The emergence of the Islamic State and the splintering of the Taliban have added to the complexities of the fragile process aimed at bringing the militants to the negotiating table, chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said on Thursday.
The National Unity Government will not compromise on “red lines” laid down for the peace process, such as protecting women’s rights, education and the democratic process, as it attempts to woo the Afghan Taliban, he said.
“There is a Daesh threat in Afghanistan...It will have an impact on the peace talks. Apart from that, there are different groups now among the Taliban...and this will have an impact on the talks,” Abdullah said in an interview with Hindustan Times.
“The talks have not started yet, so that’s the point,” he said, two days before the quadrilateral process involving Afghan, Chinese, Pakistani and US officials meet in Islamabad on February 6 to chart a roadmap for the negotiations.
Abdullah skirted questions on links between the attacks on the Pathankot airbase and the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif last month – both blamed on the Jaish-e-Mohammed – and whether such incidents were also linked to India’s recent decision to supply four gunship helicopters to Afghanistan and only said such assaults had occurred in the past too.
On the possibility of Afghanistan witnessing a proxy war between competing regional powers, Abdullah said his country’s stability and stabilisation were in the interests of the region. “It has to be seen from that lens. That is our expectation,” he said.
“What India has been doing has been in support of the Afghan government and empowering the Afghan people (and) institutions, that is in the interest of stabilisation.”
With Western powers devoting more resources to counter the Islamic State, Abdullah hoped the world community had learnt a lesson from the vacuum that was created after the West disengaged with Afghanistan in the 1990s following the Soviet withdrawal.
“There are very serious situations in Syria and Iraq and other parts of the world and that attracts focus and resources. That’s not just the military-security side of it there is also the civilian assistance,” he said.
“But our expectation is that since things were started here, and the terrorist groups have always maintained focus on Afghanistan, those who want to see a different situation (will continue to focus on the country).”
As Afghanistan tries to attract more trade and investment as part of efforts to stabilise the country, Abdullah said his country will continue to press Pakistan to allow direct trade with India.
Under the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, Afghan trucks can bring goods to the Indian border but are barred from ferrying Indian goods on the return journey.
“I can assure you that this has been a topic of discussion in our economic commission throughout, it has been and we will continue to focus on that. That’s in our interest as well as the interest of the region,” he said.