Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Supporting Peace Process or Playing Political Game?

A Taliban delegation, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, traveled to Moscow to attend a meeting. A number of Afghan high-prolife politicians, including head of Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) Mohammad Karim Khalili and former President Hamid Karzai, have also participated in the meeting as Afghanistan and Russia mark the 100th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. 
Afghan politicians and Taliban delegation will hold informal talks on the sidelines of the meeting. With the ongoing talks, Moscow is hosting the second round of meeting between Afghan political figures and the Taliban leaders. The two sides also held talks in a two-day meeting in February in Moscow, without the presence of Kabul formal representatives, spurring fears Kabul was being marginalized in the peace process.
“The meeting is just an opportunity for exchanging views. The Taliban will never endorse those meetings where decisions are made unless there is a decision on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan,” a former Taliban member Sayed Akbar Agha is cited as saying.
The latest meeting in Moscow comes weeks after a sixth round of talks between the Taliban and US negotiating teams wrapped up in Doha, the capital of Qatar, with no progress reported. The Taliban appeared to have pushed for the US troop pullout, which the US has refused to agree as part of final deal until the Taliban agree on all conditions, including “intra-Afghan” dialogue with the Kabul government and other Afghan representatives.
The HPC has raised optimism that the meeting would be helpful in brokering direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
It is believed that Moscow is seeking to add to the international credibility of the Taliban leadership through such meetings. Inviting leaders from the militant movement in marking Moscow-Kabul anniversary of diplomatic relations suggests that Russia gives official recognition to the Taliban’s political wing in Qatar. There seems no sincerity from Russian side in this invitation. If the Kremlin was genuinely seeking to broker talks between the Taliban and Ghani administration, it could brought the two sides to the negotiating table.
Feeling the weight of Russia behind itself, the Taliban’s leadership would bargain for higher price at the able with its US interlocutors and its militants would fight with more confidence.
It should be noted that the Taliban are widely involved in killing Afghan soldiers and civilians and they are known terrorists by Afghans since they carry out terrorist activities across the country. There is no reasonable justification to invite the Taliban for marking Afghan-Russian diplomatic relations.
Russia has to support the Afghan government and its international allies in peace process through pushing the Taliban to hold direct talks with the Ghani administration. But boosting the Taliban’s confidence in the battlefields will outrage the public conscience in Afghanistan and trigger the anger of Afghan officials.
Generally speaking, amidst the ongoing violence and bloodshed, supporting the Taliban’s credibility or boosting their confidence would trigger public hatred against Russia in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, it is believed that the ongoing meeting hosted by Moscow will have no positive result. Although Kabul and Moscow mark the 100th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the two sides are not enjoying a strong tie as a result of Moscow’s unnecessary engagement in Afghanistan’s issues.
Afghan stakeholders have to understand that individual gatherings with the Taliban will not lead to peace. They should understand that if they all persist to be represented in the talks, real negotiation will remain elusive. Real negotiation requires a smaller format that could represent the entire Afghan society. Thus, they have to form a national consensus and stop holding individual meetings with the Taliban since it will not yield a positive outcome.
Afghan representatives called on the Taliban, in the Loya Jirga, to stop spilling the blood of Afghan soldiers and civilians and end the 17 years of conflict through negotiation with the Kabul government and declare truce to show their genuine intention. Meanwhile, President Ghani declared to release some of the Taliban’s militants jailed in Afghan prisons as a gesture of goodwill and urged the Taliban to stop killing people, at least in Ramadan, the holy month of Muslims. But the Taliban paid no respect to the public demand spilling the blood of people, including religious scholars and clerics, in Ramadan. It suggests that the Taliban simply pursue their political interests at the cost of Afghanistan’s national stakes and all their claims are false and misleading. The Taliban are pawns in big political game played between regional players, except for a few, and do not deem themselves bound to law or religious tenets.