Geopolitical activity involving the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan continues unabated. No less curious are the country's internal developments. Something dramatic, historical or very serious and fateful seems to be about to happen. Sooner or later, but not now. So far, the situation is developing quite predictably and without any unplanned global events.
Recently, President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani delivered a big speech before the Loya Jirga, the assembly of people's representatives and tribal leaders in Kabul. Quite an extraordinary event that was dedicated to the peace process, negotiations with the Taliban (prohibited in Russia), and the way the Afghans should move on in general.
Among other things, the issue of forming negotiation groups to conduct a dialogue with the Taliban was touched upon. After the forum ended, its participants adopted a recommendatory resolution containing proposals and views on promoting the peace process. The document's crucial points included the ceasefire initiative and intensified negotiations between the Afghans.
Meanwhile, Ashraf Ghani in his speech endorsed the resolution, expressing the government's readiness to implement all the recommendations included. In particular, the President reported on the possibility of a ceasefire during the month of Ramadan, provided that the Taliban take a similar step. "I am ready to comply with your legitimate demand of a ceasefire. I am aware that the national defense force and the law enforcement agencies are robust and strong enough to observe the truce. If the Taliban are to a certain extent ready to cease fire, we are ready to develop the technical aspect of its implementation," the head of state said.
Ahead of the forum, the Afghan President granted amnesty and released 175 Taliban members from prison. He said that the radical group should prepare for a large-scale internal Afghan negotiation. Moreover, the President expressed gratitude to the United States, NATO, the EU, and the countries of the region for contributing to the peace process around Afghanistan.
Let me remind you that some 3 200 people were invited for the Loya Jirga, but the number of actual participants accounted for only 2 100 delegates. Many influential politicians, including the majority of presidential candidates, regarded the initiative as Ghani's pre-election PR move and refused to take part.
Among them were the leaders of the Tajiks, the Hazara and the Uzbeks, as well as a number of influential Pashtun leaders. For instance, the country's chief executive, Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah, former governor of the Balkh province Atta Mohammad Nur and other prominent politicians remained adamant and opted out of participation.
The reaction of the Taliban to the Afghan forum was multifaceted. The radicals failed to accept it and continue combat and sabotage-terrorist actions mainly against Kabul and the foreign contingent. So, following an attack of suicide bombers against the police headquarters in the town of Puli Khumri, more than 60 people were killed. Around noon a mined car with a suicide bomber at the wheel was blown up in front of the headquarters. A classical suicide attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for this one. At present, however, Kabul is still seeking reconciliation with the armed opposition.
Thus, we see that preparations for the presidential elections have begun in the Afghan political realities. Everyone uses the accessible mechanisms and resources. Loya Jirga did not become the most important cultural, political and social event for the Afghans. President Ghani used it as a card playing joker in the run-up to the presidential election. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a forum of reconciliation, became the politician's signature line.
As for the negotiation process, there are a number of conclusions to be drawn. Afghanistan is changing from within. The parties to the conflict — Kabul and the Taliban — realized the impossibility of a military victory. And in the US, the administration has changed and is at least superficially tending to a rough isolationism, especially in the East. The peace process launched early last year implies a permanent negotiation process in various influential capitals.
It was assumed that official Kabul and representatives of the Taliban would start looking for compromise options to break the deadlock. However, the movement is still standing its ground and renouncing a dialogue with the "Kabul puppet regime". As a result, the negotiation process is mainly underway between the Taliban and the United States, as well as representatives of regional and world powers. Statements by President Donald Trump should be considered as confirmation to the theory of the American troops' incipient withdrawal from Afghanistan.
At the same time, Abdullah Abdullah keeps saying that a complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, according to Washington, will be only possible if peace is restored in the country. During a variable period your present correspondent had an opportunity to engage in dialogue with the Taliban. It is far from certain that the Taliban have any ambitions to return to the dark times of the 1990s. It is also hard to believe that the Taliban want to isolate Afghanistan from the international community.
The movement realizes its inability to restore monopoly power in the country. At current there is a need for confidential exchanges of views, for a research phase that could determine whether a sufficient basis for negotiations does exist or not. Such confidentiality is vital to ensure that each party to the conflict is afforded a chance to present its own narrative to the audience. Thus, negotiations of this kind could be a turning point for Afghanistan.
The Americans will sooner or later (rather sooner) withdraw most of their troops from Afghanistan, but this requires certain enablers. There is a need for more stability and a ceasefire. The parties to the conflict are specifically searching for these enablers.