Afghan Settlement: Credibility, Posturing And Opportunity

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Context
23-04-2013_karzai01A new wave of trilateral meetings between US, Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken place recently. General Kiyani met with Secretary of State John Kerry last month in Jordan to discuss the Afghan reconciliation. The two, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, are slated to meet in Brussels on Wednesday. Acting US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, David D. Pearce, has also recently made a round of the region. The reality is every positive step has been met with more of the same.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday in Brussels, Kerry reiterated: “The mission (of US) will be to support, advise, train the Afghan military on an ongoing basis as well as to engage in counterterrorism activity.”

Analysis

At the regional level, messages emanating from Pakistan convey it is loosing patience with Karzai, while Afghan President is projecting the same impression about Pakistan. Meanwhile, the American relations with Kabul are equally shaky; over issues of sovereignty, civilian deaths and covert operations.

On the other hand, the Taliban have also not conveyed any positive vibes and the Qatar political office has all but turned out to be an R&R location. At least publicly, Afghan Taliban continue to claim they will not negotiate with puppet Karzai government, and its representatives may have even refused to meet Karzai last month in Doha.

In the midst of this deadlock, pressure may turn to Pakistan to move the reconciliation along. The reality is that with his own survival at stake, President Karzai is caught in a tough position and has no choice but to take up nationalistic rhetoric. As long as the credibility of Afghan leadership remains an issue, the goal of reaching a political solution will remain elusive.

The cost of the delay will be in the form of lost trade and economic opportunities that the region desperately needs to exploit. Moreover, it will also hamper efforts to improve Pakistan India ties.