Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Regional and National Consensus Crucial to Peace Process

Afghan officials have constantly reiterated that regional stakeholders carry heavy weight in Afghanistan’s peace process and could nudge the Taliban to come to the table with the Afghan government.
The seventh round of meeting between the US and the Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar’s capital, and the intra-Afghan dialogue generated optimism as political officials believed that Afghanistan had been very close to peace.
Subsequent to the latest round of talks, China, Russia, and the US, along with Pakistani representatives, held their third consultation on the Afghan peace process in Beijing. The four sides discussed the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and joint efforts for realizing a political settlement to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan and beyond. They also emphasized the significance of the trilateral consensus and the country’s peace process held in Moscow in April. They further welcomed intra-Afghan meetings held in Moscow and Doha.
The four sides said the talks should be “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led” and urged all parties to take steps to reduce violence, which would lead to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.
The four states are heavyweight stakeholders in Afghanistan’s peace process. The US has discussed peace process with the Taliban and made strides in this regard. To show its seriousness, Washington discussed troop withdrawal from Afghanistan – also reduced the number of its soldiers. Hence, the US troop pullout is in the agenda of the US-Taliban negotiations if the two sides reach an agreement.
Pakistan is also one of the heavyweights and will be able to nudge the Taliban to peace table with the Kabul government. Islamabad released the Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar to support the US-Taliban talks. Believing in the essential role of Pakistan, Afghan officials have constantly urged her to engage in Afghanistan reconciliation process and use her leverage to broker intra-Afghan dialogue.
Russia also has leverage on the Taliban since she hosted intra-Afghan dialogues seeking to open talks parallel to those of the US. However, neither the Afghan government nor the US was interested in Moscow’s individual struggle for Afghanistan peace process. Meanwhile, political pundits believed that it would mar the peace process and bestow international credibility to the Taliban. But Moscow’s push for intra-Afghan dialogue in the frame of the four-side meeting will be productive and the Afghan government and regional stakeholders will appreciate such an engagement.
China, which has a close tie with Pakistan, tried to bring Kabul and Islamabad closer and also play a constructive role in Afghanistan peace process. Beijing has always reiterated its support to “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” peace talks. Being a strong contributor to global peace and prosperity, China is ready to play a constructive role in Afghanistan peace process. China has also been an active member of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, consists of US, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The recent four-side meeting in Beijing creates hope that regional consensus will be formed for the intra-Afghan dialogue, which has been considered highly essential for fruitful talks and urged by political pundits since the beginning. 
It is self-explanatory that collective efforts will be more fruitful than those of individual. That is, if regional states open talks with the Taliban individually and without consultation with the Afghan government, it will not bear the desired result and the situation will be rather complicated. Therefore, regional stakeholders have to continue their collective efforts to broker intra-Afghan dialogue and support the relevant parties to end the conflict. In short, the collective efforts of regional and global states, including the US, Russia, China, Germany, Pakistan, and Qatar, are highly significant. The more countries put their weight behind the peace process, the more productive peace talks will be. Since a peaceful and stable Afghanistan will be in the interests of the region, regional states have to engage constructively in the process.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government and political factions have to form an inclusive national consensus. Heads of political parties and jihadi leaders have to support the government’s stance on peace talks. Hence, selective approach, as some Afghan politicians have adopted, towards peace talks will neither lead to peace and nor be acceptable to Afghan nation. If political figures really pursue national interests, they have to stand with the government.
To pursue fruitful peace process, forming regional and national consensus is highly essential. Regional and global stakeholders have to push for intra-Afghan dialogue as well as end of conflict. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban have to hold direct talks to resolve their issues before it is too late.