Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, August 7th, 2020

How to Break the Peace Talks Stalemate

Third Intra-Afghan Peace talks will soon start in July 7-8 to be jointly hosted by Qatar and Germany in Doha of Qatar.
The US and Taliban have already met 7 times to negotiate how they may reach a peace deal on Afghanistan. However, the efforts of the peace talks had little achievements so far. The question that raises here is that, what is the main obstacle to the talks?
One assumption says that the real negotiations – Afghan-owned and Afghan-led – have not started, yet. The reason is not simply that the Taliban refuses to recognize the current leadership in Kabul as a legitimate government. Political analysts hold that expecting Taliban leaders suddenly to recognize a government they have fought for more than 18 years seems unrealistic.
One of the main causes of the current stalemate is the inability of the Afghan political establishment to appoint a real negotiating team able to negotiate on behalf of the wider Afghan society. Further, the Presidential elections make the challenge even more complicated. Some political analysts think that the peace process is – unfortunately – becoming a victim of the upcoming elections. If the two cannot be separated in the minds of prominent politicians, the peace process between Afghans will surely fail.
What the solution is
Taliban cannot decide independently. If the countries that have influence over the Taliban put them under pressure, they will accept to talk with the Afghan government. On the other hand, the Afghan government shall form a negotiation team that represents all Afghans.
Second, inclusion of all stakeholders is impossible and they all must not insist on being represented. In fact, large team is useful if the purpose is only to conduct an initial dialogue. However, real negotiations visibly require a much smaller format.
As a result, specific pragmatism and discipline is required in order to start real preparatory talks. Without such mechanisms there will not be any real peace process. If not so, the international community would be more than fed up and start disengaging from the talks.
As a sign of good will, stakeholders in Kabul should make their best efforts to agree on a small team of individuals – around 15-20 – to represent the Afghan society. For example, the team may include a meaningful number of women, and other minority groups who would ideally be appointed by their own organizations or groups.
Such a mechanism would ensure inclusiveness. Also, an international convener would be useful and should be appointed. The convener shall facilitate each meeting; assist in establishing the agenda and sum up conclusions and decisions and help overcoming the any likely breakdown obstacles.
How to address the distrusts between the stakeholders
It is clear that the real challenge lies within the Afghan society. Therefore, how will they agree on a small team to conduct meaningful negotiations? This is a very critical question. To address this issue, any such convener must be trusted and accepted by all parties and shall be familiar with the parties and the issues at hand.  
Khalilzad and Taliban have conducted seven peace talks and some Afghan politicians and Taliban have conducted two rounds of negotiations so far. However, these talks did not have much tangible achievements. The experience of other countries show that, it is necessary to establish a small team trusted by almost all stakeholders and supported by an impartial convener to facilitate and mediate during the talks.