Research about peace prospect in Afghanistan
The events taking place in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at present (such as the withdrawal of foreign troops, the strengthening of the Taliban forces, the increase in drug trafficking, the change in the ruling elite) are of concern to the entire world community. Preservation of stability and security in Afghanistan and the region of Central Asia requires a more thorough and coordinated approach from all stakeholders in this process. The current stalemate resulting from the attempt to forcefully unleash the "Afghan knot" once again demonstrates to the world the futility of a military solution to the problem.
Despite the elimination of the leader of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and the government and coalition forces carrying out the so-called clean-up operations, the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRA) is still not stable. The Afghan National Army, as well as law enforcement and intelligence agencies so far cannot fully ensure security and stability in the country, protect its interests, independently conduct military operations, and resist radical Islamist groups. Therefore, it can be stated that complete control of the situation by the central authorities throughout the country, even with the help of NATO forces, has not been established. The leaders of most ethnic clans, as well as field commanders, maintain independence in different parts of Afghanistan and determine the situation in the country to a greater extent than the central government and peacekeeping contingent (Congressional Research Service 1-3).
Despite the antiterrorist campaign of the United States and NATO countries on the territory of the IRA, the activities of terrorist groups have increased in recent years in Afghanistan (Kaura 2-3). The signs that the "crushed" Taliban movement is regaining its strength appeared in early 2003, when the Taliban launched a series of major attacks on coalition forces. NATO's involvement in the Afghan campaign spurred the Taliban to form a resistance movement, the main goal of which was the fight against the "new crusaders" represented by NATO (Zahid 31-44).
At the end of 2014, the international coalition announced the end of Operation Enduring Freedom, the withdrawal of most of the troops, and the transition to Operation Resolute Support. The main role in the conduct of hostilities with the Taliban passed to the Afghan army, after which a sharp escalation of the situation in the country began. At present, the Taliban fully controls 13% of the regions of Afghanistan, and the Taliban openly operate for another 50% of the country's territory, conducting active military operations against government forces. 37% of areas are under the control of the Afghan authorities or their status is not determined (Congressional Research Service 1-3).
The last aggravation occurred at the beginning of August 2018, when the Taliban captured and held Ghazni town 100 km south-west of Kabul for several days. The seizure led to considerable destruction and the death of dozens of civilians and military personnel. Similar fighting took place in the northern province of Faryab and other regions. Along with the fighting between government forces and the Taliban, the situation is worsened by the presence of Islamic State terrorists in the country, with whom both sides of the conflict are at war (Vestenskov and Hasan 10-12).
Despite the efforts of the international community, the Afghan national army and police, who are stuck in a web of internal problems, are hardly ready and able to effectively deal with the armed opposition. In this scenario, the position and influence of the Taliban as the subject of a possible political dialogue with the authorities is strengthened. The situation that has arisen is, in many ways, reminiscent of the recent page in the Afghan history related to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from this country. The Afghan transformation, in which many see the forced and necessary measure to get out of this situation, evokes a certain feeling of déjà vu (Byrd 1-2).
Modern Afghanistan has not lost its geostrategic and geopolitical significance, especially, given the diverse natural resources that are very necessary for Afghanistan’s regional neighbors. A peaceful resolution of the Afghan conflict will depend on concerted actions by neighboring Asian states in resolving the socio-economic and inter-ethnic problems of Afghanistan.
China regards Afghanistan as a vital zone for the security of the western part of its territory. China is extremely interested in the fact that militants and terrorists in the territory of Afghanistan are not prepared for their subsequent use in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the PRC. Afghanistan is also an important corridor through which China can protect its interests in Pakistan (China’s traditional ally in competition with India) and ensure access to the vital natural resources of the region. China is particularly interested in combating drug smuggling, since Badakhshan, an Afghan province bordering China’s Xinjiang province, has become the main transit route for Afghan opium (Saud and Ahmad 127-138).
Moreover, for Beijing, the priority is also to prevent 'infiltrating' Xinjiang with religious extremism inspired by the Taliban and other extremist organizations and structures. In this regard, the PRC is actively conducting reconnaissance activities to reveal bases for training militants and terrorists in Afghanistan (Saud and Ahmad 127-138).
