GP Insights

GP Insights # 448, 6 December 2020

An Afghan agreement in Doha: A breakthrough reported between the government and the Taliban
D Suba Chandran

What happened?
On 2 December, the New York Times reported an agreement between the negotiators of the Afghan government and the Taliban over "the principles and procedures that will guide the ongoing peace negotiations between them." According to a tweet by Nader Nadery, on Wednesday, "the plenary meeting was held between two Intra-Afghan negotiation teams. In this meeting, a joint working committee was tasked to prepare the draft topics for the agenda.." and "the procedure including its preamble of the negotiation has been finalized and from now on, the negotiation will begin on the agenda." Nadery is a part of the negotiation team by the Afghan government; he also tweeted on the same day: "The current negotiations of both negotiation teams show that there is willingness among Afghans to reach a sustainable peace and both sides are committed to continue their sincere efforts to reach a sustainable peace in Afghanistan."

On 5 December, Nadery tweeted again. He said: "The Committee discussed the issue related to the agenda of the negotiation. The working committee will meet again tomorrow."
Earlier, according to Sediq Seddiqqi, the spokesperson of the Afghan President tweeted on the same issue in which the latter welcomed the "finalization of the negotiation procedures in Doha." 

What is the background?
First, the protracted negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Ever since an agreement was reached between the United States and the Taliban in February this year, there was an expectation that the intra-Afghan dialogue would follow up immediately. However, that did not happen. The Afghan government was not a party to the February 2020 agreement between the US and the Taliban. There were numerous differences between the two government and the Taliban from major issues such as the ceasefire as a precondition of intra-Afghan dialogue, to even the nomenclature of how both sides want to be called. Multiple meetings have taken place between the two negotiation teams.

Second, the continuation of violence. After the February agreement, it was expected that the level of violence would decline. Afghanistan is yet to witness the same. According to a New York Times casualty report, there were more than 444 people killed in November 2020 (including 244 pro-government forces and 200 civilians) and 580 killed in October 2020 (including 369 pro-government forces and 212 civilians). The negotiations in Doha is taking place with heavy violence in the background in Afghanistan.

Third, the American pressure on the Afghan government. Ever since the February agreement with the Taliban, one of the primary American objectives is to pressurize the Afghan government to engage with the Taliban to ensure there is an intra-Afghan dialogue place, as it withdraws its troops further. President Trump has made another statement recently on further withdrawal of the American troops from Afghanistan. By January, there would be less than 2500 American troops, if one has to go by Trump's plan to reduce by half of what they have now.

What does it mean?
An agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban is important at this juncture. Not only because of Trump's decision to reduce the troops level further but also because of declining international support to Afghanistan. The Afghan donor conference in Geneva last month could manage only USD 12 billion for the next four years when compared to USD 16 billion and USD 15 billion during Tokyo (2012) and Brussels (2016) conferences respectively.

The troubling aspect is the continuing violence. As mentioned above, more than 1000 people have been killed during the last two months (October-November 2020). This is unacceptable. Dialogue and violence cannot continue side by side. Unfortunately, there is more pressure on the Afghan government to accept this, as the Taliban continues to engage in Doha politically, and perpetrate violence in Afghanistan.

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