Afghan peace process faces headwinds

By Xiao Bin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/2 18:43:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT



Afghanistan's peace process is barely satisfactory despite efforts of the international community. According to the latest figures released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), civilian deaths in the country hit a record high in the first six months of 2018. Other factors are also influencing the peace process, such as relationship between related major powers, the stability of the current Afghan government and the spread of religious extremism in Central Asian countries.

There is obvious opposition among the major powers involved. Cooperation among China, Russia and the US can promote the Afghanistan peace process. However, US relations with China and Russia have plummeted during the second year of the Donald Trump administration. The China-US trade war is also harming their ties.

Washington abandoned cooperation on the Afghanistan issue, showing its tendency to act unilaterally. In July, US officials met Taliban leaders for peace talks on Afghanistan. The US then refused to take part in Afghanistan peace talks hosted by Russia in September, while China accepted the Kremlin's invitation. The US may disagree with the agenda set by China and Russia on Afghanistan, and such a situation will obviously be detrimental to the peace process.

The stability of the Ashraf Ghani administration is another factor. There is still a year to go for the next Afghan presidential election. As the officials focus on their own political career in the future, it's hard for the Ghani administration to play a more active role in Afghanistan's peace process. Hanif Atmar, the country's national security adviser, resigned on August 25. Some observers believe that Atmar is preparing for the 2019 presidential election. According to an official in Ghani's office, they have "received four resignations by two ministers and two senior security officials." Perhaps because of the instability, the government also refused to participate in the peace talks in Moscow. People shouldn't expect too much coming out from the talks if the US and Afghanistan are absent.

The spread of religious extremism in Central Asian countries has also diverted their effort to promote Afghan peace process. And young people in the region influenced by religious extremism may join Afghan rebels. In June, leaders of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) signed a Joint Address of the Heads of SCO for the Youth, saying "we stress that the key role in counteracting the spread of terrorism, separatism and extremism among youth groups is played by the states and their competent bodies, including through their close interaction within the SCO regional counter-terrorist structure." It shows that religious extremism has seriously affected Central Asian countries, which is obviously an adverse factor in the external environment of the Afghan peace process.

The adverse factors in the Afghan peace process now tend to even outgrow the favorable ones. If relevant major powers can't coordinate, the Ghani administration becomes more unstable and religious extremism gets rampant in Central Asian countries, the Afghan peace process will go into hot water.

The author is deputy secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Research Center affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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