Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, March 6th, 2021

Breaking Peace Deadlock Will be Welcomed

Peace process began in March 2009. When the US administration showed tendency to negotiations with moderate elements of the Taliban and the Kabul government also wished to secure peace before the US troop pullout to avoid civil war in the country. The effort was proved abortive due to certain reason. Later the second attempt was made with inclusion of civil society in Paris and Tokyo in 2012.
The next session of the talks between the Taliban leadership and the Afghan government was held in Murree in July 2015. Pakistan was the host of the dialogue, while the United States and China attended the talks as observer. These were the first Afghan-led and Afghan-owned dialogue. The second round of these negotiations could not happen due to killing of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone attack in May 2016.
Moscow hosted a meeting in 2018 where Taliban were for the first time given an international stage. The United States attended the meeting as an observer.
However, the final round of intra-Afghan dialogue began in September in the Qatari capital of Doha after the Trump administration struck a security deal with the Taliban leadership in February last year, based on which the number of US soldiers reduced from nearly 13,000 a year ago to 2,500. But US President Joe Biden’s new administration has said it intends to “review” the Trump-Taliban deal.
The talks have stalled as the Taliban walked away from the negotiating table and their delegations traveled to neighboring countries. Recently, the Taliban leadership sent an open letter to the Biden administration in which it called for US troop withdrawal based on the deal signed between Washington and the Taliban. Nonetheless, the Biden administration is not in a hurry to withdraw the US troops and NATO members also declared that it would support the Afghan government and its troop pullout would be condition-based. The main reason behind maintaining troops in Afghanistan is that the Taliban have not honored their deal with Washington as they did not sever their ties with al-Qaeda. Meanwhile the Taliban also did not reduce violence or hold meaningful talks with the Afghan government.
The developing situation suggests that the US-Taliban deal, which was dubbed as historic when it was signed a year ago, is one the verge of collapse. The readout of the latest telephone call between President Ashraf Ghani and the US Secretary of State suggests that Washington wants visible reduction in violence, if not an all-out ceasefire, before it commits to the drawdown plan.
Russia has reportedly launched a “diplomatic initiative” to arrange a meeting of Pakistan, the US, China and Iran so as to develop a “collective mechanism” for the Afghan peace efforts.
Moscow is also pushing for hosting the stalled intra-Afghan talks. It is seeking resumption of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban and also broader regional consensus.
Meanwhile, Russia is also proposing an interim government. Russian Special Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has said that Moscow prefers that all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan agree on the establishment of an inclusive and transitional coalition government. He added that the dialogue in Doha has failed, calling for the peace process to proceed in the Moscow format. Kabulov is cited as saying, “I have been assigned a task by the leadership to facilitate the start of intra-Afghan talks by undertaking discussions within the framework of a (three way party meeting) which includes Russia, the US and China. We have agreed about such a meeting with the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad; there is a possibility that this meeting will be held in Moscow.” He also talked about hosting such a meeting with Pakistani officials in his recent visit to Pakistan.The Afghan government has constantly called on regional stakeholders, mainly Pakistan, to play constructive role in the Afghan peace process and use their leverage on the Taliban leadership in this respect. With this in mind, the Ghani administration will welcome Russia’s initiative in breaking the stalemate in the talks. Ghani has said that violence will not be a solution to the conflict. Meanwhile, the republic negotiating team has not returned to the country despite the Taliban’s refusal to continue negotiations with them.It is important to note that no county should keep the Afghan government out of the loop in case of hosting the Taliban since the government is one of the main sides of the negotiations.It goes without saying that if the intra-Afghan dialogue is failed and abandoned, violence will increase to a great extent. Hence, regional and global actors will be welcomed to put their weight behind the peace process and breaking the stalemate.