Afghan peace talks and Pakistan role

Published on – October 8, 2019 – 7:00 am
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A 12-member delegation of the Afghan Taliban political office in Doha arrived in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on Wednesday at the invitation of the government, the first-ever visit of a Taliban delegation there since the insurgents established their political office in Qatar in 2013.


A 12-member delegation of the Afghan Taliban political office in Doha arrived in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on Wednesday at the invitation of the government, the first-ever visit of a Taliban delegation there since the insurgents established their political office in Qatar in 2013.

Pakistan is making efforts to break the stalemate in Afghanistan caused by the suspension of talks between the Khalilzad-led US team of negotiators and the Afghan Taliban. The actual reason behind US President Donald Trump’s abrupt of the Afghan peace process. Trump had declared the process ‘dead’ just when it had appeared to have reached the point when signatures of the negotiating parties were to be affixed on an accord, presumably, heralding the end of the 18-year long war with no victory in sight for the US and the Afghan Taliban gaining ground with the passage of each day. The finalization of the accord was to have taken place at the historic Camp David with representatives of both, the Afghan Taliban and Kabul government attending.

“The two sides haven’t reached any decision. The deadlock is still there, but both [sides] have vowed to break the deadlock,” the official told Anadolu Agency but declined to be identified as he was not authorized to publicly speak on the matter.

“Another meeting is expected in a day or two after both sides complete their homework on different formulas discussed in the first meeting” on Friday.

The two sides had come up with new demands, with Washington demanding a “total” cease-fire in the war-wracked country, and inclusion of the fragile Kabul government in the peace process — both conditions the Taliban has time and again rejected.

On the other hand President Trump wants Prime Minister Imran Khan to convince the highly determined and ruthless Afghan Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and enter into talks with the Afghan government. This will require Pakistan to motivate both to enter into a give and-take. What will matter is how much clout Pakistan possesses with both sides.

Washington wanted to put more pressure on the Taliban through breaking off the process as it had realized the militia’s “keenness” to end the war.

While President Trump has promised to bring back US troops from the 18-year-long Afghan war, he also wants an agreement in hand that he can show to the US voters as evidence of US victory. The Afghan Taliban on the other would sign no document that by any flight of imagination could be interpreted as an instrument of surrender. Despite US insistence, Taliban had not only refused to stop their armed campaign while they were negotiating a peaceful withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, they were also consistently refusing to talk to Kabul government making it very clear as to who would replace the occupying forces once they were withdrawn.

Lately Russia, China and apparently even Iran have joined others in hitting the proverbial brick wall. The solution, which everybody should start thinking about, is getting the two principle Afghan parties to the conflict to talk to each other. And that should be done before anybody decides anything with the Americans. That will remain a problem, though, because Taliban militias keep grabbing more ground, and headlines, putting everybody else on the back foot, including Imran Khan. For the endgame to finally end, then, someone will have to blink first.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi hopes that the Taliban could be won over with the help of Pakistan’s agencies which may not be in consonance with the past events. Pakistan’s participation in the peace process was needed, but our role should’ve been limited to restoring and facilitating the peace talks with Afghan Taliban.