- GS-2: India and its neighborhood- relations.
- GS-2: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Joe Biden’s Afghanistan peace plan
Context: The Joe Biden administration has proposed a new peace plan to the Afghan government and the Taliban, seeking to bring violence to a halt and form an interim government.
What is the American proposal?
- Involving other Stakeholders: US has proposed a UN-led conference of representatives of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the U.S. “to discuss a unified approach to support peace in Afghanistan”.
- Written Proposal to enhance Trust: US will share written proposals with the Afghan leadership and the Taliban to accelerate talks.
- Comprehensive Ceasefire and Inclusive government: US has urged both sides to reach a consensus on Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements; find a road map to a new “inclusive government”; and agree on the terms of a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”.
- Negotiations in third country: US has also proposed a senior level meeting of the Afghan government and the Taliban in Turkey to discuss power sharing, reduction of violence and other specific goals.
Why the U.S. is making this peace push?
- Review of Strategy: The Biden administration is currently reviewing its Afghan strategy. While the review is not completed, there is a consensus within the administration that “accelerating the peace process” is the best way to advance the shared interests of the U.S. and the Afghan government.
- Doha Agreement (US Withdrawal plan): According to the agreement the U.S. signed with the Taliban in February 2020, American troops – currently some 2,500 troops are in Afghanistan – are set to leave the country by May 1. The Taliban have warned that if the U.S. troops are not out by the deadline, they will step up fighting.
- Slow pace of peace talks: The Taliban and the Afghan government started peace talks in Doha in September 2020 but reached no breakthrough. The Biden administration is concerned about the slow pace of the talks.
- Restraining Taliban and Regional Stability: The U.S. assessment is that if American troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, the Taliban would make quick gains and the security situation will worsen. It hopes that the best way to prevent a complete Taliban takeover is a regional peace process and an interim unity government. The Taliban are yet to respond to America’s proposal.
What is the Afghan government’s stand?
- Critical of US’s direct talks with Taliban: The Ghani administration has consistently been critical of the U.S.’s direct outreach to the Taliban. The Trump administration held direct talks with the Taliban, excluding the government. Later, US put pressure on Kabul to release Taliban prisoners as part of Doha agreement.
- Against making concession to Taliban: Even when the Doha talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were under way, Mr. Ghani made it clear that he, as elected President, is the only legitimate representative of the Afghan people and he resisted making concessions to the Taliban.
- Democratic Process and Internal Interference: President Ghani reiterated his opposition to any transfer of power except through elections. Afghanistan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a hardline critic of the Taliban, said the U.S. “can make a decision on their troops, not on the people of Afghanistan”.
- While the Afghan government’s opposition to sharing power with the Taliban is well known, it is not clear whether Mr. Ghani could continue to resist American pressure, especially if the U.S. brings regional powers, including India, on board.
- If the US decides to stick to the Taliban deal and withdraw troops by May, Mr. Ghani would be in a tougher spot. He doesn’t have any good options. If he rejects the American offer, the war will continue forever.
- The Taliban have already taken over much of the country’s hinterlands and are breathing down the neck of its cities.
- If Afghanistan President Ghani accepts the proposal, he will have to share power with the Taliban and discuss amendments to the Constitution and the future governance framework.
- Either way, the Taliban are set to make gains.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s projects in Afghanistan – Salma Dam
- Moral impact of deal on anti-India terrorist groups