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The Killid Group
New stop on long road to peaceWritten by Mohammad Reza Gulkohi
Saturday, 24 December 2011 13:35
Reports of the Taleban setting up an office in Qatar has created another challenge for the government. A Killid analysis:
At the 2nd Bonn conference on Afghanistan early December the Hamid Karzai government had again insisted the initiative for peace with the Taleban must come from the Afghan government and there should be no external interference.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Zulmai Rasool said peace negotiations should be coordinated with the Afghan government. The talks could lead to success if the government is involved, the minister said. A statement issued by the President's Office said the government would have preferred to see a Taleban office in Saudi Arabia or Turkey. The office will only be for the negotiations for peace, they insisted.
Meanwhile, Jawed Ludin, the deputy minister for foreign affairs, has denied a facilitating office for talks with the Taleban has been established in Qatar. He said the government of Qatar has not "carried out enough consultation" with the Karzai government. He denied the Afghan ambassador in Doha was recalled as a sign of the government's displeasure over the opening of an office. The ambassador was called back for consultations regarding the setting up of a Taleban office, he said.
There doesn't seem to be a consistent position on the Taleban's office.
The Peace High Council has welcomed the news from Qatar. Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, international adviser to the Council which has been charged with taking the peace process forward, in an exclusive interview with Killid has "welcomed" the development. According to him, an office in Qatar would make it more independent of control by Pakistan. Why Qatar was chosen is probably because of support from the US and Germany, which have played a key role in pushing the peace process, and since erstwhile officials in the Taleban regime have been "long-term" residents in Qatar, he Qasimyar speculated.
"The Peace High Council's wishes are that the politics of the country which opens the office for Taleban in its domain should be known. Also, the office should be established through coordination with the Afghan government and the groundwork be prepared for negotiations." In his opinion the groundwork for talks would be better prepared when there is no interference from the "host country". "As much as the process of the negotiations is free from control of the host country or external factors, the groundwork for inter-Afghani negotiation will be easier and will be more successful," said Qasimyar.
How effective will the office be in taking the peace process forward?
Political experts think an office for the Taleban is vital to the efforts for peace. Some of the experts believe that having a specified and known address for Taleban will have a vital role in developing peace efforts. According to Farooq Bashar, expert in political affairs, the government has been trying to start talks with the Taleban for "many years" but because of interference from "neighbouring countries" it has not succeeded.
In his opinion the Afghan government will have to ally with the international community. "Until the Afghan government has a specified strategy along with cooperation of international community, specially US, stability and peace will be impossible in Afghanistan."
His advise to the government: "Bringing peace to Afghanistan is very important. But we should have a specified strategy. Whom to speak to? How to speak? Where to speak?"
There is unanimity in the view that Pakistan's support is imperative for a peaceful end to conflict in Afghanistan. Najeeb Mahmood, lecturer at Kabul University, thinks that without Pakistan's cooperation and the support of the international community peace would not stand a chance. He thinks that the support for the Qatar office from the international community suggests there could be a consensus at the international level on the Taleban's joining the peace process. If Pakistan is not included it could ally with "extremist" groups to "sabotage" the peace efforts, he said. Among the extremist groups he counted is the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al Almi which claimed responsibility for the attack on Shia worshippers in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif on Dec. 6. "Consent of Pakistan must be obtained in any kind of negotiations and regional economic agreements," he said.
However, political expert Professor Habibullah Rafee thinks it would be better to involve the Taleban because Pakistan would be looking to secure its interests in any political solution to the Afghan conflict, and that may not be necessarily to the advantage of Afghanistan.
Professor Rafee thinks the negotiations are always conducted from a shaky position. "Last year, the Afghan government sometimes was requesting Turkish help, and sometimes Qatari or Saudi to open channels with the Taleban. After the assassination of Rabbani (Burhanuddin Rabbani, former president of Afghanistan and head of the Peace Council whose death was blamed on the Taleban) the government insisted on talks with Pakistan and not Taleban." In fact, the Afghan government immediately blamed Pakistan for Rabbani's assassination, not Taleban.
"Talks with Pakistan are not useful for Afghanistan, because of Pakistan's long term goals in Afghanistan. Negotiations with Pakistan will be harmful for Afghanistan, but demands of Afghan Taliban can be used for the interest of Afghanistan," he said.
Meanwhile the Taleban has not confirmed the inauguration of an office in Qatar. Zabihullah Mujaheed, the spokesman of Taleban, has neither denied nor confirmed.