A prelude to Afghan peace talks is facing drawbacks. Negotiations continue to fall short of a deal as delegates wrangle over how to conduct the talks. All spurious excuses proffered by militants and attempts to impose conditions to subvert our objective for peace are incompatible with ground realities. More delays translate into deadlier violence and more deaths
KABUL: The Afghan officials and Taliban representatives are still bickering over ground rules to start their peace talks in Doha, three official sources told Afghanistan Times on Tuesday, perpetuating the impasse that has hindered the crucial negotiations to end Afghanistan’s war.
The delegations have not agreed on the ground rules and procedures which will set motion to peace talks and are still negotiating, said spokeswoman for Peace Ministry Najia Anwari.
Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation has also brushed off a recent report by Reuters that Afghan and Taliban delegates have agreed on 19 rules that set the ground for peace talks. Spokesman to Dr. Abdullah, Fereydon Khozon, said the government and Taliban are still wrangling over rules and procedures for future talks.
Taliban spokesman Naeem Wardak in a conversation with Afghanistan Times denied reports claiming Kabul and Taliban reached an agreement on rules and regulations to kick start intra-Afghan talks. He said there had been meetings between Mullah Abdul Ghani, Taliban’s deputy and Zalmay Khalilzad and Scott Miller, commander of US forces, to discuss the implementation of their February agreement.
The first-ever US-mediated negotiations started in Qatar in September between the Afghan government and Taliban after almost two decades to resolve the Afghan conundrum. The preliminary negotiations between Afghanistan’s warring sides hit snags after Taliban set new conditions, which were met with the Afghan government’s rejection.
The Taliban are sticking to their guns vis-à-vis advancing peace talks based on their initial peace deal with the United States, which has just made matters worse and stagnated advancement of the negotiations.
But Afghanistan is optimistic about the Doha talks with a plethora of high-profile regional visits by Afghan leaders to garner support for peace talks. After Dr. Abdullah’s visit to Pakistan and India, President Ghani travelled to Qatar and met with U.S. special representative Zalmay Khalilzad and Qatari officials with peace talks on the agenda. Although he is not scheduled to meet Taliban representatives, Taliban have also denied meeting him.
The President’s trip is met with euphoria. Fauzia Kofi, a member of the negotiating team, has hailed the president’s visit, saying it will be effective in accelerating the negotiations. She called for patience as they are resolving obstacles facing peace talks. “Bilateral negotiating delegations are currently meeting, but there are still some differences,” she said.
Acting Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar at a presser in Doha says the obstacles in the way of the agreement on ground rules for the talks should be removed. “It will be better if it is removed as early as possible,” Atmar says.
Peace negotiations in Qatar coalesce with heightened security tensions inside Afghanistan. There has been an aggressive uptick in violent extremism ever since the talks began with increased bombings and targeted killings – which is believed to be a dangerous gambit by the Taliban to gain leverage in the talks. That argument can be proved by the latest Taliban statement, demanding establishment of an Islamic government. Their perpetual state of denial and setting conditions signal their struggle to gain an upper hand for future deals.
The U.S. counterterrorism operation has been in shreds since its outset in 2001 when American leaders denied Taliban’s request to negotiate a deal instead of waging war. The insurgency has grown steadily and fiercely, undermining prodigious amounts of investments in the war.
The Taliban mentioned this in a statement saying that if talks had been given a fair chance, there would have been no fighting and loss of lives. The statement said the US and its allies would not have faced such ignominy, financial and human losses and war crimes would not have happened if the Americans had resolved issues through talks.