The progress in the peace process in Afghanistan has been promising recently. Thousands of prisoners have been released by the Afghan government and the Taliban, a move that contributed to somewhat trust-building among the warring sides. Reports of the possible launch of intra-Afghan talks by the end of June are circulating in media, with Doha of Qatar having been finalized and agreed upon by the sides as the venue for the all-Afghan negotiations. In a recent development, Head of US Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzi informed that Washington has reduced its troops’ number to 8,600 in Afghanistan. This measure marks the fulfillment of the first phase pullout obligation under the US-Taliban agreement signed in February this year. All these steps gradually build up and advance the peace process. As the US-Taliban peace pact also calls for the full withdrawal of the US military from the country by May 2021, it is based on some conditions, including severing ties with terrorist groups. McKenzie referred to this provision, saying it was ‘aspirational’ commitment, but also conditional: “conditions would have to be met that satisfy us that attacks against our homeland are not going to be generated from Afghanistan.” Meanwhile, it wasn’t long before the Taliban renewed their commitment to honor the peace pact, saying Afghanistan wouldn’t be used against anyone. “They should not be concerned,” said the group’s spokesman. Although the small steps towards peace are significant, the conditions-based approach to withdrawal and peace in Afghanistan adopted so far is laudable. This is while there are concerns that this approach is just a pretext. There are already reports that Trump administration is mulling over at a range of options to pull out all of its troops from Afghanistan, most likely at an early date. The haste in this regard stems from the fact that President Trump is targeting this November, when the US presidential election is scheduled, to present the bringing home of soldiers as an achievement to the public and thus secure vote. Therefore, the only concern crossing Afghans’ minds is that such pretexts of conditions-based approach are not focused on US interests alone. To put it clearly, some believe that there is a high probability that the Trump administration might withdraw before the scheduled date and after the election is conducted, it would use the card of the terrorism to re-deploy some troops into Afghanistan. If the country really wants to extricate itself from Afghanistan, peace is the only face-saving way to achieve that end. And if not, pretexts of conditions are there to make the withdrawal ambiguous and open-ended. Thus, every step taken in this regard should be measured and deliberate in order to avoid jeopardizing the whole peace process and the progress made so far. The worst-case scenario could be making peace a means to secure the country’s interests and ignore that of Afghanistan.
Saudi Arabia joins China-led security bloc, SCO
AT Kabul: Saudi Arabia’s cabinet approved on Wednesday a decision to join the Shanghai Cooperation …