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Intra-Afghan accord before US withdrawal critical for peace: IPS webinar

Islamabad, June 2, 2021: An all-inclusive Afghan-owned accord among Afghanistan’s internal power contenders is the only solution to end the issues engulfing the country’s people and the region. Otherwise, bloodshed will continue in the war-torn country, which is already on the brink of a civil war, in case the US leaves the Afghans on their own, as it had done before, without striking an intra-Afghan agreement.

This was the crux of a webinar titled ‘US withdrawal from Afghanistan: Threats to regional peace, within and without’ organized by the Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad.

Syed Abrar Hussain, IPS’ vice-chairman and Pakistan’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, chaired the webinar, which was addressed by Brigadier (r) Said Nazir, IPS’ senior associate and geostrategic analyst, as the keynote speaker. Khalid Rahman, IPS’ chairman, Jumma Khan Sufi, author and Afghan affairs expert, and Hasan Khan, senior journalist and analyst, were among the discussants.

In his address, Said Nazir said that as the date of US withdrawal is coming closer, violence in Afghanistan is increasing – underlining the intense power struggle that is going on between the Taliban and the Afghan government. He said Washington, after the pullout, would act as a mere distant spectator of the mess it would leave behind in Afghanistan.

Commenting on the much-debated air and ground logistical support to the US by Pakistan, he feared that if such action is taken, it would be detrimental to peace and stability in the region and Pakistan as it will have direct consequences for the countries that will provide assistance to the US in this regard. As the Taliban have also cautioned regional countries against such a move, this will further intensify the armed conflict, resulting in the influx of Afghan refugees, he warned. Providing facilities of bases to the US in Pakistan, he argued, will not serve national interests. Instead, it will allow anti-state elements, including Daesh and the TTP, which are gaining ground along the Pak-Afghan border inside Afghanistan, to label Pakistan a US proxy.

The speaker urged regional countries, especially Pakistan, and internal power contenders to mitigate any chances of a civil war. Pakistan needs to beef up its efforts and precautionary measures for lasting regional peace in the presence of spoilers, especially India, which will try to add fuel to the ongoing fight, he warned.

Sufi was of the view that the British government is trying to bring Pakistan and Afghanistan closer in a bid to solve bilateral issues that have prevailed between the neighbors for a long time. He revealed that the UK facilitated the recent meeting between the Pakistan Army chief and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He stressed that Pakistan needs to press the regional power brokers to ensure Afghanistan recognizes the existing Pak-Afghan border for a long-term settlement.

Talking about his recent visit to Afghanistan, Hasan Khan said that the Afghan people generally like Pakistan and did not despise it as is often depicted in media, especially social media. Nonetheless, the Afghans are not happy with either the Taliban or the Kabul government and think that the US has betrayed Afghanistan once again by leaving the country in a mess the US created itself.

Commenting on the existing situation across the border, Khalid Rahman warned against the growing violence in Afghanistan amidst the US withdrawal. He believed the circumstances inside Afghanistan do not augur well for peace and rather offer a perfect recipe for a civil war. He urged all stakeholders, especially internal power players, to reach a negotiated agreement before US troops leave the Afghan soil for good.

Concluding the session, Abrar Hussain regretted the blame game being played by the Afghan government against Pakistan. He was of the view that regional countries do not want the Taliban to rule Afghanistan alone as they fear it would bring about militancy and violence in the region. Hence, he suggested that an intra-Afghan dialogue before the US departure is needed for sustainable peace.#

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