by Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- As the United States and its Western allies do not have any plan to press for a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan, Pakistan and regional stakeholders insist there is no military solution to the Afghan problem and a political solution is imperative for lasting peace and stability.
Regional countries including Pakistan, China, Iran, Russia and Central Asian States are engaged in diplomatic efforts to encourage peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government as their concerns are rapidly growing over the lack of progress on peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
Analysts are of the view that the Afghan crisis has contributed towards regional instability, power struggles, regional polarization, economic degeneration and a humanitarian crisis over the decades.
Rtd. Brig. Ishaq Ahmed from the Pakistan Army argues that regional and neighboring countries have stakes and are gravely affected by the war in Afghanistan and therefore their efforts towards political solutions are likely to be more concerted and dedicated.
"Global powers like the U.S. and India, which have vested interests in the region, have ensured their personal positions are kept in view, but their efforts have not yielded results, as 16 years of continued war is as a result of their policies," Ahmed, director of Intelligence and International Security Studies at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute University, Islamabad (SASSI), told Xinhua.
"The only solution to the Afghan crisis is the Afghan sought resolve to consult with neighboring and regional countries," he further said, referring to Russian's regional peace initiative in which only directly affected countries and players namely Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, China and Russia along with the Taliban, are needed and should be encouraged and supported.
Afghanistan's former Defense Minister Shahnawaz Tanai says the Trump administration has adopted the path of war, which is no solution to the Afghan problem as this option has not worked over the past 16 years.
"It is unfortunate that the U.S. still insists on military options as it has other objectives that also include its intention to grab the rich and bountiful natural resources in Afghanistan, while it also eyes resources in other regional countries," Tanai told Xinhua from Kabul via the phone.
He also said the United States has not paid attention to the basic problems in Afghanistan, forcing the Afghan government to depend on the United States and its NATO allies for almost everything.
Ahmadullah Ahmadzai, an Afghan writer and analyst, said regional countries working towards political solutions are the best option.
"Peace in Afghanistan without the cooperation of regional countries will not be possible. But I think the U.S. is not allowing Russia and Iran to play a role in peace and reconciliation," Ahmadzai told Xinhua.
He was of the view that the Afghan government understands that peace cannot be ensured without the cooperation of regional countries.
"But it seems the Afghan government is not ready to seek the role of regional counties as the U.S. has advised the Kabul administration against active diplomatic efforts by regional countries in recent months," Ahmadzai added.
There is no doubt the solution to the Afghan issue lies mainly with the United States as it led the NATO military alliance to invade Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban regime for hosting Osama bin Laden, who was blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks. For their part, the Taliban leaders are defending what they call their "holy war" waged on foreign forces to leave Afghanistan.
The Taliban has repeatedly said they are ready for talks with the United States to find out if it has any plan to leave Afghanistan and to discuss a timeframe for the possible withdrawal.
However, the United States is unwilling to hold direct talks with the Taliban as it could annoy the Afghan government. As both sides have kept the political option open, they should show flexibility in bringing an end to the protracted war which now mainly claims the lives of Afghan civilians and causes destruction to infrastructure.
Months after President Trump unveiled his Afghan strategy, focusing on the use of force with the deployment of more troops, NATO defense ministers agreed in their meeting in Brussels last week to increase the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan from around 13,000 to roughly 16,000, which means the military alliance is focused on the military option.
Although NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO continues to support an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process, no strategy has been unveiled as to how to end the conflict through negotiations.