A first round of Afghan-to-Afghan peace talks that had brought hope and optimism about ending the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan was postponed. The main cause of the postponement was rejecting the list of the delegation the Afghan government had prepared based on intensive discussions with the Afghan politicians, civil society and media representatives. However, according to Sultan Barakat, director of Qatar’s Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, the organization sponsoring the talks, reacted to this issue saying, it showed that Afghans needed to further build consensus as to who could participate in the conference.
According to the political observers, the talks that were scheduled for The April 19-21between Afghan and Taliban representatives were considered a significant first step toward finding a negotiated end to the war in Afghanistan and the would pave the way for withdrawal of U.S. troops to put an end to America’s longest war.
Inclusion of Women in Taliban’s list
Taliban had announced that women would be part of their delegation for the first time in Qatar talks on the future of Afghanistan. This dramatic change in the Taliban’s approach to women was embraced warily both in Afghanistan and out of the country. Taliban as a group notorious for its strictly conservative attitude to women’s rights, the move represents a step towards addressing demands that women must be included in the talks. These women were from inside and outside the country that have supported Taliban and have been part of the struggle of the Islamic Emirate. One of the main causes of such dramatic shift in Taliban’s stance on women’s right is that, though, Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative country, especially in rural areas; there have been major advances in women’s rights since the U.S-led campaign of 2001 that toppled the Taliban government. Currently, many women fear that if the group regains some power, many of these gains could be erased.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo trying to break up the stalemate
When Afghan government announced that it would not accept the list prepared by Qatar’s Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies, it received a mixed response. Many Afghan politicians and normal people considered Qatar’s act as interfering in internal affairs of the country and wanted the Afghan government not to accept such a list. The United States (US) Special Envoy on Afghan peace process Zalmay Khalilzad expressed his disappointment over the postponement of the scheduled inter-Afghan talks in Doha. He said that was in touch with all parties and encouraged that everyone remains committed to dialogue. He also said, dialogue was and always will be key to a political roadmap and lasting peace. There was no alternative. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during an unannounced trip to Afghanistan on Monday renewed calls for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in order to step up the process. The U.S. Secretary reassured Afghan government of the United States support, facilitation and participation in these discussions. He clarified that any talks would be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.” He also made it clear that the region and the world were all tired of what was taking place Afghanistan in the same way that the Afghan people were no longer interested in seeing war.
Doha conference in Qatar is an important opportunity for Afghanistan that can help the country to put an end to the conflict here. However, negotiating with the agenda of other countries will not ensure the national interests of Afghanistan. Afghan government must reassure the Afghans and international community that it supports fully any initiative to lead to a durable peace to put an end the suffering and destruction in the country. However, any peace initiative for Afghanistan must be based on an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.” process.