Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Peace Plan: A Milestone in the Efforts

After weeks of diplomatic efforts, the so-called quadrilateral coordination group of the four-nation peace initiative has agreed on a roadmap for peace negotiations between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan. Officials announced the agreement at the end of the third meeting of the four-way talks which was held on Saturday in Islamabad aimed at establishing a framework for peace negotiations with the groups of the Taliban. However, details of the plan are unknown yet. According the statement of the Islamabad meeting, the participants of the group hope that a date would be specified for direct peace talks by end of the month.
The establishment of a roadmap to govern peace efforts for resumption of negotiations with the Taliban as well as the process of the possible talks is marking a milestone in the long-running efforts for bringing Taliban leaders to the table of peace negotiations. Though the details of the plan are yet to be known, the optimisms suggest a major breakthrough in the efforts to set a framework for negotiations with the Taliban. The four-way group has set a bold timeframe for resumption of talks with the Taliban groups. However, it is premature to believe that there will be an early resumption of peace talks with the Talks, which the four-nation coordination group has predicted within one month.
The roadmap for peace talks has undoubtedly set mechanisms for bringing different Taliban groups to the peace process. One of the key expectations of the Afghan government from the peace efforts is a noticeable reduction in violence in Afghanistan. It is expected that the plan include ways for pressurizing the militant groups for negotiations and for dealing with those groups who refuse to come to the peace talks and continue waging war against the government. Afghan officials have recently been talking about a pledge by Pakistan to clampdown on the Taliban groups who refuse to come to the negotiations for peace. It would make a major difference, if the new peace plan of the four-nation initiative commits Pakistan to taking military action against those Taliban groups who refuse to enter the talks with the government of Afghanistan.
Reduction in violence across the country is one of the key objectives of the Afghan government from the peace process. Government officials have specified their expectations to see an apparent reduction in violence or even a possible ceasefire within two months from start of negotiations with the militant groups. It is time to see if there are sufficient measures envisaged in the peace plan for persuading the Taliban into an early ceasefire or reduction of violence. Sartaj Aziz, Pakistani Prime Minister’s security and foreign affairs advisor has asserted that the efforts to join all Taliban groups into the process would help in considerable reduction of violence in Afghanistan. With the next Taliban’s summer offensive looming, the government of Afghanistan needs to continue the efforts to raise the issue as one of its key demands in the process of negotiations. The government should take military actions against those militant groups who refuse join the negotiations for a peace settlement.
From now on, a very key question would be whether which Taliban groups would be persuaded to come to the table of negotiations. Mr. Aziz has said that the joint efforts should be focused on encouraging more of the Taliban groups to join the process. The statement suggests the peace roadmap aims to try to include as many Taliban groups as possible into the process. This will mean that the preference would be to open talks with all militant groups including the two main Taliban factions, the Haqqani network, Hekmatyar faction and other smaller groups. Apparently, the Islamic State group is excluded from the plan. The Islamic State is viewed as not having a suitable environment in Afghanistan to grow into a major and long-term threat. In addition, all parties including the Afghan government, Pakistan and the US have uncompromising stance over the presence and activities of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
The efforts will now be focused on contacting the Taliban groups, making arrangements and setting a date for first direct talks between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban. About three weeks ago, a delegation of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, who is loyal to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, participated in a meeting in Doha, in which they announced a number of pre-conditions for coming to the table of peace negotiations. Excluding names of the Taliban leaders from the UN blacklist, taking down awards set for arrest or killing of the militant leaders and releasing Taliban prisoners were among the demands. If the Taliban stand by their preconditions, it would create a short-term challenge to the efforts to persuade the group to come to the negotiations without setting any preconditions. In the midterm, the government of Afghanistan and the four-nation initiative would have no option but to accept many of the recently-stated preconditions of the Taliban. This will include providing some sort of immunity to the militant leaders to be able to travel and attend peace meetings.