Skip to main content

Talking to the Taliban: challenges for Kabul


 Habiba Ashna , Prateek Joshi

21 January 2019 12:00

Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections are due in July and there are, at best, contradictory signals about progress on the negotiations with the Taliban.

Despite 2018 being one of the most violent years in Afghanistan’s post 9/11 history, last year also increased hopes on the possibility of getting the Taliban to the table for talks.

The historic three-day ceasefire in June, the Taliban’s agreement to enter into talks with Washington, and the Moscow conference held in November, together convinced the international community of the Taliban’s openness to engage in a potential solution.

However, the divergent goals and bargaining capacities of the stakeholders risk giving greater leverage to the Taliban. While on the one hand, Moscow and Tehran’s closeness with the Taliban contribute to the latter’s assertiveness, the trajectory of Washington’s talks with the Taliban this year signal that the Americans might be only interested in a graceful exit (with a potential possibility of retaining minimal troop presence).

Amid the ongoing powerplay and the talk of negotiations with the Taliban, the weakest link in the chain is the elected Afghan regime.

The Taliban’s willingness to negotiate stems more from the potential gains it seeks rather than from the political constraints it faces in engaging with Washington. The Taliban is trying to change the stalemate into its favour after Washington announced a time-bound approach to finalise a settlement.

Amid the ongoing powerplay and the talk of negotiations with the Taliban, the weakest link in the chain is the elected Afghan regime. Over the years, not only has the Taliban refused to recognise Afghanistan as a legitimate entity, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad kept President Ashraf Ghani out of the loop when he met with Taliban officials in Doha. The sense of urgency with which Khalilzad approaches negotiations has failed to draw a clear line between negotiable and non-negotiable aspects of the talks with the Taliban, and Kabul’s inability to assert its perspective only compounds the problem.

The fundamental contradiction emerging between the American and Afghan policies is the negotiation timeline. For one thing, Khalilzad was appointed as the special envoy in October to deliver results within six months. Ghani, by contrast, announced his own peace agenda in the Geneva conference, where he outlined a minimum five-year plan to implement a solution. This immediately flagged his interest in having another term in office.

Yet in the absence of any clear policy direction from the Afghan leadership, Khalilzad’s recent manoeuvres suggest he is leaning towards striking an arrangement with Pakistan at Kabul’s cost. Even if the role of Pakistani agencies in getting the Taliban on the talking table is crucial, the disregard for Kabul’s stance by Washington stems from Kabul’s internal disagreements that risk sidelining the legitimate demands of Afghan citizens.

From a pragmatic perspective, it appears that the stress of the task is mounting. In a recent interview, Khalilzad claimed that the Taliban had accepted the futility of waging armed conflict, but he also expressed his doubts over the group’s desire to end the conflict after it refused to talk to the Afghan delegation in the recent talks in Abu Dhabi.

Khalilzad’s claims can be substantiated by the Taliban’s open letter in February urging Washington to resolve the conflict. Yet again, this opportunity could not be exploited given the fractious Afghan leadership and intra-governmental differences over the negotiation process, which was partly responsible for the Afghan government being bypassed by Washington when talks with the Taliban were revived.

A divided leadership in Kabul has only emboldened the Taliban to demonstrate its “invincibility”, despite acknowledging that it cannot win the war with Americans. The US-Taliban talks held in Abu Dhabi in December were described as productive, yet the Taliban subsequently refused to participate in Riyadh talks citing Saudi pressure to engage with Kabul.

The failures of the Afghan leadership have also been compounded after Washington dropped the pre-conditions for negotiations in what appears to be an effort to quickly end the stalemate. Yet the signals are contradictory. Trump’s indication in December that he could move to pull out 7000 troops appears to reaffirm America’s willingness to reduce its military footprint. Meanwhile, Khalilzad’s talks with the Taliban seem to point towards an American interest in retaining a presence.

Soon after Trump’s withdrawal news spread in the media, the Afghan government appointed Asadullah Khalid and Amrullah Saleh as ministers of defence and interior respectively. Both are staunch critics of Ghani, with anti-Pakistan stance (but experienced intelligence officials). Ghani's choice seems to be a knee jerk decision as he comes to terms with Afghanistan’s deteriorating security situation. Nevertheless, they come after years of flawed decisions, miscommunication, and ineffective strategies about Afghanistan, while the Taliban, in its response, is expected to pose an even greater challenge for both Washington and Kabul.


Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed.
Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area”
For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number”
Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell you …

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میںPlease help the deserving persons...Salary:Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows;Welder: Rs. 1,700 dailyHeavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyMason: Rs. 1,500 dailyHelper: Rs. 850 dailyElectrician: Rs. 1,700 dailySurveyor: Rs. 2,500 dailySecurity Guard: Rs. 1,600 dailyBulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyConcrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 dailyRoller operator: Rs. 2,000 dailySteel fixer: Rs. 2,200 dailyIron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 dailyAccount clerk: Rs. 2,200 dailyCarpenter: Rs. 1,700 dailyLight duty driver: Rs. 1,700 dailyLabour: Rs. 900 dailyPara Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 dailyPipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 dailyStorekeeper: Rs. 1,700 dailyOffice boy: Rs. 1,200 dailyExcavator operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyShovel operator: Rs. 2,200 dailyComputer operator: Rs. 2,200 dailySecurity Supervisor: Rs. 2,200 dailyCook for Chinese food: Rs. 2,000 dailyCook…

Historical relationship between Kurd and Baloch.

The Kurds are the ethnical group living in a region known as Kurdistan which is divided into Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. They  are struggling for an independent region since decades and they are famous for their female guerrilla fighters.        On 25 September 2017, the referendum for an independent Kurdish region  was held in Iraq with a turn out of 72 %.   On this important occasion, the historical relation between Kurd and Baloch people is worth discussing.       When it comes to history, every nation tends to find its roots and origin. Same goes with the Baloch people. The Baloch people are always curious  about  finding their roots in history. Even if you  talk to a shepherd in Balochistan, he will be curious to talk about his  tribal or ethnical roots.      The Balochs have always conveyed the history to the next generations in different mediums like poems etc. No Baloch before 20th century had written books on  history  or origin of the Baloch nation .