Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, May 20th, 2019

THE DOHA EFFECT A Diplomatic Hurdle From Dusk to Dawn

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THE DOHA EFFECT A Diplomatic Hurdle From Dusk to Dawn

As recently as last year, Saudi Arabia, UAE and many other Gulf states cut diplomatic ties, and imposed a combined economic blockade on Qatar, alleging Doha for sponsoring terror. The opening of Taliban’s political office in Doha gave the Qatari officials the opportunity, to act as a facilitator, and take the initiative to amend, and please the U.S. administration for turning the odds back to normal with its fellow Arab neighbors.
Today the tiny coastal Arab nation is an apparent gateway, for facilitating peace negotiations between the American diplomats, and their Taliban equivalent around the clock.  As we speak, Taliban and the U.S. special envoy for Afghan peace and reconciliation, ambassador Khalilzad, are concluding the fifth round of peace consultations, aiming for an eventual intra Afghan dialogue between the Taliban and Kabul government. The U.S. administration is more than willing to reach an acceptable end for the operation Enduring Freedom that was initially aimed at targeting Al-Qaeda whereabouts in Afghanistan, and prosecute its remnants around the world. Taliban on the other hand, are primarily demanding an immediate U.S. troops’ withdrawal, partially eyeing to legitimize a lengthy 18 year nasty bloodshed, claiming many innocent Afghan lives.
The United States also understands that Taliban are adopting a new strategy, branching out from conventional Pak-Arab support system, to establishing links with America’s adversaries Russia and Iran. The core circle of U.S. policy makers rightly understand that the crowded the players, the harder for NATO and U.S. forces to gain a sizable victory over the Taliban in the battlefield, which leaves no option, but reaching a fair settlement with the insurgents. A settlement that writes off the security of the U.S. and its western NATO allies threatened from Afghan soil, in return for gradual withdrawal of all foreign resident forces in Afghanistan. This in turn demands assurances on both sides, in remaining steadfast in promises made.
Absolute peace is a relative term in Afghan context, the country is deemed with continual crises, the annihilation of a well disciplined Afghan armed forces in late 1980s, paved the way for wealthy global jihadists to exploit Afghan hospitality, and began recruiting local dissidents in waging a full-scale civil war that torn the country into numerous ethnic boundaries. Afghans are rightfully skeptical about a possible peace truce that might create further frictions within the already deeply divided society. The clash between modernism and strict Talibani ideology can potentially drive the country into an even deadlier chaos.
The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and close aides had unsuccessfully taken the initiative, to open secret negotiations channels with key Taliban figures, including Mullah Bradar who is currently heading the Doha political office. Needless to say, the strive went astray when the group’s handlers found about the links, Mullah Bradar ended up in jail and many other influential pro peace Taliban leaders were mysteriously killed across Pakistan. Now it is unprecedented that Taliban spokespersons are publically endorsing a peaceful solution; both parties duly recognize the status quo of the Afghan stalemate, and expressed undivided convection in discussing all outstanding issues on the negotiating table.
The complexities of the Afghan peace process are intertwined with finding a viable common ground among multi faucet stakeholders. The American interests largely differ from what Iran and Russia envision for an Afghanistan next door. Arch rivals and nuclear armed Pakistan and India are also not sharing the same sentiment on the ongoing peace efforts in Doha. Pakistan is only giving up a fraction of Taliban in return for resumption of annual U.S. military aid to the country withhold by President Trump in 2017, citing its dubious policy in sheltering extremists and American enemies. Therefore, Prime Minister Imran Khan and his foreign secretary Qureshi are leaving no stone’s unturned to get a monetized credit for making Taliban sit with the American delegation in Qatar, and enabling the group’s negotiators mobility around the world.
Taliban right from the start have pursued a policy, talking with the Americans first, sideling the Afghan Government as nonexistent and secondary to peace talks. It is partly because of settling old scores with the Americans; after all, it was the American military might that ended the Taliban regime in late 2001, forcing its leadership to seek protection in major Pakistani cities. However, President Ashraf Ghani has a different narrative on peace with Taliban; he eloquently favors direct talks with the group through his government, and reiterates on reaching a broader national consensus for a lasting peace. It is key for the American negotiators to keep the Afghan government on the loop, and respect the autonomy of its ally in remaining relevant. In retrospect the Geneva peace talks on Afghanistan failed in 1980s, lacking the participation of the two primary warring sides.
The Afghan government is convening a grand elders’ Jirga, seeking insights on an integrated Afghan peace memorandum aiming to preserve all the gains in the last 18 years with respect for women’s rights and reserving the Afghan republic status quo as key public red lines. The rapidly changing dynamics in South Asia will play a crucial role in successful progression of ongoing peace Talks with the Taliban. It is pivotal for the Afghan leadership to mount a systematic diplomacy, engaging all the concerning stakeholders for an entirely inclusive solution.

Naser Koshan can be reached at naserkoshan@yahoo.com

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