U.S.-Taliban deal would have been disastrous for Afghanistan: Diplomats

Criticising the United States for having carried out talks with the Taliban without involving the Afghan government or regional players, the Iranian Ambassador to India said here that Tehran is “worried” about the prospect of a Taliban-led government in Kabul. Iran’s worries matched Indian concerns over the deal, which Indian diplomats said would have “thrown Afghanistan under the bus.”

“Taliban doesn’t recognise a Republic of the people; it wants to establish an ‘Emirate’, where all orders will come from one centralised non-elected power. We hope that will not happen,” said Iranian Ambassador Ali Chegeni at an interaction organised by the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents (IAFAC on Monday.

Kabul excluded

Reacting to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the deal with the Taliban that was reportedly in its final stages, Mr. Chegeni said the main problem with the deal being negotiated between U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives in Doha was that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government was not at the table for the talks.

Iran was invited to regional talks on the Afghanistan peace process in Beijing, attended by China, Russia, U.S. and Pakistan, but had declined to attend because the Ghani government was not represented.

India has yet to formally respond to the dramatic turn of events, which led to the U.S. cancelling a planned meeting with Taliban leaders and with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at ‘Camp David’ over the weekend to announce a peace deal. Officials said they would prefer to take a cautious approach, in the event Washington tried to salvage talks with the Taliban again.

Revival possible

“I don’t think the deal has been completely jettisoned yet,” said former Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha, who is now a member of the National Security Advisory Board, and represented India in a “non-official capacity” at the Moscow talks with the Taliban.

“I think India should be happy that Afghanistan has been saved from being thrown under a bus for the moment. The deal would have put a question mark over everything from the government and constitution to the election process in Afghanistan,” Mr Sinha said, referring to the Presidential elections in Afghanistan due on September 28.

It was clear, however that the two biggest losers from the development were Pakistan, that controlled various Taliban leaders, as well as Mr. Khalilzad, who had spent the last year preparing the deal, Mr. Sinha said.

Former diplomat Rajiv Dogra warned that the talks had only been put on “pause” and not cancelled as yet.

He said the main sticking point for the Taliban controlled by the Pakistani military, had become the U.S. desire to maintain intelligence operatives and a 5,000 strong contingent of troops in Afghanistan, which would have weakened the Pakistani military’s grip in a post-deal Afghanistan.

Former Special Envoy to the United Nations Chinmaya Garekhan said the “mindless acts of violence” perpetrated by the Taliban were the final straw.