Talks are 'only option' for Afghan peace
Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry hosted the fifth meeting of Quadrilateral Coordination Committee aimed at bringing peace between the Afghan government and the Taliban. According to a joint declaration issued by the foreign office, the group agreed that peace negotiations were the only option for a political settlement in Afghanistan. However, the participants could not decide the schedule for next meeting.
The limiting of US troops (9600 left as advisors) and international forces from Afghanistan has attenuated the Taliban's main goal and cause of political support i.e. driving outsiders from Afghan soil. They therefore, no longer have a reason to oppose the government. The Taliban though still on an offensive (with suicide attack on bus carrying government workers) has welcomed the opportunity to establish peace.
The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist group that controlled Afghanistan until 2001. Their regime was toppled by the U.S for providing refuge to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
One of the most crucial and driving reason behind the peace talks is the changing policy of Pakistan. A declining security situation in Pakistan and the rising strength of Pakistani Taliban has led to a change in policy of Pakistani military leadership. Pakistani leadership realised that Pakistani Taliban could not be countered unless Pakistan helped the Afghan government reconcile politically with Afghan Taliban.
Commenting upon the peace talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that China has and always will support the "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" reconciliation process. China applauded the 'flexible attitude and collective willingness' for going ahead with this meeting to propagate the reconciliation and peace process in Afghanistan.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon along with Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative in Afghanistan greeted the face to face talks between Taliban and Afganistan government in Pakistan, asking the two "to move towards reconciliation and peace." The Secretary General congratulated Pakistan for its 'constructive' role as the host. Haysom reiterated the Afghan people's desire to end the pervasive violence affecting every aspect of their lives.
The first peace talks between the Kabul government and Afghan Taliban ended with an agreement to meet again in August in Doha. This step aimed at ending 13 years of war with Afghanistan, where Taliban have been trying to establish their extremist reign after being toppled by US in 2001. Nawaz Sharif cautioned all negative elements to refrain from trying to derail the talks.
The news of Taliban leader Mullah Omar's death has renewed tensions in Kabul and Islamabad. Infighting among the Taliban cadre and a bid for power consolidation by new leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour have diminished prospects for the peace process to continue. Officials from Afghanistan visited Islamabad to discuss the possibility of restarting peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
A four-way peace dialogue between the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan is underway in Islamabad to discuss a peace deal between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's Foreign Affairs advisor said that attaching pre-conditions to the talks "will create difficulties in bringing Taliban to the negotiating table." Pakistan is likely to share a list of Taliban members, willing to negotiate.
In the 3rd round of peace talks between 4 nations - the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan-and Taliban groups, Pakistan has said that it wants the maximum number of Taliban groups to join the talks. Notably, Taliban has so far not joined the peace talks posing questions on the outcomes of the talk. Meanwhile, the attacks by Taliban in Afghanistan have increased.
The Taliban has refused to take part in peace talks until the government orders foreign troops out of Afghanistan and releases all of its fighters from prison. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents "reject" peace talks and that reports of their participation were "rumours." Officials had expected direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Islamabad this week.
The US, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China will meet in Islamabad to discuss a roadmap for negotiating a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban. It would be the first meeting since the Quadrilateral Coordination Group met in Kabul 2 months ago. Official sources said special envoys of China and the US and senior officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan were expected to attend the meeting.