intra-Afghan talks

President Ghani is “frustrated” over a recently achieved agreement between negotiation teams of the government and the Taliban on negotiating procedure and principles of intra-Afghan talks underway in Doha, a source from the government told Kabul Now.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, detailed that President Ghani was firstly informed about the agreement by Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, via a phone call and received the Emir’s congratulatory message regarding the breakthrough.

Frustrated by the agreement, Ghani has recalled Masoom Stanekzai, the government chief negotiator, and his adviser, Salam Rahimi – also a member of the government negotiation team – to Kabul. The two negotiators have been in Kabul since four days ago seeking to achieve approval of the President over the agreement they reached with the Taliban in Doha, capital of Qatar.

Negotiation teams of the government and the Taliban are waiting for President Ghani’s approval in order to officially announce their agreement.

“The agreement has been achieved but it has to be accepted by all parties,” a member of government negotiation team told Kabul Now, adding that it needed to be endorsed broadly and by all parties before its official announcement.

Another negotiator revealed to Kabul Now that the government negotiating team have accepted the US-Taliban peace agreement as the basis of intra-Afghan negotiations. In addition to the US-Taliban agreement, the two sides have also agreed to consider the United Nations Security Council’s resolution endorsing the US-Taliban deal and joint declaration of Kabul and Washington, and decisions made in the peace consultative Loya Jirga – the traditional grand assembly which voted for release of 400 Taliban prisoners earlier in August, 2020 – as referral basis to resolve disputes during the talks.

Sources from negotiating teams of the government and the Taliban confirmed to Kabul Now on Thursday, November 19, that they were at the threshold of finalizing a procedure and principles for negotiations. The Taliban source added that spokespersons of the two sides will announce it soon.

Other potential differences

A member of government negotiating team disclosed that the two sides have also been disputing regarding some official titles, usage and interpretation of specific terms to explain conditions of the two negotiating sides. “We will possibly face problems in this regard as well,” the source added.

The negotiator stated that the Taliban do not even accept usage of “war” and “conflict” for explanation or definition of the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. “The Taliban say they have done Jihad. They reiterate that the ongoing war in Afghanistan should be recognized as Jihad which is not acceptable for the Afghan government,” the negotiator said, adding that the government negotiation team was seeking to propose the terms which neither convey the meaning of war and conflict, nor the meaning of Jihad. “Those terms and expressions should be used which should not introduce neither of the two sides as winner and keep the balance. The terms and expressions which are neutral and impartial.”

Meanwhile, some media reported that the two sides have already agreed to change the “Islamic Republic” and the “Islamic Emirate” to “warring/negotiating parties.” The two sides’ negotiation teams will negotiate with each other under the titles of “warring parties”. However, some political commentators have already criticized the government negotiating team for the agreement, arguing that they have dragged down the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the level of a militia.

Meeting the Afghan government negotiation team on November 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commended the two sides for continuation of the talks and for progress they have made. “Secretary Pompeo reiterated that the people of Afghanistan expect and deserve to live in peace and security after 40 years of war and bloodshed,” part of a statement issued by the US Department of State reads.

HCNR Chairman Abdullah welcomes the breakthrough

In a meeting with former President Hamid Karzai, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), Abdullah Abdullah, welcomed the breakthrough in negotiations with the Taliban. “The Afghan people expect the Islamic Republic negotiation team to pave the ground for making it to the main stages of peace negotiations by finalizing the [negotiation’s] procedure,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Atta Mohammad Noor, chief executive of Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan, has also welcomed the progress made in negotiations with the Taliban. He further noted that Jamiat-e-Islami believes that there is no way to reach a sustainable peace rather than resorting to negotiations, peaceful means, and ensuring justice and equality.

Although all reports and recently publicized positions of some Afghan political figures are all indicative of the progress in intra-Afghan talks which was stalled for around two months since September 12, neither the Afghan government nor the Taliban have announced it officially.

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