The peace negotiation team of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan left Kabul earlier today, Tuesday, January 05, for Doha to attend the second round of intra-Afghan talks with the Taliban. The Afghan peace negotiation have received a wide range of consultations in Afghanistan, including from the leadership of the government and the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), over past three weeks on the agendas of the next round of talks. On the other side, head of the Taliban political office in Doha, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, paid a visit to Pakistan during which he and his team have talked to Taliban leadership and the group’s rank and files about the next phase of talks.
Though the two parties have not leaked the agenda of talks in the second round, ceasefire and a power-sharing deal were raised as likely issues that would be discussed at this stage by the Republic’s negotiators. The Taliban, however, have recently stated that the agenda of the talks were yet to be set.
The Afghan government’s push for ceasefire
Ceasefire is what the Afghan government has repeatedly raised as a top priority to be discussed in talks with the Taliban. In a tweet posted today, January 05, Nader Nadery, spokesperson of the Republic’s negotiation team, while leaving Kabul for Doha, wrote that ceasefire “must be a priority” for negotiations.
President Ghani discussed the peace process with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, earlier this morning, January 05, via a phone-conversation. “President Ghani stressed the need for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan,” the Presidential Palace said in a statement. According to the statement, the Indonesian President has also promised the country’s support to garner continued international consensus of Islamic Ulema in support of the Afghan peace process.
In the meantime, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is on official visits to south and central Asia and the Middle East countries, with “expectations that the parties will make tangible progress in the next round” of intra-Afghan talks. As stated in a press release issued by the US Department of State, Khalilzad will encourage the Afghan government and the Taliban to accelerate the peace process and move forward to an immediate, significant reduction in violence and ceasefire. “In Doha he will meet with the two Afghan teams, encourage them, and offer US support to accelerate the peace process — an immediate, significant reduction in violence and ceasefire and an agreement on a political roadmap and power-sharing as soon as possible,” reads part of the press release.
Though a repeated and failed attempt it might be, the US envoy seems this time more determined to help the Afghan government in its push for a ceasefire. In a series of tweets, he implied the Taliban as perpetrators of the recent waves of target killings in Afghanistan, noting that the current levels of violence is not acceptable. “Those perpetuating the violence seek to undermine the peace process and the country’s future,” he stated, adding that they do not reflect the will of the Afghan people.
On his visits, Khalilzad discussed Afghan peace process with the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi of Pakistan and Afghanistan HCNR Chairman, Abullah Abdullah, in Kabul.
On Monday, January 04, in a letter addressed to the negotiating parties, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) highlighted the need for an urgent ceasefire, the war victim’s participation, and significance of human rights and victims’ rights in the agenda of the talks. “We thus renew our call for a ceasefire and call on you to appoint a joint committee to specifically discuss ceasefire, mechanisms for monitoring of ceasefire, as well as appointing a joint team to investigate any continuing incidents of violence, such as targeted attacks, including those against journalists and human rights defenders. Afghans should not have to wait for full agreement on a political roadmap to enjoy their rights to life, security and fundamental freedoms,” the AIHRC said in its letter.
3/3 The current levels of violence, including targeted killings, is unacceptable. Those perpetuating the violence seek to undermine the peace process and the country's future. They do not reflect the will of the Afghan people, who yearn for peace.
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) January 4, 2021
In response to these collective calls for ceasefire, spokesperson for the Taliban political office in Doha, Mohammad Naeem, told Arab News that “there has been no agreement yet as to what topics will be on the agenda”, adding that the two negotiating sides had exchanged lists of proposals before the three-week break. “Both sides will now decide specific topics for the agenda,” the Taliban spokesperson was quoted as saying while adding that a ceasefire would be on the agenda in accordance with the US-Taliban peace deal signed on February 29, 2020. “Cease-fire will be discussed but when, how and where — this will be decided by both sides,” Naeem said.
Mansour: power-sharing is the topic in second round
Speaking at a round-table hosted by the Afghanistan Institute for Strategic Studies, Abdul Hafiz Mansour, a member of the Republic’s negotiation team, maintained that the main topic in the second round of talks with the Taliban is a “power-sharing” deal. The talks will be focused in the next round of negotiations directly on how to share the state agencies and offices in the future government, he asserted.
Moreover, the Republic’s negotiator stated that the Taliban’s mentality remain unchanged and they are even more proud and stubborn now, contrary to what was widely reported by the western media that the militant group has undergone changes.
Mansour also said that most of Afghanistan donors are in favor of the peace talks to yield result and are interested in establishing an interim-government as a breakthrough. As he puts it, the regional countries sees it as a US initiative and oppose creation of the interim administration. According to him, the ordinary Afghans support ending the war in any feasible way. The peace worth it if an individual is required to be removed or replaced,’ he noted, implying that bringing about peace in the country is worthy of President Ghani’s removal from power and establishing an interim-government.
The Afghan government is strongly opposing the idea. In an apparent response to Mansour’s comments, the State Ministry for Peace said that the negotiation team is obliged to act within the principles of the constitution and strengthening a democratic system is their responsibility in the peace talks.