Any hope for the Afghan reconciliation process have been shattered after the Taliban announced the launch of a fresh spring offensive against government strongholds backed by suicide and guerrilla attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan, as part of the quadrilateral coordination group involving Afghanistan, China and the US, was trying to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, but this latest announcement of the Taliban has made the prospects of a peace process uncertain. Islamabad is irked by the decision of the Taliban, and it has warned them to shun violence or pay a heavy price. The Taliban earlier this month had announced the start of Operation Omari, named after the late Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, pledging to launch large-scale offensives to oust the west-backed Afghan government from power.
After the stalling of the Murree talks, a second round of meetings has been initiated to find a roadmap to bring the bloodshed to an end in Afghanistan, but all have proved futile so far. It is still unclear which faction of the Taliban is ready to become part of the peace talks since internal divisions within the Taliban stepped up attacks in Afghanistan, and their refusal to hold talks with the incumbent Kabul government has added uncertainty to an already complicated situation. On its part, Pakistan is making efforts to convince the Taliban to join the talks. Pakistan is making efforts to mediate between the Taliban and Afghan government. According to a media report, Pakistan had agreed to cut off financial support to the Taliban fighters, including in Quetta and Peshawar. If true, the development shows that Pakistan’s role is critical in bringing peace to war-torn Afghanistan. After recent development, Pakistan can no longer deny the presence on its soil or its links with the Afghan Taliban. So far Pakistan has remained silent on the presence of the sanctuaries of the Taliban in Pakistan. Islamabad itself has realized that it could no longer hide its links with the Taliban who are posing a real threat not only to Afghanistan but Pakistan too. The involvement of China and the US is significant as it can help strike a peace deal with the Taliban. Those militants who are ready to quit violence must be engaged in talks while those who are not ready to lay down their arms should be eliminated. Peace is in the interests of all stakeholder countries, the region and the world. Now there is a scenario where the Taliban leaders have announced that they will increase their intensity of attacks to derail any dialogue process. Given this scenario, Pakistan’s much vaunted influence over the Taliban, upon which the hope for the resumption of the peace process is reliant, seems increasingly doubtful. But, even when all pessimistic prognoses are made, the talks remain the only viable solution for the problem of the Afghan insurgency. The process, no matter how fraught or uncertain, must be persisted with for the sake of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the entire region. The only alternative is continuation of war, which is not affordable anymore.