Interestingly, the USA has been expressing its willingness to talk with Afghan Taliban leadership for a long time, in order to reach to a settlement about the new set-up in Afghanistan after US-led NATO pull-out in 2014. Taliban opened their office in Doha as a first step to hold dialogue with USA and Karzai Government.
However, this went controversial on day one as they opened the office under the name of “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” and flew the white Taliban flag, representing a government-in-exile for Taliban, something that annoyed both the USA and Karzai. And so before the talks could even begin, there came a deadlock right in the beginning.
The aim of the talks was to annul the violence and to ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and the region. James Dobbins, the US special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan will represent USA in negotiation. Both sides have different views about “peace” and “political solution” but the good part is, there’s a willingness to table peace talks more than ever. The initiative was taken by USA-backed Karzai Government that received overwhelming response from World and Taliban also considered it “a chance to avail” if they can be succeeded to obtain “anything” from outgoing USA that can ultimately leads to a complete pull out from Afghanistan and to assess any possibility of restoration of their regime before US led NATO intervention a decade ago in Afghanistan.
What Taliban are looking for?
- A political and peaceful solution that ends Afghanistan’s occupation
- A guarantee of the Islamic system
- Nationwide security
What USA is looking for?
- Taliban would have to renounce ties to Al-Qaeda
- A political deal under a Constitution with Karzai
- Halt violence and guerrilla war
- Commit to the protection of women and minorities
What is the actual problem?
What comes out obvious from this is that Afghan fighters are not only Mulla Umer- led Taliban but various other militant groups led by different war lords also control different parts of Afghanistan despite NATO presence there since last one decade. These militant groups enjoy support from outside Afghanistan and want a share in power. USA intends to talk with Mulla Umer- led Taliban only, keeping aside or ignoring other fractions. This has encouraged Taliban to show them an ultimate alternate to take over Kabul hence undermining Karzai government.
Being invited to negotiations is somehow perceived an ideological win by Taliban already which is evident from their attitude. Moreover, it is also unclear that whether other militant groups wish to take part in talks or want to continue their militancy? If so, then how stability could come to Afghan soil and how a representative government setup formula may come into being? Taliban are anti-democracy, how they come under the umbrella of a constitution and a democratic system with Northern Alliance or Karzai administration?
Afghan turmoil is not only confined to NATO, Taliban, Karzai or Militant Groups but there are various other “stake-holders” in war-hit Afghanistan such as Pakistan, India, China, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia. All of them have deep-rooted political and strategic interests, no matter whether supportive or contradictory to each other but there could be no political or peace settlement without taking those forces on-board openly.
USA also wants Taliban to renounce ties to Al-Qaeda. If Taliban do it presuming to be true, then who will deal with the challenge of Al-Qaeda on the ground in this region after pull-out? To think about Taliban doing it is like to live in fool’s paradise. Who will fill the void of NATO? No outside “stake-holder” is in a position or wish to deploy its forces then what is the solution? It is unclear.
One perspective is that, USA knows well once NATO leaves Afghanistan, Taliban will take over Kabul and will rule Afghanistan, restoring the same position of 2001. So Americans are more interested in gaining some “assurances” and “guarantees” from Taliban instead of talking about any peace plan and political settlement. USA is looking for safe supply-route for oil, gas and mineral transportation from Central Asia via Afghanistan to Arabian Sea and possibly a military base to keep pressure on Russia, China, Iran and to safe guard its strategic interests.
The way Americans are trying to conduct talks, reacting on the deadlock and overlooking Taliban’s ever increasing recent assaults in Kabul, it seems that the agenda of negotiation may be different than what it has been told to World and Karzai Government is expecting. Let’s see what happens in next few days. Whether talks resume or once again matters go to cold storage again for another time.