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Editorial: Renewed talks

Media reports suggested that the Taliban and Afghan government have once again engaged in the talks to give a life to the lifeless reconciliation process. According to the reports, the Taliban and Afghan government representatives held a secret meeting in Qatar where a senior US diplomat also participated.  Key Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, and Chief of the National Directorate of Security, Masoom Stanekzai, attended the secret talks. The Afghan government and the US authorities neither deny nor accept participation in the meeting. In simple words, the meeting most likely took place behind closed doors. As per reports, Pakistan was not part of the meeting.

After the invasion, the Taliban’s policy was to fight fire with fire. They had given different grounds to the insurgency to justify it. The major condition for peace talks was total withdrawal of foreign troops and a new constitution which would introduce a government system that fits their definitions. After formation of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), comprising of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States, the hopes were high that the insurgent group would strike a peace deal with Afghan government while coming under pressure. After the direct talks with the government in Murree, a largest resort area in Pakistan, the Taliban announced death of their supreme commander, Mullah Omar.

Timing of the news was very important. It was a setback for the nascent peace process. The QCG had failed to convince the militant group and lead the reconciliation drive towards success. The Taliban rejected participation in the peace process and reiterated that they would not talk unless their conditions were met. The group is not ready to announce an unconditional ceasefire. In reality, Taliban had brought intensity in their attacks across Afghanistan. Short tactical achievements had emboldened the insurgent group. Poor war management on part of Afghan government was seen as victory by the group.

What has changed now? Perhaps, nothing or may be a lot. But situation on the political and security horizon does not indicate positive signs. It might be another quest of the Afghan government to reach to Taliban. It is believed that the US has put pressure on Pakistan to arrest the Taliban leaders to pave ground for fruitful peace talks. Arrest of three important Taliban leaders by Islamabad is seen a sign. However, the important questions are left unanswered. Will the Taliban agree on presence of the foreign troops in the country? Will they accept the Afghan constitution? If they are ready to show flexibility than why they are launching large-scale attacks in Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Faryab, Farah and other provinces of the country. Peace talks yield results if the parties were committed and had a common ground. Unfortunately, here the common ground is missing.

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