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Afghanistan: impetus to reconciliation

The Taliban for the first time clearly signaled readiness for direct talks with Kabul

Afghanistan: impetus to reconciliation

As the whole world is discussing scenarios of the upcoming war between the USA and Iran, the Afghan process has gotten off the forefront. And it is for no good reason. Qatar has hosted another, yet the seventh, round of negotiations on achieving peace in Afghanistan. The event was attended by US diplomats and representatives of the Taliban movement (banned in Russia). What was reached at the meeting? What was on the agenda? What is still remaining uncovered by the conflicting parties?

The main topic of the talks is still the conditions of signing a peace agreement. There are four of them. Firstly, the radical movement must stop its terrorist activity. The Taliban also must prevent Afghanistan from turning into a safe haven for the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda (both are terrorist organizations banned in Russia). Secondly, the intra-Afghan dialogue bringing together all political forces must be launched in the country. The third demand is to reduce the level of violence and cease fire. This applies both to the Taliban and the governmental troops. Fourthly, the USA must start a gradual withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan.

The most important and complicated issues are the withdrawal of the American troops and the suspension of terrorist activities by the Taliban. Naturally, these two issues are intertwined and go hand in hand.

Ahead of the Doha negotiations, the USA and the Taliban exchanges "messages" in media. In general, these messages contain the essence of the current stage of the negotiations.

Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada called to end the "occupation" of Afghanistan by American troops and urged the United States to in particular hold peace negotiations. He called the Afghanis for unity in order to "stop the occupation and strengthen the Islamic system." The Taliban leader also noted that the movement is open for peace negotiations and proposes to adopt a "clever plan of Islamic emirate" to move the process forward. He also said that the Taliban has continued creating a consensus between its regional neighbors. He called the participation in the intra-Afghan meeting in Moscow an example of such "success." The Taliban leader assured that the movement didn't seek monopolizing power, but rather wanted all Afghanis to have their roles in the "government."

To put it short, the Taliban's demand is reduced to the withdrawal of the American troops from Afghanistan. This is the main thing that the radicals want.

In turn, the Americans don’t hurry to take such steps. Apparently, the statement on withdrawing the troops, recognizing consent and setting the dates are the trump that can be sold just once. Announcing it, the Americans are losing it. That is exactly why US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said at the talks that he hadn't been authorized to set the date of the American troops withdrawal from Afghanistan and that he needed instructions of the US establishment on this issue.

At the same time, before the Doha meeting, the Taliban stepped up sabotage and terrorist activities in Afghanistan, and during the Doha negotiations a blast occurred in the Afghan capital near the Ministry of Defense. The Taliban claimed responsibility for it.

The Kabul terrorist attack sparked a public outcry. Local residents were outraged by the Taliban action. The movement in turn confirmed inflicting "insignificant damage to civilians." This is a quite interesting thing, as the Taliban had never before shown sentiments. It seems that the radicals feel that such actions sometimes damage their political image and may be interpreted wrongly by the USA, people of Afghanistan and regional states.

However, things are not hopeless, as it may seem at the first glance. The main thing that the Americans want is to make high-ranking Kabul officials and the Taliban sit at the same negotiating table. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan came up with a curious statement after the talks.

The negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban movement may take place in a one- or two-week time, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Sibghatullah Ahmadi said. "The intra-Afghan negotiations may take place in the next one or two weeks, and Germany assured that it will assist direct negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban," the official said. The intra-Afghan meeting should take place in Qatar on July 6-7. Germany will be assisting the intra-Afghan dialogue. Just recently, German Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Markus Potzel has met with representatives of the government and the Taliban to discuss preparations for this event.

However, less than 24 hours later, the Taliban refuted this rather pleasant news. "After the schedule of the withdrawal of foreign troops is announced in the presence of foreign witnesses, the intra-Afghan dialogue will begin, but we won't be engaged in negotiations with the Kabul administration as the government," according to a statement published by the representation office of the Taliban in Qatar.

So, have the Qatar talks failed? It's likely that they have rather have not. But is it possible to say that the US-Talib meeting in Doha gave no results? Has it become an absolutely pointless waste of time? It's likely that is has not rather than it has.

The Doha meeting was an important step on the road of reconciling the parties. This is yet another drop of water needed for satisfying thirst. The negotiations are very slow and instable, but there is no other way they can be conducted. The war in Afghanistan has lasted for 18 years, while the civil confrontation and conflict for 40 years. So, what are we waiting for? Could the parties solve all disagreements and reduce the level if enmity in just two or three meetings? Of course not. We will see many more negotiations rounds.

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