Afghanistan mellows down to holding inclusive peace talks

New Delhi, March 15: Both American threats and the involvement of more countries has had a salutary effect on the Afghan government. Kabul has announced that it is making comprehensive plans to have meaningful peace talks at both Turkey as well as Moscow.

Afghan media organisation TOLO News quoted Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib on Saturday that Kabul will participate in the UN-led conference in Turkey and also the one proposed by Moscow to find out a solution to the problems of the conflict-ridden nation.

Doha Peace Process Scuttled

Exactly a year after the then US President Donald Trump had tried to force a settlement to the vexed Afghan problem by entering into an exclusive deal with the Taliban in Qatar, that peace process has been completely scuttled by the new US administration. The Biden administration has proposed to hold fresh peace talks with all Afghan parties, not just the Taliban alone, under the aegis of the UN at Turkey.

It has also included other countries like India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Russia in the new talks.

One of the reasons for scuttling the Doha peace talks was that the talks had pushed up bloodshed in Afghanistan to unprecedented levels. These also included targeted killings by militants in Afghanistan.

The US-Taliban agreement of February 2020 had stipulated that the US will withdraw its armed forces by May 2021 if the Taliban stops attacks and cuts off ties with other terrorist organisations. However, the Biden administration noted that the Taliban attacks had only increased after the deal.

Afghanistan Comes Around Slowly

A sceptical Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan President, was as lukewarm to the Biden proposal as he was to Trump’s talks with the Taliban last year. But a letter by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the Afghan High Council for National Reconciliation, seems to have persuaded a reluctant government to join the Istanbul talks next month.

According to reports, Blinken’s suggestions to kickstart the Afghan peace process included convening a UN-facilitated conference with international stakeholders, finalising a peace agreement between militants and the government to arrive at a ceasefire and bring down the heightened levels of violence within three months.

The Afghan government is planning afresh for the UN-led talks with a wider representation from the diverse Afghan society. It will also have a larger number of stakeholders–the Afghan government, the Taliban, representatives from the US, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and India. TOLO News says that Ghani held a meeting with senior advisors and influential politicians to discuss the upcoming peace conference in Turkey.

The Moscow Peace Talks

Kabul has not just accepted the US proposal to join the Istanbul talks, but has also agreed to participate in the Russian talks. High-level officials, including President Ghani, Abdullah and foreign envoys, along with Taliban representatives, are expected to attend the meeting in Moscow on March 18 to discuss the Afghan peace process.

The TASS News Agency reported on Thursday that Zamir Kabulov, the Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan and Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department has confirmed the participation of all invited parties, including the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

The other parties include the US, China, Pakistan, representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban. However, Moscow has not invited India for the Afghan talks, unlike the Biden administration.

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