Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 19th, 2018

The Right Approach for Peace

Representatives from Afghanistan, US, China and Pakistan called on the Taliban to resume peace talks with the Afghan government. The quadrilateral coordination group agreed that the next meeting would again be held about two weeks in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. According to the statement issued at the end of the second meeting in Kabul, the participants of the four-Nation talks in Kabul discussed over establishment of a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has expressed optimism over the trend of the talks among Afghanistan, US, China and Pakistan for paving the ground for resumption of peace negotiations with Taliban. Opening the talks in Kabul, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said that “collective will” of the group for a robust support for results-oriented peace efforts in Afghanistan has been encouraging for the Afghan government. He also praised Pakistan’s willingness for using all means against those Taliban groups who refuse to denounce violence and not willing to enter peace talks with the Afghan government.

The officials of the Afghan foreign ministry said that the Afghan government expects a final roadmap to be established in the next meeting of the four-Nation meeting. However, the Afghan government seems to be highly optimistic to achieve concrete results in kick-starting the stalled peace negotiations. It is hoped that the technical issues over establishing plan for direct peace negotiations with the Taliban would be concluded soon. The optimisms of the Afghan and Pakistan governments indicate that the four-Nation talks are, at least for the time being, in the right direction. Many had more expectations from the quadrilateral talks in Kabul to establish a plan for resuming negotiations with the Taliban.

It is for a long time that the Afghan government is trying to kick-start peace negotiations with the Taliban to end the bloody conflict in the country. Most of the efforts have been in vain while many others were disrupted after some initial successes. The most important events in the peace efforts in past years were the opening of Taliban political office in Qatar and the direct talks between Taliban and Afghan High Peace Council. The Qatar initiative failed after former president Hamid Karzai lambasted the US for the Taliban flag raised over the group’s office in Qatar and demanded closure of the office. The last one, which resulted in first direct talks between the Taliban and Afghan government failed after announcement of the death of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The ongoing initiative for peace in Afghanistan is the first in its nature. It is perhaps the most important with high potential for lasting and sustainable peace negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Highly complicated war and peace negotiations like the one going on for resolving the conflict in Afghanistan require a robust diplomacy and a right approach from the leading sides. Afghanistan cannot lead a sustained peace negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgent groups without a comprehensive regional diplomacy in support of the talks with establishing a plan governing peace negotiations. The peace initiative is need to be backed up with capacities of the parties and countries that are believed to have influence over Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban as direct stakeholders of the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government in the past sought a wrong approach in reaching out to Pakistan or directly to the Taliban. The Afghan government chose to put pressures on Pakistan to bring Taliban leaders into direct peace talks with the Afghan government. It failed to seek a broader regional and international alliance that includes Pakistan, and in the meantime, puts pressures on the country to help in restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. But this time, presence of China and the US is crucial for convincing Pakistan to do more to bring Taliban leaders on the table of negotiations. On the other hand, the four-nation coordination group governing the process of peace talks with the Taliban is vital for mounting شjoint efforts for keeping the talks on track and preventing likely disruptions in the process.

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group is expected to establish the roadmap for peace negotiations with the Taliban in its next meeting in Islamabad. It is expected that the plan specify supporting roles of every country and mention key measures for starting the talks. Pakistan and government-approved sources in Afghanistan will now need to contact the Taliban for hearing from the Taliban leadership and preparing for setting venue and dates of possible talks between the group and the Afghan government. The roadmap which is expected to be finalized in Islamabad within next two weeks is expected to set the procedures for these measures. It is important for all the involved countries to discuss all aspects of a likely peace deal between Afghanistan and the Taliban. This would help Afghanistan and Pakistan find a common ground over the peace process.  A key expectation of the Afghan government from the peace efforts is an apparent decrease of violence in the country. Afghan authorities have mentioned a decrease of violence in next two months as the four-nation talks are going to conclude a plan for the peace process. Reduction of level of violence in the country may be very unlikely in a shorter time but it should be one of the key issues in the initial talks with the militant group.