A four page document titled the ‘Peace Process Roadmap to 2015’ seems to be scripting events and future developments in AfPak. Reportedly drafted by the Afghan President Karzai and his inner circle, the document’s western ‘tone and tenor’ has led some analyst to suspect a foreign linkage. The ‘roadmap to 2015’ on the letter head of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) and datelined November 2012 enumerates a five step process; each step with its objectives and superimposed on a timeline. The plan was presented to Pakistan and the US during visits in November 2012 by the HPC Chairman Salauddin Rabbani. The roadmap 2015 is not without its grey areas, and opens itself to varying interpretations and implications.
The Afghan peace process envisions that “by 2015, Taliban and other armed groups will have given up armed opposition, transformed from military entities into political parties…and participated in national elections.” And more significantly “NATO/ISAF forces will have departed from Afghanistan, leaving the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) as the only legitimate armed forces…” The roadmap, however, seeks to preserve Afghanistan as a parliamentary democracy, denying the militants the Islamic rule.
The first step of the process includes an end to cross-border shelling, the transfer of Taliban prisoners by Pakistan to Afghanistan or a third country, and pressure on the Taliban to sever ties with al-Qaeda. Step two (slotted for the first half of 2013) includes amongst other issues, agreement on the terms of direct peace talks. The third step slated for the second half of 2013, envisages a ceasefire. Recent events indicate that the first step of the roadmap has largely been implemented despite glitches such as the Taliban’s refusal to talk directly to the Karzai government, seek changes to the Afghan constitution and insistence on withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.
A key factor in the peace process has been how the US has ‘reconciled’ its objectives in AfPak. US now believes that the reason it is in Afghanistan is al-Qaeda; an objective that has either been met or is on the verge of being met substantially. The success of the drone campaign and killing of Osama bin Laden are supportive of the notion. The nation building efforts in Afghanistan and the conflict with the Taliban were only means to an end- eliminating al-Qaeda in the region, which paradoxically was mainly in Pakistan. Hence, further engagement of Taliban or nation building are not worthy of more efforts .The primary U.S. national security interests in the region are ( and have been) to quell terrorism against the US and this will determine its future posture in the region including exercising a ‘zero option’ on residual force levels in Afghanistan post 2014. The ‘zero option’ incidentally is viewed by some analysts as supportive of the ‘Roadmap to 2015’ as it addresses a key Taliban demand.