The recent visit to Tehran by Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, has raised many questions about the objective of his trip.
Abdullah’s visit came at a delicate point amid ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban and both the US and Afghan administrations at talks in Doha.
In February, the US reached a preliminary agreement with the Taliban under which US forces would withdraw from Afghanistan within 14 months, so long as the Taliban complied with the terms of the agreement.
Most of the terms, such as engaging in negotiations with the Afghan government or severing ties with Al-Qaeda, are not binding for the Taliban and thus make the agreement seem more like an unconditional withdrawal by the Americans.
For the US to pull its forces out of Afghanistan means nothing less than the Taliban’s emirate returning and the collapse of the Kabul government. Accordingly, arrangements are underway over the status of Afghanistan after the US withdrawal.
Amid all these expected transformations, the US is displaying wholly unjustified confidence in the Taliban, with Washington’s foremost motive being the desire to withdraw from the country in order to protect the lives of the remaining American troops. There is no consideration for the possibly grim future situation in Afghanistan.
There is a great likelihood that Afghanistan will become a hotspot for both domestic and international disputes following the withdrawal of US forces. At the regional level, the situation in Afghanistan will affect the balance of power in South Asia and also influence the increasing Indian-Pakistani problems as well as Indian-Chinese rivalry over commercial routes passing through Afghanistan and Central Asia.
At home, there is no doubt that fierce infighting will break out between the Taliban and the Kabul government. The Taliban emerging victorious is virtually a foregone conclusion since the US has deliberately kept the Afghan government weak in terms of its combat capabilities and armaments. Amid this expected war, terrorism will reposition itself in Afghan territories, making it a launchpad for wider attacks in the Middle East.
As if all this were not enough, human rights violations will intensify, with the Taliban further persecuting specific religious and racial minorities. This is in addition to the Taliban’s disregard of women’s rights, with the group continuing to violate the rights of Afghan women even during the ongoing peace negotiations.
Abdullah’s visit to Tehran opens the floodgates for Iranian intervention, especially since Tehran is doing nothing while, at the same time, impatiently awaiting the withdrawal of US forces so that it can resume and increase its influence in Afghanistan.
This time, Iran’s intervention will be more coordinated and professional after having established a strong network of relations with the Taliban during the years of US presence in Afghanistan. Iran also maintains a strong alliance with Russia and has significantly infiltrated Afghan communities by means of controlling and recruiting from the Hazara community; this numbers tens of thousands who receive their educations in Tehran and Qom.
Given all these perils besetting Afghanistan, Abdullah’s visit to Tehran adds more complexity to the Afghan landscape, especially if his personal motive for visiting Tehran is questioned. He is the main rival of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the country’s political landscape.
Abdullah, who stood in the Afghan presidential elections against Ghani last year, did not concede defeat following the count. Instead he declared himself president, making Afghanistan a state with two heads for the first five months of 2020. The two sides reached a power-sharing agreement in May under which Abdullah recognized Ghani as president while assuming responsibility for appointing some ministers as well as supervising the reconciliation process with the Taliban.
In addition, Abdul Rashid Dostum was promoted to the rank of marshal in the Afghan army. At this point, with Dostum emerging again onto the Afghan political landscape, it appeared clear that this was not a political power-sharing deal, but was instead an agreement reached to split power between the three major ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Ghani represented the Pashtuns, Abdullah the Farsi-speaking Afghan Tajiks, and Dostum the Uzbeks.
This was an official admission that the civil state building project in Afghanistan had been sidelined in favor of tribalism and ethnicity-based politics in which transboundary affiliations were evident and apparent.
There were rumors that Abdullah — whose supporters have been dismissed from Afghanistan’s Cabinet — was in Tehran to seek help from Iran in order to counter the influence of Ghani. However, it is also important to bear in mind that the visit came within the context of consultations with a neighboring country which affects — and is affected by — the Afghan reconciliation process.
Suppose the US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan, could Abdullah and his supporters overcome their differences with Ghani for the sake of strengthening the Afghan government? Could this happen in the face of the resurgent Taliban and hence succeed in formulating a bilateral agreement which ensures the continuation of a civil state in Afghanistan and also prevents the country from once again being transformed into a Taliban emirate?
Unfortunately, current indicators suggest that Afghanistan is on the verge of once again becoming a Taliban emirate which would guarantee regional and international imbalances and devastation domestically within Afghanistan. In such a situation, the foremost concern of the members of the Kabul government would be to protect their own lives rather than safeguarding the Afghan state. Each faction within the Kabul government would seek help from the capital with which it maintains racial and linguistic harmony.
This, in turn, would enable Iran’s regime to further extend its influence into Afghanistan through the Hazara and Tajik ethnic minorities. The Hazara community, which is a Shiite ethnic minority, has managed to win seats in the Afghan Parliament in recent years out of proportion to their numbers among the Afghan population. They have become more organized at the political level, richer, and better educated than previously.
At the same time, the Sunni Tajiks, who share the Farsi language with Iran, will undoubtedly resort to Tehran to counter the Pashtuns’ numerical superiority. The Uzbeks and their historical leader, Dostum, will most likely rely on their alliance with Russia.
In the midst of all this deal-breaking, warlords such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar will remain close to the Taliban, which will manipulate and then crush them.
Source » arabnews