Now that 2013 is here, 2014 is not far-away. What would be the geopolitical ramifications of a near total American withdrawal from war ravaged Afghanistan? Well, for long the strife-torn Afghanistan has proved to be a bottomless pit, a dark abyss, wherein all the peace efforts have sunk without leaving a trace behind.
Apparently, the US-led NATO war coming to an end toward the middle of 2014 and America contemplating to withdraw most of its forces deployed in Afghanistan in 2013 itself should have ideally evoked a keen hope for the peace not only for Afghanistan but for the entire region. However, the so called superpower has even failed to carry-out its heavily watered-down agenda of building a semblance of a state apparatus that could withstand the Taliban onslaught after the foreign forces finally vacate Afghanistan, invokes very little confidence. Now it looks more and more palpable that America has finally reconciled with the idea of accommodating the Taliban as one of the primary entities, if not the main force, within the future power structure of Afghanistan.
Incidentally in the third week of December, for the first time Taliban and Kabul representatives officially came face to face in France. The French hosts described it as a discussion among Afghans rather than peace negotiations. What was more remarkable was the fact that for the first time, ‘Taliban representatives at a conference did not insist on total power in Afghanistan and pledged to grant rights to women.’
The Taliban during the talks were insistent on rewriting the entire constitution afresh to make it fully subservient to the Sharia. Although the Karzai regime maintains that since the present Afghan constitution already regards Sharia, the real source of its inspiration, still it is open to amend the constitution to the extent of accommodating some of the main concerns of Taliban.
Rewriting the constitution or amending it, looks to be a big bone of contention. Whether this tricky question will get resolved or not, solely depends upon the likelihood of dialogue making any headway in the future. In the present circumstance, there is a huge question mark if a purposeful dialogue will take place, at all. For any peace process to succeed in Afghanistan, all warring factions in Afghanistan have to be effectively involved. Given the backdrop of treacherous past of different Afghan tribes that’s easier said than done. Yet the French initiative which seems to have the American nod, if not the complete backing, is significant in more than one way. The fact that Taliban have not only agreed to share a room with the representatives of Karzai, who they until very recently condemned as a mere American puppet. Also for the first time they have publically affirmed that, “we are not looking to monopolise power. We want an all-Afghan inclusive government.” This has the potential of dramatically altering the macabre realities of Afghan civil war. In case Taliban have finally realised that they alone cannot dictate the destiny of all the Afghan people that include Tajiks, Hazara and so many other tribal identities, it suddenly opens many vistas for the resolution of bloody Afghan conflict. Besides the various Tribal identities, within the Pashtun majority of Afghanistan itself, which the Taliban claim to represent, different ideological and political persuasions persist. In case Taliban are sincere towards the idea of a peaceful and unified Afghanistan, they will inevitably have to accept the ethnic fragmentation of Afghan society; otherwise there seems to be no end to the bloody strife.
Moreover, Taliban further categorically stating that a “new constitution would protect civil and political rights of all citizens. It promised that women would be allowed to choose husbands, own property, attend school and seek work” sounds to be anti-thesis of all that the Taliban, till this day, have been universally condemned for. The kind of belief systems that the Taliban tried to enforce over Afghanistan during their reign was completely regressive in nature. The primitive tribal mindsets have actually nothing to do with the progressive nature of Islam. Eventually Taliban coming to terms with the truth — that it’s impossible to negate the processes of human evaluation is a genuine change.
Brokering a power sharing agreement is not the real challenge; to persuade a regressive belief system to shun its archaic mindset is always a tall order. Whether the dramatic Taliban shift signals a “real change of heart” or else it is a “salvo in the propaganda war for the hearts and minds of Afghans”, only time will decide.