The great Peloponnesian war was a war of choice and became a major cause for the destruction of the Greek civilization, murder of thousands of Athenians and Spartans, and engulfing the then region in perpetual wars. The war on terror was also a war of choice and had so far destroyed many countries, killed millions and engulfed the region in proxy wars. These are the consequences of wars, but more importantly, wars that are made on choice. The Peloponnesian war was concluded with the fall of Athens and the Spartans were successful in establishing a controlled democracy in Athens. But let’s look at the possible outcomes of the war on terror and the peace deal that has been signed on 29th of February 2020 between US and Afghan Taliban.
Before going into the possible outcomes of war on terror, let’s try to understand the weaknesses of Taliban and the Afghan govt. US has so far secured its face saving interests with Taliban by urging them not to allow any other terrorist group to operate in Afghanistan to attack the US forces or its allies, but what about the intra-afghan negotiations and the future of Afghanistan!
The strength of Taliban can be estimated from the fact that they control almost 20 percent of Afghanistan, while the govt controls 30 percent. The remaining 50 percent Afghanistan is contested between Taliban and the Afghan forces, which have resulted in the deaths of 45,000 Afghan forces and police from 2014 till 2019. As far as Taliban forces are concerned, there are 60,000 active fighters and 90,000 seasonal force pitched against 2,70,000 Afghan forces. But the fact is that Taliban are fighting for more than 20 years, have known the tactics of gorilla warfare, and are motivated. Afghan govt weakness can be seen from the results of the last elections which has intensified power struggle between President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. There is also a widespread corruption, lawlessness and attacks on the government employees. Taliban has benefited from this situation and are pushing hard their own agenda. Despite these hurdles, there are options that could lead to a last solution of Afghanistan.
The 1st possible outcome of the peace process is that Taliban should be given permanent bureaucratic and legislative positions in the government. In this very case, polices and rules will be made by the top leaders of the Taliban. The lower ranks of Taliban will be consulted for implementation. This is also the current situation of policy making process in Taliban, and so far they are good at it. The permanent legislature will save Taliban from popular voting, and they will contest in their own sphere. The permanent legislature from Taliban side will also ensure that the laws of government are as per the teachings of Quran and Sunnah, and will have limited veto power. The bureaucracy in this case will be posted anywhere in Afghanistan and the Taliban legislature will decide for whole of the Afghan members of the Loya jirga.
The 2nd possible outcome may be that Taliban are given certain districts with their own rule but as part of a federation with the central govt. The central govt will control its defense against external forces and proxies, and its economy. Taliban may be given weightage in the foreign policy making as they have friends and foes in the region. Along with certain districts they will also have MPs in the central legislation as representatives of their under-controlled districts. The problem in this setup will be the dualism of laws, but it can be tackled by the constitution (which is another topic in regards to Afghanistan) by dividing powers between central and provincial govt. In this very case, Taliban will be restricted to certain areas of Afghanistan, where they will run the administration as per their wish.
Another possible scenario is the failed dialogue between Taliban and the Afghan government. This will be the worst situation the people of Afghanistan could ever imagine. There will be a civil war, not only among the government and Taliban – the two major parties, but also among the other groups like TTP, ISIS-K and Al-Qaeda. They will try to capture more and more districts. There will be a power struggle between different groups and no one will have a clear majority.
This situation will be worsened, if external forces also try to exploit it for their self interests. The regional countries along with powerful state will try to turn table in their favor. Pakistan will be the most affected country in this scenario, as more Afghan refugees will turn towards Pakistan. With dwindling economy, Pakistan will not be in a position to accommodate refugees or to turn country to a hub of crimes. The priority of Pakistan in Afghanistan will be to bring an end to the civil war and support Pashtun groups loyal to the country. Saudi Arabia might join Pakistan, to stop the Iranian influence in Afghanistan. As a result, Iran will be in the opposite block against Saudi Arabia. India will try to side with the Afghan government to win its support and break pro Pakistan coalition. China may also support Pakistan to secure its economic interests in the region. Russia provides diplomatic support to the Taliban, and is likely to side with them, mainly to oust the US forces from the Afghan soil.
The main actors of Afghan peace process and regional countries should keep in mind that such a situation is not in the interests of anyone. It will be another war on choice with serious consequences for the whole region.
The regional countries should avoid any such situation at any cost. They should support the peace process to have a clear and sustainable solution to the problem of Afghanistan. The regional countries should stop their lobbies to fulfil their petty self-interests in the peace process and let the main actors decide for their future.