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Editorial: Closing Taliban’s Qatar office

Afghanistan is negotiating with Qatar officials to broker an agreement to shut the Taliban’s Doha office – which has been futile and pointless since its inception. This is an initiative orchestrated by Afghanistan’s top security official Haneef Atmar – who met officials in Saudi Arabia last week. Atmar could even garner Saudi’s support in fight against terrorism.

The Taliban’s office in Qatar opened in 2013 to facilitate reconciliation between members of the Taliban, Afghanistan and the U.S., but it has served solely as a platform for prison exchange negotiations not peace and reconciliation; in 2014, the Taliban and the U.S. government began negotiations to broker a deal for the 5 Taliban leaders held in Guantanamo Bay, in exchange for the release of an American sergeant. This is an explicit paradox – an inconsistency of the intentions and the actions. This deal had nothing to do with the prospects of the Afghan peace process. In essence, this travesty was the outcome of averse political intentions – because negotiations with the militant Taliban had faltered from the beginning stages and fighting has ever escalated; thousands have been killed since leaders of the Taliban were feted in lavish domiciles in Qatar.

The Doha office is a legacy of Obama and Karzai who had different thoughts at the time. He orchestrated it to accelerate reciprocal struggles for reconciling with the militant Taliban – which was widely considered as a step forward before Obama pushed on with his exit strategy. This legacy is sought to be abolished – as President Trump believes that the idea of creating a podium for the Taliban was a mistake. The quasi office had produced enough controversies from the very advent of its establishment in June 2013. There was an immediate issue with both the office sign and the flag of the Taliban. The sign on the Taliban office read “the political bureau of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” and the hoisted flag was the white flag of radical Islamists. They had wicked intentions – to take the unprecedented chance and build their own self-styled representation of Afghanistan.

As the pressure of Afghanistan and the west bloc is mounting to shut down the Taliban’s pseudo-office, the militant group would find itself in a bind – domestically and internationally – and could strike a blow to their obduracy in acceding to an unanimous international command to forsake hostility. It goes without saying that caustic guerilla operations of the Taliban would not last a week if diplomatic maneuverings of such nature are set in motion in tandem with financial sanctions levied on their surreptitious sponsoring sources.

Pundits believe that this shrewd initiative will awaken all the stakeholders involved within the Afghan geography to their mistake and inertia, and will stir up the stalled peace parleys from the hibernation. This pressure is not engineered to tar negotiations with the Taliban. Albeit, the doors will remain open to them and this diplomatic pressure could even help get negotiations up and running.

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