Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 168, 1 October 2020

Afghanistan: In a bid for peace, Abdullah Abdullah concludes a three days visit to Pakistan 
Lakshmi V Menon

In the news
During the week, the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah completed his three days visit to Pakistan. Along with a high-level delegation of HCNR members, he met Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, besides meeting the Senate Chairman and Speaker of National Assembly during his visit. Speaking in Islamabad, Abdullah Abdullah said Pakistan and Afghanistan are nurturing a new relationship characterized by "mutual respect, sincere cooperation and shared prosperity." Meanwhile, Pakistan's top officials have reiterated their strong and complete support for "the peace, stability and prosperity of the Afghan people."

Issues at large
First, the rocky Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. Kabul have for long accused Islamabad of backing Taliban rebels in order to limit India's influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan however, has denied these allegations and in turn accused Afghanistan of facilitating anti-Pakistan rebels on Afghan soil. Both rubbish the other's accusations.

Second, the ongoing Doha peace talks. The visit comes soon after the commencement of the Afghan peace talks in Doha, between Afghan and Taliban negotiators, on 12 September. The desired outcomes from the talks include a power-sharing deal and an agreement on a lasting ceasefire. The deal signed between the Taliban and the US in Qatar in February 2020 preceded the recent dialogue. The Taliban's armed rebellion has cost Afghanistan dearly since the ousting of the armed group by the US-led invasion in 2001. 

Third, the impending US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his recent op-ed for the Washington Post, has cautioned that a "hasty international withdrawal from Afghanistan would be unwise." A rushed withdrawal for the purpose of Trump's re-election would be catastrophic for Afghanistan and South Asia at large. Khan also urged Afghanistan to "cut violence" and utilize the opportunity to "work together constructively and secure an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement."

In perspective
Abdullah's visit will be a "moment of opportunity" that also according to the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan "will provide an opportunity for a wide-ranging exchange of views on the Afghan peace process and strengthen Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and people-to-people interactions." However, the bogging down on the negotiation's principles and procedures by the conflicting parties even before discussing the agendas has left optimists wary.

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