Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, December 13th, 2019

Regional Stakeholders Signal their Support to Afghan Peace Process

Afghan people call on the Taliban to hold direct talks with the Kabul administration and Afghan officials hold out hope that the talks will be restarted. US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who led nearly a year of talks with the Taliban on a peace settlement, has briefed members of the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee and shared with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan “how far his negotiations with the Taliban had gone, the nature of the talks and what expectations he holds in the future”.
In an open hearing, US acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells told the House panel the US-Taliban talks had “broken new ground in this last round of negotiations that took place,” and also hinted the Trump administration has not ruled out a return to the bargaining table. She is cited as saying, “We would like to see the Taliban take actions that would allow us to return to negotiations.”
After the cancellation of US-Taliban talks, Taliban delegations traveled to Russia and Iran to signal that they seek a revival of peace talks with Washington. Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen vowed to continue peace talks with the US, provided that the US “shows commitment to what they have agreed”.
Expressing disappointment with the breakdown of US-Taliban negotiations, Russia’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, described Trump’s cancellation of US talks with the Taliban was a “negative signal” but said that statements from Taliban representatives and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised hopes for future dialogue.
Over the past year, Russia has participated in trilateral summits with the US and China on ending the conflict in Afghanistan, allowing Moscow to exert influence over discussions on a withdrawal of US troops. As the United States was on the threshold of signing a peace deal with the Taliban, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia was ready to be a “guarantor” of any future Afghan peace settlement.
Although the Afghan government disapproves of Russia hosting the Taliban, Moscow has insisted that its involvement in peace talks is motivated by national security concerns, rather than aspirations for diplomatic influence and claims that it does not have any particular interest in “filling the vacuum in Afghanistan”.
But Russia has to consult with the Afghan government and support intra-Afghan dialogue or else it seems that Moscow is interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. In the wake of the destructive role of the Soviet Union in 1980s, Afghan people view Russia with mistrust and believe that it simply seeks to continue its political rivalries with the United States through hosting Taliban delegations, which will only add to the Taliban’s credibility and international recognition. Hence, Russia should not give much credit to a terrorist group which is widely involved in killing Afghan soldiers and civilians. To prove its sincerity, Russia should use its leverage on the Taliban to stop violence and hold direct talks with the Afghan government.
Chinese officials have expressed their willingness to work with global powers to support Afghan peace process. China-Afghan relations are based on mutual trust and mutual respect. Both the Afghan government and Afghan nation are optimistic about the role of China in the peace process.
Meanwhile, Chinese officials seek to cement ties between Kabul and Islamabad, which will contribute to the peace process. Afghans hope that China and Pakistan will be able to broker the intra-Afghan dialogue and pressure the Taliban to reduce violence.
As the relations between Islamabad and Washington has been thawed, Afghans hope that Pakistan will play more active role in the peace process. Although Pakistani officials promised to engage more in the process, they yet to take more practical steps and broker talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Iran’s role is also viewed with distrust in Afghanistan. Since relations between Tehran and Washington has hit rock bottom, Iran is going to mitigate Washington’s pressure through signaling leverage on the Taliban. Perhaps, Iran is also angry about being marginalized in the peace talks despite being Afghanistan’s immediate neighbor.
The Afghan government welcomes any neighbors to play constructive role in the peace process and calls on the Taliban to reduce violence and hold direct negotiations. Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and regional and global stakeholders have to prove their sincerity through pushing the Taliban to sit around the negotiating table with the Afghan government and pressuring them to reduce violence.