Afghan Taliban is not a Pakistan Errand boy
Last week foreign ministers of Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan met in Istanbul and they called on the Taliban to reaffirm their commitment to achieving a negotiated settlement for lasting peace in Afghanistan.
However the Taliban made it very clear that they not only want withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan but they also want removal of their names from UN terrorist list and release of prisoners. Their inflexibility is no more acceptable to Pakistani officials who are dealing with the Taliban since long.
Next a top Pakistani security official met Taliban leaders in Doha on April 28 and delivered an “enough is enough” message to them in very clear words. Pakistan and some other international stakeholders in Afghan peace process tried to convince the Taliban to agree for joining an interim coalition government but they were reluctant to agree.
Pakistan started new efforts to convince Afghan Taliban for re-joining the peace process otherwise the Taliban may face some tough actions from Pakistan. Top Pakistani security officials have approached Afghan Taliban leadership in Doha and made it very clear to them that their refusal to participate in Istanbul Conference was a big blow to the Afghan Peace Process and if they will not show some flexibility they will face consequences.
A United States backed Afghan Peace conference set to be hosted in Istanbul by Turkey, Qatar and United Nations on April 24 was postponed over the non-participation of the Taliban. This conference was meant to fast track the peace process but new administration in Washington changed the withdrawal date of US troops from May 1 to September 11 2021. The Taliban rejected this new date and declared it violation of the peace agreement signed with Trump Administration. They refused to participate in Istanbul conference.
According to highly placed sources, Pakistani security agencies found some links between Afghan Taliban and groups related to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). A top source said “they are two faces of a same coin” but Afghan Taliban denied this allegation. They said it is not the first time that we may face heat from the security agencies. Senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was arrested by Pakistani agencies and he was released in 2018. It was Mullah Baradar who led peace talks with the US in Doha. Two senior Taliban leaders Mullah Ubaidullah Akhund (former Afghan defence minister) and Ustad Yasir died in the custody of Pakistani security agencies between 2010 and 2012.
A top Pakistani official said that it is easy to deal with Ashraf Ghani but very difficult to deal with the Taliban. The official made allegations on Afghan government for supporting the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). Pakistani officials have conveyed their concerns to Ghani directly and after that the Afghan president never supported the PTM publicly. Ghani also made some unannounced visits to Pakistan in recent past to bridge gap with Pakistani side.
It is learnt that India also tried to engage Afghan Taliban recently but their leaders avoided direct meetings with them. A senior Taliban source said that India is planning to send its troops to Afghanistan after the possible withdrawal of US troops. Taliban think that India started engagement with Pakistan recently just because India do not want Pakistan to object to its new role in Afghanistan. India wants that the Taliban should not attack its troops in Afghanistan not realising that the Taliban never accept any foreign troops in their country.