Afghan peace talks


WEB DESK; It was almost certain that the stage was set for face-to-face talks between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government within the framework of the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group. Positive signals to that effect had been received by the concerned quarters in Pakistan and by the governments of the other members of the QCG. But then with a thud came reports that even if some other insurgent groups may join the talks the faction led by Mulla Akhtar Mansoor will not be there. As long as foreign troops remain on the Afghan soil his men will not sit on the negotiating table – that was Taliban’s precondition for participation.

But the government neither in Kabul nor in Islamabad or elsewhere was greatly surprised over this development. The very next day President Ghani came on stage to tell the Taliban “you face a historic test – war or peace, but peace is the only way forward”. And he was on spot – the 14-year insurgency has not brought to Taliban any tangible victory. No doubt they did succeed in devastating their country, but to be in power in Kabul has remained an ever-receding mirage. Those who know Mulla Akhtar Mansoor, and many people in Pakistan know him, say he is a pragmatist, and the preconditions his faction has announced is in fact a tactic to join the talks from a position of strength. Rightly then a presidential palace in Kabul insists that the process may be delayed but the “Taliban will show up for talks – this we are sure”. More accurate, perhaps is the Afghan High Peace Council’s assessment that the Taliban are “within the sphere of influence” of the four-nation group.

For the first time, Pakistan has openly admitted that since their families reside here the Taliban leadership remains amenable to Islamabad’s leverage. The recent visit of Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to Doha, where a part of Taliban leadership has made its office and residence, too must have positively impacted the peace process.

Among the factors that inject optimism into the Afghan peace process is the kind of commonality of interest that seems to be developing among the stakeholders, both Afghan and the members of the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group. First and foremost, the rulers in Kabul have come to accept that Pakistan is sincerely seeking an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution to Afghan national problem. Were such an understanding on the part of Kabul government in place earlier the Murree process would not have been interrupted.

Then, there is the arrival of Daesh that tends to forge cooperation between the Taliban, Kabul government and all other members of the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group. It must be the Afghan Taliban leadership’s claim of effectively encountering the Daesh militancy that put President Obama on a video link with his Afghan counterpart President Ashraf Ghani. The Afghan Taliban to the United States are insurgents, and no more terrorists, and it is the Daesh hideout in Nangarhar that the CIA drone struck Monday killing 14 militants. Apparently, the Afghan peace process is coming back on track and a face-to-face this month is quite possible. Yet, a few things are in order to facilitate the peace process.

Even if the precondition of pullout of foreign troops from Afghanistan may not be possible the Taliban’s other two preconditions – removal of Taliban leaders from the international blacklist and release of their prisoners – should be in the range of possibility. Perhaps, the momentum Afghan peace process has acquired may not have been possible without active involvement of the four members of the QCG. And, this both the Kabul rulers and the Afghan Taliban leadership must accept and persevere to ensure its viability.

Source: Business Recorder