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

Regional Supports Essential to ‘Afghan-led’ Talks

On his state visit to Washington, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he would meet with the Taliban and persuade them to hold direct talks with the Afghan government stating that there was no “military solution” to the conflict. Pakistan is a key stakeholder in Afghan peace process and can play essential role if it puts its weight behind the process.
Afghan peace issue has been discussed between Khan and the US President Donald Trump, who urged Islamabad to engage in talks in more active way.
Meanwhile, US Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad traveled to Afghanistan and held meeting with Afghan officials, including President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah, to brief the last round of Doha talks and discuss the prospect of upcoming talks, Khalilzad is preparing for.
Speaking to President Ghani by phone, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US President’s South Asia Strategy did not change regarding Afghanistan.
Washington seems highly serious about the peace talks to end the 18-year conflict. It has repaired its strained relations with Pakistan to win its support for peace talks and push the Taliban to hold direct talks with Afghanistan.
After meeting with Trump, Khan’s statements indicate that his country would put its weight behind the peace process as he will personally meet with the Taliban leadership. Now both Kabul and Washington view Pakistan how it will play its role and how much it will fulfill its promise in this regard.
Holding their third consultation on the Afghan peace process in Beijing this month, Russia, China, and the United States welcomed Pakistan joining the consultation and believed that Pakistan could play an essential role in facilitating peace in the country. Issuing Four-Party joint statement, they encouraged “all parties to take steps to reduce violence leading to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire that starts with intra-Afghan negotiations”. They also reiterated “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace talks and agreed that the talks should produce “a peace framework” as soon as possible. They also agreed to invite other important stakeholders to join on the basis of the trilateral consensus.
Equally important, ministers of BRICS countries reiterated their support for national and international efforts to achieve “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and reconciliation process this week, while discussing arrangements for the eleventh summit of the bloc, slated for November 13-14. They also voiced their concern over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
Despite the regional efforts made to facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue and push the Taliban to declare ceasefire, violence has increased tremendously leading to heavy casualties. Afghans lose their lives on daily basis in attacks carried out by warring sides. Although the Taliban said they would reduce violence against civilians to zero, they rather intensified their attacks against them. Recently, a large number of Afghan civilians lost their lives in roadside bombs and indiscriminate attacks carried out by the Taliban militants. It indicates that the recent intra-Afghan dialogue held in Doha, amid seventh round of US-Taliban talks, did not yield result.
The Taliban’s recent unfulfilled promise of reducing violence compounded the public mistrust in the Taliban. They now fear that the Taliban will not exercise the peace agreement, if it is signed between the Taliban and their interlocutors. So there will be a strong sanction behind the peace agreement and the international community and the US and NATO officials have to observe the agreement to ensure its smooth implementation after being signed.
However, the recent regional supports to the peace process generate hope for Afghan nation. Since military deal reached stalemate, peace talks, with the support of regional stakeholders, are the only gleam of hope for Afghan ordinary people. With every round of talks, being held between the Taliban and US representatives, Afghans pay close attention to news and reports with optimism. They hope they would hear positive news, ceasefire, and progress in the talks.
But they are still not clear about the outcome of any talks since talks are being held behind closed doors. In the meantime, the optimism being expressed by officials and the Taliban interlocutors about strides made in the talks, as they said on several occasions, is ephemeral and has put no effect on the daily life of Afghans so far.
In the upcoming round of talks, regional states have to put pressure on the Taliban to declare ceasefire, or at least stop killing civilians and targeting public infrastructures, so that Afghans believe that the Taliban are genuine negotiators and do not intend to play a foul game. That is, the next round of talks should put a positive impact on the daily life of Afghan citizens.