Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

Lingering Peace Negotiation

The peace game has changed into an endless political competition that has never come to fruition but debated hotly once in a while. Afghan government put all its eggs in one basket to hold talks with the Taliban elements, mainly when Pakistan promised to nudge them to the negotiating table. Afghan officials fluctuated between hope and chagrin for more than a decade and established the High Peace Council (HPC) to persuade the Taliban to stop violence and bloodshed.
Whenever Afghanistan stood a chance of holding talks, a whistle-blower emerged mysteriously and sabotaged the plan. As a result, Pakistan, which is seen as key to the future of Afghanistan, brokered the first-ever direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in July 2015. But the process was scuttled after the confirmation of the death of Taliban Supreme leader Mullah Omar.
It is believed that the negotiation of peace is getting more complicated in process of time.
With the unmitigated insurgency and the Taliban’s heavy offensives, the negotiation of peace is being debated again as Russia, China and Pakistan held its three round meeting, last week, on “deteriorating situation in Afghanistan”, particularly as reports say that loyalists to the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has increased. The previous two rounds of the tripartite meetings were not publicly disclosed. The third meeting was announced by the participating states in an indication of their growing confidence in their cooperation driven by the fear of ISIL gaining a foothold in Afghanistan. The announcement of the talks, however, annoyed Kabul, which questioned the effectiveness of a process on Afghanistan without its representation. In other words, the meeting had provoked a storm of protest from Afghan leaders, who saw it as “meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs”, “illegitimate” and “dubious”. Speaker of the lower house of Afghan parliament Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi had asked the government to seek a clarification from Moscow about the meeting.
Meanwhile, Russia is also supporting Iran’s entry into the relatively new process. Tehran has been Moscow’s ally in the fight against ISIL in Syria. In a separate troika formed two weeks back, Russia, Iran and Turkey reaffirmed “their determination to jointly fight the IS”.
In addition, Russia, China and Pakistan agreed to expand their tripartite consultations on Afghan conflict and include other countries, including Afghanistan, after Kabul objected to its absence from the regional discussions.
The tripartite meeting on Tuesday, December 27, 2016, expressed concerns over the increased activity of ISIL in Afghanistan. Russians believe that protracted conflict in the country has left ungoverned spaces, which are being taken up by the ISIL fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, where the militant group is on the retreat. The three countries reiterated their support for reconciliation process in Afghanistan. “The participants agreed to continue their efforts towards further facilitating the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan according to the known principles of reintegration of the armed opposition into peaceful life,” the joint statement said. “The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China as the UN Security Council permanent members confirmed their flexible approach to delisting Afghan individuals from the UN sanctions lists as their contribution to the efforts aimed at launching peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban,” the statement further noted.
The position on delisting looked to be a snub for Afghanistan that had last month asked the United Nations to add Taliban’s new leader, Maulvi Haibatullah, to its sanctions list. It is further believed that the absence of main negotiators, Afghanistan and the Taliban, in the trilateral talks will never lead to political stability rather it widens the gap among the countries in general and compounds the mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad in particular. The first point that will lead to tension is delisting the Taliban’s dangerous figures from the UN’s list whereas Kabul asks the opposite with the repeated refusal of the Taliban to hold talks and their heavy offensives that led to great casualties within the last two years. So, one will conclude that there is no bona fide intension for peace and it has rather changed into a political competition or deceptive game.
Considering the current mistrust, it is believed that the stalemate of peace talks will not be broken in 2017 either and the insurgency will continue unabated. Although Afghan officials ask warring factions to join peace process, there is no positive answer except for the Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which signed a peace agreement. It is hoped that the countries will bury the hatchet and decide a collective strategy to end violence and bloodshed not only in Afghanistan but around the globe.