Collaborative governance key to Afghan peace

By By Xiao Bin Published: 2019/10/4 10:38:06

File photo: VCG

In the study of internal armed conflict management, collaborative governance among major powers is an important research topic. It can reduce conflicts and help promote peace. Donald Trump administration's fetish for unilateralism failed to bring peace in Afghanistan, which again reaffirms how important collaborative governance is. 

After taking office, Trump started to fulfill his election promises to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. In August 2017, Trump publicly announced the new US strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia, which was a sign of the US reshaping the regional order. In July 2018, the Trump administration decided to hold direct talks with the Taliban. Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Afghanistan, was appointed the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation at the US State Department in September 2018. Khalilzad has been in charge of talks with the Taliban. After the talks, the US and the Taliban made some progress. On March 12, Khalilzad announced that the US and the Taliban reached a draft agreement, a major milestone for Afghan peace as the militant group had refused to talk with Afghan government. 

However, Khalilzad's draft agreement was not widely recognized in the Trump administration. Then US national security adviser John Bolton argued that the Taliban cannot be trusted to fulfill their promises. The massive tractor bomb explosion in Kabul on September 2 proved the bellicose official right. On September 8, Trump tweeted that he had canceled the secret US meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Taliban leaders, saying "if they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks… they probably don't have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway."

During the Afghan peace process, the Taliban has been divided into two groups, the hard-liners and the moderates. The former want victory by force, while the latter seek peace through dialogue. After negotiations with the Trump administration came to naught, the Taliban delegation visited Russia and China to show that they have still not given up the desire for peace. Not long after consultations with Zamir Kabulov, Russia's special envoy to Afghanistan, the Taliban delegation visited Beijing to meet Deng Xijun, China's special envoy for Afghanistan affairs and discussed the Afghanistan-US peace talks. Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban in Qatar, said that "the Chinese special representative said the US-Taliban deal is a good framework for the peaceful solution of the Afghan issue and they support it." In fact, by saying so, the Taliban was expressing goodwill to the Trump administration, hoping to restore negotiations with the US.

In the Afghan peace process, China prefers to promote peace through international cooperation. For example, China has cooperated with the US to train Afghan diplomats, pushed Pakistan to release a joint statement in July with China, Russia and the US on Afghan peace process, and supported the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in boosting cooperation with Afghanistan. 

Afghanistan's peace is in line with China's national interests. But if the peace process reverses, China has the ability to control Afghan armed conflicts within a limit. For this purpose, China has strengthened its military and technological cooperation with Pakistan and Tajikistan to address regional defense weaknesses. China has also introduced artificial intelligence, facial recognition, unmanned aerial vehicles and other high technologies to border area management, improving the ability to respond to potential threats.

Generally, collaborative governance is of great importance to promote peace in Afghanistan. In particular, China and the US should make use of their own advantages to strengthen cooperation in the Afghan peace process. This not only benefits Afghanistan's peace, but also is in line with the interests of both China and the US.

The author is associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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