Indo-Afghan Peace EffortsApprox Read Time: 6 min
In News: Indo-Afghan Peace Efforts
- Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation in Afghanistan, is on a 5 day visit to India.
- Abduallah is playing a lead role in the Afghan peace process.
News Summary: Indo-Afghan Peace Efforts
- Modi Meets Abdullah
- PM Modi had a meeting with Chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah.
- Abdullah thanked India for its continued support for Afghanistan and its constructive role in peace efforts.
- This is a sign of India’s increased engagement with the ongoing Intra-Afghan Dialogue.
- During the talks, Mr. Abdullah briefed the Prime Minister on the deliberations in Doha between the Afghan government and civil society representatives with Taliban representatives.
- Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s commitment towards sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and welcomed efforts towards a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan.
- Modi assured Abdullah of India’s continued backing for the peace process in Afghanistan.
- Doval Meets Abdullah
- Abdullah also met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and discussed increased levels of violence across Afghanistan and peace and security in the region.
- Doval told him that India is in favour of a democratic and sovereign Afghanistan where no terrorists can operate.
India’s Role in Afghanistan:
- India is the region’s largest provider of development aid to Afghanistan.
- Since 2001, India has undertaken projects worth $3 billion in Afghanistan, including $1 billion pledged in 2016 under the “new development partnership” scheme for five years.
- It has expressed concern at a recent spike in violence by the Taliban and terror attacks on minorities such as Sikhs.
- It has said intra-Afghan negotiations must ensure the interests of minorities, women and vulnerable sections of society and reduce violence across Afghanistan and its neighborhood.
India also participating in intra-afghan peace process:
- India has traditionally refrained from engaging with any platform that involves Taliban.
- However, lately, New Delhi has signaled an interest in any moves that have the backing of Afghan people to bring peace to that country, including negotiations with Taliban.
- India’s External Affairs Minister even addressed the inaugural Intra-Afghan talks, and sent a team to Doha. This was the first time an Indian official has addressed a gathering that includes the Taliban.
War in Afghanistan after 9/11 Attacks:
- After the 9/11 attacks, the then US President George W. Bush sent U.S. forces into Afghanistan to hunt down their mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.
- Osama was a Saudi given sanctuary by the Afghanistan’s then Islamist Taliban rulers.
- Although the Taliban regime was quickly toppled, they regrouped and have since waged an insurgency that has sucked into the war Afghanistan’s neighbors and troops from dozens of countries, including NATO forces.
- The international coalition of NATO ended its combat mission in 2014 after thousands of soldiers got killed.
- The US continued on its own, but scaled-back combat operations after 2014.
- The Taliban meanwhile continued to gain momentum and started controlling more territory than at any time since 2001.
- This became America’s longest conflict in history.
Negotiations to End War:
- Negotiations to end war and embrace peace had long been advocated by the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as well as the British government, but resisted by the American government.
- Karzai offered peace talks with the Taliban in 2007, but this was swiftly rejected by the insurgent group citing the presence of foreign troops.
- By 2009, there was broad agreement in Afghanistan that the war should end, but there wasn’t clarity over how it should happen.
Change in US’ Mindset:
- After Obama assumed office of the President of the US, a mindset change and strategy occurred within the US administration in 2010 to allow possible political negotiations to solve the war.
- Sporadic efforts took place for the peace talks but nothing concrete happened.
Post Trump’s Presidency:
- US President Donald Trump, elected at the end of 2016, promised to end the war in Afghanistan and bring back all the country’s troops.
- He accused Pakistan of harboring the Taliban and of inaction against terrorists after his assuming office.
- In 2018, following an increase in violence, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani proposed unconditional peace talks with the Taliban, offering them recognition as a legal political party and the release of the Taliban prisoners.
- The offer was the most favorable to the Taliban since the war started.
- It was preceded by months of national consensus building, which found that Afghans overwhelmingly supported a negotiated end to the war.
Efforts at Troop Withdrawal:
- Although sporadic efforts have taken place since the war began in 2001, negotiations and the peace movement intensified in 2018.
- Since then, the talks were held between the Taliban (which is the main insurgent group fighting against the Afghan government and American troops) and the United States.
- It was expected that a mutual agreement between the Taliban and the United States would be followed by a phased American withdrawal and the start of intra-Afghan peace talks.
- Besides the United States, regional powers such as Pakistan, China and Russia, as well as NATO play a part in facilitating the peace process.
Deal Between USA and Taliban- February 2020:
- In February 2020, US-Taliban agreement was signed.
- It was a conditional peace agreement signed by the US with the Taliban, which called for the withdrawal of foreign troops in 14 months if the Taliban upheld the terms of the agreement.
- However, the Afghan government, which was excluded from negotiations between the US and the Taliban, rejected the U.S. and Taliban’s call for a prisoner swap.
- President Ashraf Ghani stated that such an agreement will require further negotiation and will also not be implemented as a precondition for future peace negotiations.
Conditions of US-Taliban agreement start being met:
- Release of prisoners:
- For a while, the Afghan government did not implement the commitment made by US Special Representative on the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, especially as there was no “reduction of violence” as promised by the Taliban.
- But under US pressure, President Ashraf Ghani started freeing prisoners in batches.
- The Taliban released 1,000 government-side prisoners including soldiers.
- Withdrawal of US Troops
- The withdrawal of US troops has been taken place alongside.
- In the February 29 agreement, the US had committed to bring down its troops to 8,600 (from 12,000), and shut down five bases, within 135 days. That commitment has been kept.
- The US also announced plans to further bring down troops to 4,500 by late October or early November.
Intra-Afghan Peace Talks in September 2020
- Even the partial success in implementing conditions of US-Taliban agreement presented a major opportunity for peace.
- It led to the historic first direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government in September 2020.
- Some progress was reported at the peace talks but they were also rooted in deep mistrust.
- They discussed joint implementation mechanisms, which will be announced along with the completion and agreement over the future political roadmap of Afghanistan.
- While the Afghanistan government hoped for the declaration of a permanent ceasefire with the beginning of talks, the Taliban has refused to agree to one thus far.