By Mohammad Mazaheri

U.S. talks with Taliban aimed for ‘face-saving’ exit from Afghanistan: columnist

August 6, 2020 - 12:29
Pakistani analyst says U.S. presence in Afghanistan ‘is not in favor of any regional country’

TEHRAN – A Pakistani columnist says the United States has started peace Talks with the Taliban for a “face-saving” exit from Afghanistan.

“The U.S.-Taliban peace agreement is just a face-saving agreement for the U.S. which will allow them a respectful exit from Afghanistan,” Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai tells the Tehran Times.

Yousafzai, the author of “The Troubled Triangle: the U.S.-Pakistan Relations under the Taliban’s Shadow”, also says both India and Pakistan are playing a constructive role in Afghanistan but at the same time they trying to “secure their own interests as well”.

Following is the text of the article:

Q:  How do you assess U.S. presence in Afghanistan? Has the U.S. been successful in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan?

A: The U.S. has lost much as compared to its gains in Afghanistan. Its plan was to wipe out the Taliban and install a democratic government that would serve U.S. interests. However, after two decades of war, which termed the longest war in U.S. history, it could not wipe out the Taliban. In the case of al-Qaeda, the U.S. succeeded to flush them out from Afghanistan in particular and the region in general. As for countering terrorism is concerned, the U.S. was used to call the Taliban terrorists and utilized its modern weapons and technology yet could not secure the desired results. When the U.S. realized they could not wipe the Taliban out, the Obama administration initiated peace talks with the Taliban. The U.S.-Taliban peace agreement is just a face-saving agreement for the U.S. which will allow them a respectful exit from Afghanistan.

Q: What are the implications of the U.S.- Taliban talks? The considered Taliban a terrorist organization, and now they are negotiating.

A: The U.S.-Taliba piece deal, if succeeded, will bring a positive change to the region. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is not in favor of any regional country. When the Bush administration was planning to invade Afghanistan, President Bush contacted Putin and informed him about the invasion. Putin did support the invasion but put a condition that after the war on terror, the U.S. will have to leave, which means he was not in favor of a long U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Pakistan also considers the U.S. presence in Afghanistan a threat to its nuclear weapons. China is too curious about the U.S. presence. Iran's suspicion is not less vis-a-vis the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in general and in the Shindand airbase (Herat) in particular that is very near to Iran’s border. Except for India, there is a regional consensus about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. If the U.S.-Taliban peace deal succeeded, it will bring stability to Afghanistan as the war will end the ongoing war, the Taliban is fighting against the U.S. and Afghan forces. The inclusion of the Taliban in government will strengthen the Afghan government. 

“Taliban are very strong which does not allow Daesh to become strong or expand in the country (Afghanistan).” You are right the U.S. was calling the Taliban as terrorists. In the initial eight years of war on terror, the U.S. policy was solely militaristic, to wipe out the Taliban by force. Nonetheless, with the growing insurgency despite the more than 100 thousand U.S. and coalition forces, the Taliban insurgency was not in control. Thus, President Obama ordered Richard Halbrook to initiate a dialogue with the Taliban. The Taliban would still be terrorists if they were weak. The U.S. has no other way to exit from Afghanistan except to ink a deal with the Taliban.

Q: How do you see the U.S. intent to reduce its forces in Afghanistan? Is it a real decision or just for the upcoming presidential election? 

A: The main factor the U.S. wants to withdraw from Afghanistan is the time and cost of this engagement. Besides, there are multiple pressures on Washington to wind this war up. Congress pressure, masses pressure, international pressure, and no dead-end of the war compelled the U.S. to take a decisive decision. Moreover, Trump announced in his 2016 presidential campaign that he will bring back all the U.S. troops home. By signing this agreement, on one hand, he will cash this move domestically to bring troops home. While on the other hand, he will try to present the U.S. exit a victory for the U.S. yesterday (Monday) in an interview, President Trump stated to reduce the troop's level to 4000-5000 thousand till November. Since the signing of the deal with the Taliban, the U.S. has withdrawn 6,000 troops from Afghanistan which shows the seriousness of the U.S. withdrawal.

Q: How do you see the role of regional countries like Pakistan and India in the stability of Afghanistan?

A: Pakistan and India have very different roles in Afghanistan by engaging with two different factions of society. In the 1990s, Pakistan supported the Taliban while India along with other forces supported the Northern Alliance, a rival get up of the Taliban. Yet Pakistan had an upper hand in the Afghan affairs in the 1990s. The 9/11 incident changed the dynamics of the region and Afghanistan. India was given a major role in post-9/11 Afghanistan while Pakistan was ignored to a large extent.  The group (Taliban) Pakistan was supporting were in a weak position yet Pakistan helped them out with their resurgence in ode to balance the equation. Both India and Pakistan are playing construction active role in Afghanistan but at the same time, trying to secure their own interests as well. The present Afghanistan government is completely in the Indian clutches which Pakistan wants to become balanced by Taliban inclusion on the government.

Q: What is the position of Daesh (Islamic State) in Afghanistan? Which sides support it, and can it continue competition with the Taliban?

A: The Daesh presence in Afghanistan is not much strong and did not succeed to hold strong footing after five years of presence in the country. It has various reasons: 1) Daesh is not an indigenous movement.2) they have no strong local support. 3) their ideology doesn't match to the ideology the local people believe in. 4) Taliban are very strong which does not allow Daesh to become strong or expand in the country. 
Daesh can't compete with the Taliban as they have strong and expanded networks all over the country and hold many areas under their control. The future of Daesh will be determined by the Taliban’s inclusion in the government that could be disastrous for Daesh as the Afghan forces along the Taliban cadres can wipe Daesh out of Afghanistan.

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