An ambience like the one that prevailed before the launch of Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group seems to be in the making once again.
The Taliban have stepped up their attacks against the Afghan government positions – something any warring group would do before heading to the negotiating table – and also sent out signals to join some kind of peace process.
More pointedly, led by Mulla Abbas Stanakzai, head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, a two-member Taliban team was recently in China to “explore prospects” for restarting the political dialogue. The visit took place in the third week of last month, but remained unreported until recently, and that too when the Taliban leadership disclosed.
The Chinese have refused to comment on this development. “We have good terms with different countries of the world and China is one among them,” say the Taliban. But at the same time they want the world to know that resistance against “occupying forces”, which means the United States-headed foreign presence in Afghanistan, would continue.
Their visit to China is also indicative of the fact that Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s successor, Haibatullah Akhundzada, has consolidated his position among the movement and may like to resume the political dialogue within the framework of the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group. In China, given its non-interventionist approach overseas, both sides of the Afghan conflict, the government in Kabul and Taliban insurgents, find a natural mediator.
There are also reports that last June in a meeting with Afghan President Ghani his Chinese counterpart Xi Jiang underscored the fact that national reconciliation is the only way out of the decades-old Afghan imbroglio.
If the foreign intervention, with all the military might it could muster, has not been able to restore normalcy in Afghanistan as many as 15 years it is doubtful it will now do it with marginally added military presence. Add to this discouraging scenario the arrival of the Daesh, and a peaceful Afghanistan appears to be a fading dream.
But its arrival may be a blessing in disguise as well, given the fact that Daesh in Afghanistan tends to stand out as the common enemy of both the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban, as well as of their allies far and near. The kind of savagery the Daesh flaunts has forced the sworn enemies to join hands against it.
It is about to happen in Syria where Turkey is likely to bridge up its differences with President Bashar al-Assad. Obviously, China is concerned over the Daesh-triggered instability in Afghanistan. What Daesh comprises in Afghanistan is the remnants of al Qaeda, runaway Pakistani Taliban, elements of Uzbekistan Islamic Movement and some separatist Uighur militants.
While the Taliban are fighting the foreigners on their land – and for this name the US-led Nato forces – the Daesh seeks planting seeds of Al-Baghdadi-headed ‘caliphate’ wherever it can. The evolving scenario rightly then opens up prospects for resumption of the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group peace process. The government in Kabul may do itself some good by relenting on its rants that what it confronts on day to day basis is of Pakistan origin.
It was Pakistan that set in motion the Afghan peace process by hosting its first meeting at Murree. But for the hasty, if not ill-conceived, Kabul rulers’ walkout from it, the people of Afghanistan would have been spared of bloodbaths like the one Daesh perpetrated last month. Being a strategic ally of China, Pakistan would be too willing to help set in motion resumption of the QCG negotiations.
But more than anywhere else the ball is now in the court of the United States to create conditions conducive to resumption of negotiations. And that it can do by cutting down on its offensive moves against the Taliban. By eroding the clout of the Afghan Taliban it would be providing golden opportunity to Daesh to deepen its presence in the war-torn Afghanistan.