It is said a successful marriage requires falling in love several times with the same person. That best summarises America’s relationship with the Taliban. It is a marriage, a successful one at that. They have been loyal to each other for decades despite provocation and advice to the contrary.
What else can you say about a country that holds peace talks when the other side is also negotiating a hostage swap? The Taliban have very magnanimously agreed to hand over US Sgt Bowe Bergdahl who they captured in 2009 in exchange for five Talibs in US custody in Guantanamo Bay. And yet US officials say they are committed to a diplomatic path and will hold ‘peace talks’ with the self-styled moderate Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
Peace-maker Qatar allowed the Taliban to build a swanky office in its capital Doha with the explicit purpose of facilitating peace talks for Afghanistan. How this raggedly group got the funds to construct the yellow cupcake building is anybody’s guess. The ambitious nutters then went and stuck a flag on their roof and a signboard proclaiming the building as a mission of the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’.
President Hamid Karzai, justifiably blew a fuse and called off the talks. The Americans were left wringing their hands in frustration. How does one calm an angry Karzai? Nobody has found an answer to that in the State Department in all these years. Well they could ask the Indians. But that would anger the Pakistanis. And how can one anger one’s daughter-in-law? (Remember? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was ticked off by a Pakistani lady’s remark that America behaves as Pakistan’s mother-in-law).
Pakistanis have convinced the Americans that Karzai is a malcontent, a permanent road block to normalcy in Afghanistan. They further assert that the Taliban are the real representatives of the Afghan people. The Pakistani establishment’s wet dream is that the glorious days of Taliban rule will return after NATO leaves Afghanistan in 2014.
It would be a dream fulfilled for the new Pakistani Prime Minister. Nawaz Sharif had taken the representatives of Peshawar Seven (Taliban who swore loyalty to the ISI) to Kabul and was hailed as Fateh Kabul. You would think that Sharif has enough on his platter with Taliban bumping off people in Pakistan on a routine basis, to bother about Afghan Taliban holding peace talks in Qatar? But meddle Pakistan must. It is the country’s stated Strategic Depth policy.
And that is fine by America too. Actually anything is fine by them, so long as they can get the hell out of Afghanistan. With their pride and fannies intact. And for that they are willing to talk to Mullah Omar too. Gone is the aggression of Abbotabad. Now the Americans are willing to break bread (or drink some Kool Aid) with the one eyed terrorist who is on the US Most Wanted list, sheltered Bin Laden, and gave himself the title of Amir-ul-Mumineen after he wrapped himself in the cloak of the Prophet. His pals are Haqqani and Hekmatiyar, unrepentant mass killers.
So Americans are convinced of Pakistani beliefs that these lunatics are the future of Afghanistan, not Karzai or another Afghan led democratically elected government. The Haqqanis and Mullah Omar are probably smoking sheesha somewhere in the interiors of Pakistan, gleefully plotting the civil war that they are going to inflict on Afghanistan.
The explosive road map for Afghanistan’s future, as per Pakistani media, was supposedly drawn by the Kerry-Kayani duo. The two have reportedly burnt telephone lines, setting up the peace talks in Doha. The Taliban have got international legitimacy, a diplomatic mission in exile and a major boost to their credentials as a future power broker in Afghanistan.
A Taliban led Afghanistan is a distinct possibility in 2014. A Taliban increasingly flexing its muscles with the benign support of the ruling party in Pakistan is another possibility. And India with its more than $2 billion investment in Afghanistan has a good reason to be worried. External Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed said, “We still don’t know enough (about the US proposal for talks). Even Afghanistan hasn’t given clear signals yet. We have had reservations about the Taliban all along; We want an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace initiative.”
So Karzai is right in demanding that the peace talks should be held in Kabul. Mullah Omar should head to Kabul from Pakistan, as should Kerry, Kayani, and Nawaz Sharif. Let’s see who the real Fateh Kabul is then.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash