The last months devastating suicide attacks right in the heart of Kabul prompted President Ashraf Ghani to come up with a new offer on making peace with the militant Taliban. Offering an unconditional recognition to the Taliban as a legitimate political force, President Ghani in his opening remarks at the start of an international peace conference in Kabul said his renewed offer could lead to ending the 16 years log war in the insurgency plagued country. Ghani also suggested opening a political office for the Taliban in Kabul or elsewhere to handle negotiations. President Ghani said the process would be accompanied by coordinated diplomatic support including a global effort to persuade neighboring Pakistan, that Kabul has regularly been accusing of aiding the Taliban. He added Kabul was ready for talks with Pakistan. “We want to forget the past and start a new chapter”, president Ghani added. President Ghani’s offer comes at a time when his war-riddled country is facing a number of challenges on political, security and economic fronts.

The politically week, economically shattered and militarily demoralized Afghan Unity government of President Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah has little to offer to its war-hit people. The government is fast losing ground to the militant Taliban. The ISIS is posing even more serious threat than ever. The on-going bloody conflict in Afghanistan has killed or wounded over 10,000 civilians in the country only last year.

On the other hand, the President Trump-led new US administration with spending trillions of dollars and receiving over 2500 dead bodies of its soldiers back into the USA is obviously disappointed with the results. This leaves both the US and Afghanistan administration with little option but to come up with a renewed peace offer for the Taliban.

The peace offer represents a clear change in Ghani’s tone. President Ghani has always been labeling Taliban as rebels and terrorists in the past. In the same tone, Kabul has been sparing no stone unturned to accuse Pakistan of providing sanctuaries to the Afghan Taliban on its soil. The offer to the Taliban included release of prisoners and their names removed from the international blacklist, provision of passports for the Taliban members and their families, facilities and security for those who join the peace process, reintegrating former fighters and refugees into the mainstream, removal of sanctions against the Taliban leaderless and opening of an office for them to handle negotiations.This generous offer, in return, demand of the Taliban to recognize the Afghan government, respect the rule of law and women rights. This certainly gives leverage to the Taliban. With their presence in over 70 percent of the territory, the militant Taliban are better placed to respond to the offer on their own terms and conditions.

The Taliban’s response to the renewed talks offer is not surprising. Turning down Ghani’s peace offer, the Taliban still insists on the NATO’s forces total ouster from the land. In an open letter to the US nation the Taliban had earlier said that they were ready to talk directly to the US government for ensuring durable peace in the region. This development, however, provides an opportunity for Pakistan to rebuild its damaged image by pressurizing the Pakistan based leadership of the Afghan Taliban and bringing them to the negotiating table. Afghanistan and the United States have long been accusing Pakistan of aiding some sections of the Afghan Taliban, something Pakistan has been denying for long. The decision by Financial Action Task Force (FATF) last month in Paris to place Pakistan on its so-called "grey list" came as a major set back to the country’s counter terrorism efforts, it has been undertaking since long. President Trump tweeted on January 1st that the US provided billions of dollars to Pakistan but the country, instead, deceived them by harboring the militant groups on its soil. The tweet was followed by huge cuts in civil and military aid to Pakistan.

This could be a window of opportunity for Pakistan. The Taliban have already indicated they have pressure from their Pakistani masters for mending ways with Afghan government. President Ghani, in his latest statement on the eve of launching the stage for one of the major regional gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, said the momentum for peace was building from neighboring countries that increasingly saw the necessity of a stable Afghanistan. By bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, Pakistan will not only boost its ties with the United States and the Afghan government. But at the same time wash away the label of the supporter of the Taliban.

In an effort to enhance trade ties with Afghanistan, Pakistan opened up its long closed border for trade with Afghanistan this Friday. The first convoy reached North Waziristan via Ghulam Khan border where it was warmly welcomed by the Pakistani authorities. The border remained closed since 2014 when Pakistan launched a military operation Zarb-e-Azb forcing almost one million people to flee from the area. It was here some 80,000 families crossed the border to reach Afghanistan.

04/20/2018 - Any reproduction, copy, transmission or translation of this publication is prohibited.

Des hommes prient pour les funérailles du chef taliban afghan Mullah Akhtar Mansour dans une mosquée à Peshawar, au Pakistan, le 27 mai 2016.
De Ashraf Ali