Whether United States’ invasion of Mullah Omer’s Afghanistan in the wake of terrorist attacks on US Trade Center in 2001 was a repeat of the act of Soviet Union capturing Kabul in 1979? And conversely, could it be labelled as a retreat on the similar terms by withdrawal of USSR and USA in 1988 and in the proposed next 18 months deep in 2020, if at all, respectively? A similarity may also be drawn in the case of British India in the early 20th century and current and recent Pakistan in the late 80’s and in the last two decades with a marginal difference that Pakistan never invaded or captured Afghanistan physically or geographically like all others but ever ventured to have its pro-government in Kabul.

A ‘peace deal’ is said to be in the offing in the ‘piece meal’ in respect of a land which otherwise is known as a land of warriors - the Afghanistan. Taliban headquarters based at Qatar have confirmed that US officials have agreed to draft an Afghan peal deal with them. This is also supported by the US special envoy, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad tweeting that a ‘significant progress’ is made in finding a window solution to end the United States’ 17-year-old longest war. Prima facie, it is a good sign for Afghanistan, nay the region and Pakistan pursuant to the end of NATO-led mission titled as Resolute Support. It aimed at training, advising and assisting the Afghan forces under the control of the Afghan government in Kabul. However, with the defined terms and conditions, this is yet to be confirmed by the US officials as well as Taliban formally.

The enlistment of major clauses of the proposed peace draft would lead us to a fair analysis of the situation and prospects of its future success viewed in juxtaposition of the outcome in the past in the similar circumstances, especially the Geneva Accord in 1988. Per se the proposed clauses include withdrawal of US and NATO forces in 18 months from the date of execution of the agreement. The other general provisions of the draft-agreement consist of exchange and release of prisoners from the battle sides and the lifting of the international travel ban on various Taliban leaders from its organogram imposed by the United States and its allies. The other supreme but potential contentious provisions of the agreement include formation of interim government before the forthcoming elections in July, 2019 and ceasefire which subject to its implementation and the withdrawal of the forces, the other provisions shall be put into force and effect.

The major demands of the contending parties appear to be broad-lined. It requires assurance to the US by the Taliban that its land shall not be permitted to be used in any manner, whatsoever, by the Al-Qaeda and the Islamist State (IS) to assail Washington and its allies. Whereas, Taliban requires the US-led foreign forces to withdraw from the land in the stipulated time. Thus, to the US, non-use of Afghan land by its enemies is the essence and to the Taliban, on the face of it, time of ceasefire and withdrawal of forces is the essence of agreement. Hence, its success is deeply linked with the part performance of the contending parties.

On an optimistic note, the execution of the agreement between the contracting parties in its letter and spirit may lead to establishment of peace in Afghanistan and the region as the receding of the support by US to Afghan government and alleged consultancy by Pakistan to Taliban would obviously weaken the tentacles and subside the force of both the contending parties, i.e. Afghan government and the Taliban. However, the situation on the ground appears to be entirely different from reality as well as the past perspective of the region and its warrior and tribal culture.

Paradoxically, it has to be made clear whether the major contending parties, US and Taliban would be successful in addressing the genuine stakes of Pakistan and the Afghan government, which the latter although not being a signatory to the agreement so far, has to be termed as a third contracting party by law, too, as it is to be a beneficiary or otherwise loser in terms of its vested or established rights, of the terms and conditions of the agreement signed by the two main contracting parties on the back of it. At one hand, it has not reportedly been taken on the board and is also opposing formation of any interim government prior to the forthcoming elections on the other. It also appears to be fully prepared to go for the elections on the previous pattern by way of filing their nomination papers including its sitting president. From the Taliban point of view, they are still not only in control of half of the Afghan land but also launching attacks daily on the Afghan government and its forces and still hold field in defiance to the massive launch by the Us-led forces meant to oust Taliban from the power. Last but not the least, whether, Taliban would not tend to have absolute control of power at Kabul subsequent to the withdrawal of foreign forces in any violations of any the commitments and guarantees offered to the guarantors like Qatar and Pakistan in manifestation of their typical nature and conduct as was shown by them in the past in the entity of Mujihideen pursuant to the Geneva Accord in 1988. It without any doubt led to a bloody civil war having fatal splashing effect on the state and society of Pakistan. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were few of the notable warlords who got involved in the struggle for power until it was finally taken over by Taliban.

Admittedly, Pakistan seems to have played a significant role in initiating Taliban’s negotiations with the US on her clarion call which is read between the lines by the recent visit of Pakistani Premier to Qatar, who is already said to have inclination for the cause of Taliban, following the key members of Pakistani forces. Appropriately, Pakistan’s role hinges upon two major factors, i.e, to support the Taliban for negotiations by her active participation and not to oppose the Taliban if they go for any negotiations. On diplomatic terms, it would be very hard for Pakistan to support the Taliban for negotiations whereas it shall be relatively possible for her not oppose and impede the peace process which too shall be a great favour to the US to have a safe exit. However, the question remains whether this time Pakistan is being truly accredited formally to have its efforts fruitful or rendered infructuous like in the past. Another question also remains to be answered as to whether how Pakistan can win its objectives successfully this time unlike the past. Perhaps, only the time will prove. However, Pakistan this time is extra cautious and is expected not to be ‘pennywise, pound foolish’.

There are generally six senses of the word retreat used both as a noun and verb. First, it is used in a military sense where the troops withdraw to a more favourable position to escape the enemy’s superior forces or after a defeat. Second, pull back or move away from an earlier commitment or activity. Third, a place affording peace and quiet. Fourth, recede or retire. Fifth, to break a promise. Sixth, the act of withdrawal to avoid something hazardous. On the other hand repeat means to say or tell people more than once; to happen or to do more than once and a television or a radio programme that is broadcast again. Who would be repeating or retreating this time, history, US, Taliban, Afghan government or Pakistan? History this time seems to be retreating than repeating or both. The rest time will prove.


The author is a lawyer and a

socio-political analyst.