U.S. troops in Afghanistan could undermine Afghan peace talks initiated by Russia, China and Pakistan, even though all four nations are seemingly interested in stabilizing Afghanistan.
The grave differences in the Afghan approach between the U.S. and the China-Russia-Pakistan bloc create a dissonance that could lead to reopening the festering wound. As a result, the world could end up with a less stable Afghanistan, something that could spiral the conflict there into a heated war among nations.
The long Afghan war has become the focus of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Central and South Asia policy. Like most of his decisions in the White House so far, his Afghanistan policies have attracted a fair share of criticism. The U.S. is mulling sending 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, but the decision risks undermining the peace talks pushed forward by Russia, China and Pakistan.
As Moscow, Beijing and Islamabad have been paving the way to reduced tensions in the region, Washington also considers a crackdown on Pakistan over its alleged terrorism ties. But any attempts to put pressure on Islamabad, such as, imposing sanctions, cutting aid or discarding its position as a non-NATO ally, would most likely push the nation further toward Russia and China.
U.S. disregards Afghan peace talks by Russia, China and Pakistan
Amid the reports that the Trump administration is planning to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to tackle the growing terrorism threat in the region, Washington seems to disregard the ongoing peace talks initiated by Russia, China and Pakistan.
Increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is out of tune with any peace talks, which are about putting weapons away. As the Trump administration is considering beefing up its military presence, Russia, China and Pakistan are trying to find a peaceful solution to stabilizing Afghanistan and reducing the regional terrorism threat, which is equally hurting Islamabad, Beijing and Moscow.
The three nations have gone to the extremes of inviting Afghan Taliban representatives to attend the Afghan peace talks and removing the names of certain Taliban figures from a United Nations sanctions list to help fortify the negotiations. However, the U.S. apparently has harsher ideas on how to stabilize the country.
Trump’s plans for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan and a hard Pakistan line
Central and South Asia is becoming a big headache for Trump, as the increased terror threat there prompts the Trump administration to make tough decisions. His decisions on Afghanistan and Pakistan come amid the world’s heightened attention to tackling terrorism in the region. In an effort to settle the conflict, the U.S. is reportedly considering putting India – Pakistan’s arch rival – at the forefront of solving the Afghan crisis. This move alone is expected to draw ire from Pakistan and further worsen U.S.-Pakistan ties.
Amid Washington’s plans for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, countries in the region and Russia, China and Pakistan fear that the U.S. wants to set up a permanent base in the war-torn Afghanistan under the pretense of fighting terrorist groups in the region. In order to eradicate terrorism and bring down tensions, Trump would have to adopt strong diplomatic efforts while also increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and strong-arming Pakistan, the two things that will most likely undermine the peace talks initiated by Moscow, Beijing and Islamabad.
The problem is that it would be challenging for the Trump administration to adopt strong diplomatic efforts on Afghanistan while cutting the budget of the State Department by one-third. Late last month, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan left the post of Special Representative – commonly known as SRAP – along with her deputy, triggering speculations that Trump might eliminate the post altogether.
Eliminating the post created in 2009 by then-President Barack Obama to monitor and handle the volatile situations in Kabul and Islamabad would go in line with Trump’s announced pledge to cut the State Department’s budget.
Is Trump optimistic or pessimistic about the peace talks?
The matters of Afghanistan and Pakistan are currently handled by the Department of South Asia and Central Asia, which lacks leadership now, as the Trump administration has yet to appoint people to serve in the department. It only seems logical that the department must be healthy and cohesive enough to be making such fundamental decisions as deploying thousands of additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
It’s yet unclear how more American troops in Afghanistan would be viewed by Russia, China and Pakistan. but it’s fair to say that the prospect of a beefed up U.S. military presence would probably not sit well with them. The increased military presence could undermine the Afghan peace talks altogether, while Moscow, Beijing and Islamabad consider those talks as the only viable option to counter the growing terrorism threat in the region. Meanwhile, any attempts to put pressure on Islamabad would further deteriorate U.S.-Pak ties, and Russia is seeing an opportunity to boost its own influence in the region.
In recent months months, Russia has been active in mediating the Afghan peace talks. Its increased role in the crisis came when Islamabad and Beijing invited it to take the lead in stabilizing Afghanistan. In order to achieve peace and prosperity there, Russia has even engaged in dialogues with the Taliban, drawing criticism in Washington and the West.
Russia, China and Pakistan seem to believe that involving the Taliban in the Afghan peace talks is the only real solution to bringing peace to the war-torn country. What does the U.S. think about it? The plans to for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan do not make Washington sound particularly optimistic about those peace talks.