US special envoy for Afghanistan peace and Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad visited Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, met NATO partners to resume the halt peace talks between the United States and Taliban. His new mission started at a time the international community and some regional countries stressed the need to resume the scrapped peace talks and extended their support in this regard.
Earlier, the Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader the chief negotiator of the militant group visited Iran, Russia, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, their visits and the warm reception these countries gave to Taliban irked the Afghan Government. During the visits the Taliban urged the US to come to the negotiation table and resume the stalled peace talks.
Taliban representatives met Khalilzad in Pakistan and discussed the Afghan peace process and swap of prisoners, Khalilzad said, his unofficial meeting with the Taliban representatives in Islamabad was for the release of the two professors of the American university of Afghanistan who were hostage by Taliban militants two years back in Kabul and were taken to unknown place in exchange for the release of Anas Haqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqani, the founder of Haqani network group and other Taliban prisoners.
In Pakistan, Taliban representatives met foreign minister Shah Mohmood Qureshi and army chief general Qamar Jawid Bajwa and other senior Pakistani officials, discussed the Afghan peace process in detail while Pakistan reiterated its steady commitment to sustainable peace and ending the violence in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in his meeting with Khalilzad emphasized on political settlement of the Afghan conflict, the conflict has been going on for 18 years in Afghanistan which has been the longest US war on its history, still no signs are seen for its halt. even the US officials and the international community knew that the only way to end the violence is through negotiations and discussions.
This was the first visit by Taliban delegation to Pakistan at a time Taliban started their visits to regional countries for the revival of the canceled peace talks. The aim of Taliban representatives visit to the region was the restart of the peace talks and to tell the region countries that they are committed to peace in Afghanistan but the US backtracked from its decision.
The Taliban in a statement stated that the cancelation of the talks will harm the United States more than anyone else and stressed that if the US continues the war, they will fight for 100 years more and the material and human loses responsibility of the war would be on US shoulders. Taliban said, we have not stopped the negotiations but the US did it to continue war and maintain their presence in Afghanistan. Withdrawal of US troops is the pre-condition of Taliban militants for talks with the US and the Afghan government.
In Brussels, Khalilzad met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, representatives of Germany, Italy, Britain, France, EU, and UN and discussed the Afghan peace process in his two days visit. Stoltenberg said NATO welcomes the resumption of the scrapped peace talks and urged the Taliban to show compromise at the negotiation table and reduce violence. He said, Taliban are not committed to everlasting peace in Afghanistan and they should give guarantee in return of a possible peace deal between the group and the United States. He emphasized that NATO is committed to peace in Afghanistan but will not allow the country to turn into the safe heavens of international terrorists.
In the quadrilateral meeting which was held in Moscow, representatives of Russia, China, Pakistan and the United States talked the Afghan peace process and welcomed the new step of the US to resume talks with the Taliban, after that Khalilzad came to Kabul, met president Ashraf Ghani and Chief executive Abdullah Abdullah and a number of prominent Afghan politicians and detailed them of his new mission to restart peace talks.
The Afghan politicians stressed the need for the commencement of the intra-Afghan dialogue as the best path to make the peace process successful. The presidential palace in a statement said the Afghan government supports any move which led to permanent peace and end the violence in Afghanistan, stressed on direct talks between the government and Taliban. The statement said, the ownership of the talks should be in the hands of the Afghan government.
Khalilzad held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar, the capital city of Doha and was close to reach an agreement in principle with the Taliban but the talks were cancelled and later announced dead by US president Donald Trump in response to a deadly attack in the downtown area of Kabul city in which several Afghan civilians were killed including an American soldier, there was hope among the Afghan masses that the peace talks would end the brutal war but their hopes were dashed to ground after Trump scrapped the talks, Khalilzad new mission to restart the talks revitalized the dead hopes of the Afghan people as they are the real victims of this war.
The Trump administration provoked the talks because of some reasons, one was the reduction of violence, the United States called Taliban to reduce violence amid peace talks, but the violence was intensified as Taliban fighters attacked several provinces, inflicting heavy casualties on both civilians and the Afghan security forces to gain leverages and make their bargaining position strong.
The Taliban did not accept the demand of the US to observe ceasefire in the wake of the talks. the Taliban denied to hold talks with the Afghan government and termed it as US puppet and demanded the formation of interim setup which was rejected by the Afghan government. The scenario is now different than past as violence is relatively reduced these days, Afghan government shows willingness to take part in the talks with the Taliban as earlier it opposed peace talks which overshadowed the recently held presidential elections and there was possibility of the formation of an interim setup if a possible peace deal was reached.
The Afghan government has set some conditions for the Taliban this time and president Ghani announced his seven phases roadmap for peace talks with the Taliban and one month ceasefire, National Security advisor Hamdullah Mohib called Taliban Pakistan puppets, Mohib asked if they (Taliban) are really committed to peace, they should announce ceasefire, he said there isn’t unity of command in Taliban ranks.
On November 8, second vice president Sarwar Danish said the government of Afghanistan is ready to release Taliban Prisoners owing to the fact they reduce violence and sit for talks. This comes at a time as some countries showed willingness to host the Afghan peace talks, China is expected to host the intra-Afghan dialogue in Beijing and the Afghan government expressed its preparedness and made the list of the participants. Taliban agreed to send their delegations to China to participate in the intra-Afghan dialogue. Government will have representation in the Intra-Afghan dialogue including representatives of political parties, in previous intra-Afghan dialogues which were held in Moscow and Qatar, Taliban rejected Afghan government representation.
Germany is also willing to mediate the peace process between the Afghan government and the Taliban. For the success of any peace talks, there is need for national, regional and international consensus; all countries in one voice demonstrated their will for peace and the end of violence in Afghanistan.