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces, release of Taliban prisoners and lifting of travel and other restrictions on Taliban leaders. The Taliban no doubt anticipate that after US-Nato withdrawal, they will be able to impose a political settlement on other Afghan parties.

The Taliban’s reluctance to talk to the Kabul regime has emerged as the most important obstacle.

The Taliban’s resilience and determination is mirrored by US President Donald Trump’s frustration and impatience. His unilateral announcement that half the (14,000) US troops will be soon withdrawn from Afghanistan has panicked and marginalised the Kabul government and eroded US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s leverage in negotiating with the Taliban. Consequently, the role and influence of regional powers has expanded significantly.

Among them, Pakistan is presumed........

© Dawn