The outcome of the most recent Intra-Afghan Dialogue held in Doha (Qatar) on July 7-8 — which brings together civil servants, politicians, members of the public and Taliban representatives — was a disappointment. The event was attended by 17 representatives of the Taliban, classified as an illegal terrorist organization in many countries outside Afghanistan, alongside about 50 of Afghanistan’s political and public figures. Representatives of the Taliban were still not yet ready to negotiate with the Afghan government delegation, and all participants who spoke at the event acted as individuals.
As a result of the two-day peace talks, the parties adopted a roadmap to peace, consolidating the agreements they had reached with the necessary conditions to create an environment of lasting peace in Afghanistan. The document listed the principles of a united Afghanistan, continuation of peace talks and mutual respect during the negotiations. The road map for peace approved by the participants would see the establishment of an “Islamic legal system” in the country, or sharia law, which would simultaneously be implemented along with the peace process by all parties involved in the conflict, which includes security reforms, assistance and support from donor countries, the repatriation of refugees, as well as monitoring the implementation of the terms of the agreement and holding international conferences dealing with this issue.
Many political scientists noted that there were no clear decisions made at this conference, and the general words and principles laid out in the roadmap were not worth the paper they were written on. There could not have been any other outcome, given that the Taliban will only be ready to participate in the intra-Afghan talks and discuss the ceasefire after an announcement is made heralding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, according to Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen. The spokesman of the fundamentalist movement made the comment in Qatar on the sidelines of the intra-Afghan meeting. “We want all the foreign forces to leave and end the military presence in our country… We believe in an Islamic system that ensures the rights of everyone… We want to work towards the establishment of peace in our country… We want to live alongside our countrymen in an inclusive Afghan world,” said Suhail Shaheen.
At the same time, members of the current Afghan government advocate maintaining the status quo and are in favor of signing any agreement that would tie the hands of the Taliban movement, which is gaining in numbers day by day. Washington shares this position, having endured a complete fiasco in its fight against the Afghan people that has gone on for almost 20 years. On a related note, just before the meeting took place in Doha, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a leaf out of Donald Trump’s book, taking to Twitter, where he wrote in an self-inflated manner that “all Americans should be glad to see Afghans sitting with Afghans to begin the tough task of ending their country’s conflict and building a shared future together.” According to Pompeo, you would be led to believe that simply day in day out, “all Americans” are delighted as they look on at “the success the United States is having in Afghanistan”, and that the events unfolding in distant and unfamiliar Qatar and Afghanistan bring Americans immense joy.
Incidentally, Pompeo forgot to mention that it was the United States that brought all of these hardships, troubles and misfortunes to Afghan soil. It was the United States that attacked this country when it was at peace, without any justification, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which were attributed to an American CIA agent and international terrorist Osama bin Laden, who found refuge in Taliban Afghanistan. However, according to experts, the real reason why America went into Afghanistan was the Taliban’s refusal to lay the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI: Turkmenistan — Afghanistan — Pakistan — India) on Washington’s terms, which means that America had worked out a plan to invade Afghanistan, which had already existed six months prior to the September 11 attacks.
At the time, President Barack Obama made a painful statement: “In December 2014, America’s combat mission in Afghanistan came to a responsible end. Compared to the 100,000 troops we once had there, today, fewer than 10,000 remain. Nevertheless, the security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. Even as they improve, Afghan security forces are still not as strong as they need to be.” There has been over 18 years of military intervention, 2.3 thousand American military personnel have lost their lives there, but today the majority of Afghanistan’s territory and population are controlled by three dozen terrorist groups.
Now we are in the middle of 2019, and looking back, there is a long way to go before the goals and objectives are completed which were set by the political leadership in Washington and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. That is why incumbent President Donald Trump is making so much noise about the withdrawal of the 9 thousandth US contingent from Afghanistan. However, Trump has said that American intelligence should maintain a significant presence in the country. For some reason, President Trump forgot to mention how many of these “cloak-and-dagger agents” should be kept on there, exploiting the right of extraterritoriality without any sense of responsibility for their actions. There could be just as many of them kept on there as the American troops who are currently stationed there. Who knows?
Getting back to the meeting in Doha, the leader of Afghanistan’s Hezb-e Islami political party Gulbuddin Hekmatyar commented on how the members of delegations had been selected, saying that the groups of participants had been handpicked by foreign states and their representatives, while Kabul’s opinion on the matter had been ignored. “Foreigners are trying to monopolize this highly important national issue and the talks between the Afghans which began in Qatar are a clear example of this,” said Hekmatyar, adding: “Neither the government nor the President [Ashraf Ghani] is aware of this.” The party leader also criticized talks between representatives of the Taliban and the United States, which were also taking place in Doha, and condemned them as yet another interference in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs.
“If America is willing to hand over the government in Kabul to someone it is not possible. If anyone expects that America can take them to the Arg [presidential palace] or can guarantee their staying there, they are making a mistake.”
It is clear that restoring peace in Afghanistan will not only require a comprehensive intra-Afghan dialog, it will also take honest, fair presidential elections, elections which rule out the possibility of violations of electoral law and any interference. This particularity applies to interference from the United States, a country which has declared and is waging its own information war against Russia’s alleged interference in foreign elections, while the United States actively interferes in any political election in other countries, and is even prepared to bring in the American army to do that, which is what happened in Afghanistan!
For Washington, Afghanistan is distant, but unlike Washington, Moscow has a far closer geographical proximity to this country, and given that Afghanistan has posed a threat to Russian security and that of the Central Asian countries in the region for decades, Russia should be able to contribute to the process of reaching a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.
However, the current Trump administration is making every effort to exclude Russia from this process and solve all Afghan affairs behind closed doors. But just as we have seen at the conference in Doha, Washington is unlikely to get its way. The reality in Afghanistan needs to be looked straight in the eye, instead of trying to revive the days of imperialism.
Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”