While the United States is waging an unspoken war with Russia, Beijing is penetrating the region. According to the Chinese government, the PRC deeply appreciates the cooperation of the two countries and in the future intends only to strengthen friendly relations through the provision of financial assistance and the development of entire sectors of the economy (Khan 1-11). China can also play an enormous role in improving Afghan-Pakistani relations, which will certainly affect the overall situation in the region (Saud and Ahmad 135-136).
It should be noted that the security policy of the SCO is inseparable from resolving the Afghan problem, given the fact that the priority of the organization’s activities is, precisely, to ensure the regional and national security of the Central Asian states. Since the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century, stability in the Central Asian region has increasingly depended on the military-political conflict in Afghanistan (Dasgupta 5-6).
According to Chinese experts, the main problem affecting political stability in Afghanistan is the conflict between India and Pakistan over the province of Kashmir, which is the key to peace in Afghanistan. Therefore, the political plans of the Republic of India include the stabilization of Afghanistan and the strengthening of the central authority in Kabul as the most important directions, as it promises to reduce the terrorist threat in the region (Khan 4-5). Islamists are trying to prevent the strengthening of Indian political positions in Kabul. The current diplomatic missions of India constantly receive threats from the Taliban and other extremist organizations operating in the territory of Afghanistan. However, the Indian side is doing a lot for the development of economic relations, which is the key to positive trends in the political stabilization of Afghanistan (Vestenskov and Hasan 6-7).
Pakistan has always been interested in preserving the unity of the state of Afghanistan, because, otherwise, it will negatively affect its state structure, since it will lead to an exacerbation of the "Pashtun problem." At the same time, Islamabad is interested in a weak Afghan government, which is not up to the "Great Pashtunistan" and which, in general, will need the support of a large neighboring state (Khan and Abbasi 59-74). However, not only Pakistan is concerned about the ethnic problems of Afghanistan, but also the Islamic Republic of Iran, as experts say, constantly attempts (for example, initiatives by the former Iranian President Ahmadinejad) to spread Iranian influence through the revival of Persian nationalism in the region, involving, along with Afghanistan, the idea of a single state of Persian-speaking peoples) (Kaura 9). As part of this campaign, large financial and humanitarian support was provided, aimed at developing trade and cultural, as well as religious propaganda against the influence of Wahhabis sponsored from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. However, the strengthening of the Taliban, the beginning of the international mission, and the introduction of a large contingent of NATO forces led by the United States gradually limited the influence of Iran, but Tehran is not going to completely abandon attempts to defend and realize its political interests while continuing to influence the various friendly ethnic communities of Afghanistan (Congressional Research Service 3-4).
At present, there is an obvious intensification of work on the peaceful settlement of the Afghan problem, taking into account the current geopolitical realities of the country in the framework of the Afghanistan-SCO contact group, caused by the awareness of the need to take preventive measures to implement the interests of the Central Asian states. The complex military-political situation in Afghanistan is one of the main obstacles to regional integration and the realization of the highest priority joint interest of the Central Asian states associated with providing these states with alternative and complementary transport communications. Although there is a SCO-Afghanistan contact group, a multilateral cooperation format is needed to coordinate the efforts of all stakeholders in the Afghan peace process.
It is necessary to develop a mechanism for the peaceful settlement process, as well as close cooperation between NATO - SCO - CSTO to resolve the Afghan problem and coordinate efforts to ensure regional security. For this, apparently, it is necessary to strengthen the dialogue of the SCO-Afghanistan, establish effective consultations within the link SCO-NATO, the SCO-the USA. Common interests, such as the fight against Islamist terrorist networks, organized crime, and drug trafficking, as well as a common interest in the development of Afghanistan, create the basis for enhancing such regional cooperation. It may be necessary to develop a stabilization program of Afghanistan together with the participants of the Afghan dialogue, given that many of the SCO development projects depend on stabilizing the situation in the region and resolving the Afghan problem (Vestenskov and Hasan 13). It seems to be optimal for the settlement process in Afghanistan to include the capabilities of its neighbors - members of the SCO (Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), who have great influence in the north of the country, as well as the SCO observer countries.