GP Insights

GP Insights # 98, 6 July 2019

Afghanistan: Taliban holds peace in Doha, strikes terror in Kabul 
Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh Iyer

What happened? 
As per reports, the ongoing seventh round of negotiations between Taliban representatives and US officials from 29 June 2019 in Qatar has shown remarkable progress. The Doha talks aim at achieving a draft agreement which would facilitate withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and also end the 18-year-old conflict in the region. 

But, on the contrary, when the negotiations seem to head to peace, attacks from Taliban fighters continue fading the prospects of the process. On 29 June, when the talks began, reportedly, the Taliban killed 19 people in an attack on a government office in Kandahar province. While on the very next day, they detonated a car bomb in a Kabul area killing 16 people and wounding at least 105.  Following this, Germany and Qatar announced an all-Afghan peace summit to be held in Doha without the participation of the Afghan government in the coming week.

What is the background?

The Taliban-US meeting is the seventh since October in Doha to end the 18-year long war in Afghanistan. According to the US special representative for Afghanistan, the six failed attempts indicate that faster progress would be the key as tensions escalate and innocent civilians die. 

Following this, the latest round is said to focus on four key issues. First, a Taliban guarantee that it will not allow fighters to use Afghanistan to launch attacks outside the country, withdrawal of the US and its allied forces, a permanent ceasefire and an intra-Afghan dialogue. The Afghan government is still kept away from the process as the Taliban regards them to be a "puppet of the US and further refused to hold peace with them. 

What does it mean?

It means that despite the optimism, the present situation suggests that the possibilities of full-on peace in Afghanistan seem afar. First, the trend of continuing talks on one hand while perpetrating violence, on the other seems to be the Taliban’s strategy to effectively consolidate its influence by all possible means. If negotiations succeed, the insurgents will easily expand their influence and eventually return to power. If it doesn’t find fruit, then, the Taliban would continue acquiring territory using terror. 
Second, given the above strategy, the divide within the present governmental institutions over domestic issues is only dragging the war further and complicating the process. This is thereby pushing the conflict in the Taliban’s favour. 
Third, the US and its allied forces have tried to argue that military pressure which included multiple airstrikes and raids have kept the Taliban at bay even as talks progressed. But the latter seems to have a counter-approach to the same. The Taliban seems to view its participation towards peace signifies their growing influence in the country. 

Hence, the faster progress to peace indicated by the six failed attempts to negotiations previously might remain bleak even as the present scenario seems optimistic.  

Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh Iyer is a Research Associate at ISSSP, NIAS. She can be reached at ssethadinesh2807@gmail.com

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