Peace talks are faltering, violence has surged, and U.S. troops are pulling out. Can the Afghan government withstand the pressure?

“The only way to break the current deadlock is to form an interim government,” mentioned Jafar Mahdavi, a former legislator who’s concerned in the peace talks course of. “The Taliban won’t accept Ghani’s rule, and they won’t join his government.”

Ghani has repeatedly insisted that he will remain in office for his full five-year time period and see the peace talks to fruition.

But a brand new spherical of negotiations, which have made virtually no headway since they began in September, stalled this week, as two of the prime Taliban negotiators did not return to the talks in Qatar after visiting Pakistan for consultations.

The group’s spokesman in Doha, the Qatari capital, tweeted Saturday that the negotiating groups had been nonetheless engaged on getting ready a substantive agenda for the talks. But delegates to the talks from Kabul mentioned the course of had been additional slowed by the unexplained absence of the prime two Taliban negotiators, Abdul Ghani Baradar and Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai.

Baradar, a founding father of the Taliban motion, spent eight years in jail in Pakistan however was launched in 2018, at the United States’ request, to participate in the peace process.

The position of Pakistan in the peace speak course of has taken on sudden new significance in the previous a number of weeks. The nation has lengthy mentioned it helps the talks and seeks a steady Afghanistan. But it has additionally hosted fugitive Taliban leaders for years and sheltered violent anti-Afghan militias that function alongside the lengthy, porous border between the neighboring Muslim international locations.

Complicating issues for the Afghan government is a Friday deadline for U.S. troops in Afghanistan to be decreased from 5,000 to about 2,500. This was the chief demand of the militants, who signed a separate cope with U.S. officers in February.

The troop discount may trigger the Afghan government to lose a lot of its remaining leverage in the talks. Ghani’s place was already weakened when he agreed to release about 5,000 imprisoned Taliban fighters beneath U.S. stress to seal the February pact.

Pentagon officers mentioned Tuesday that the troop drawdown was anticipated to proceed as deliberate, although it’s broadly opposed in Congress. A just lately enacted defense policy bill bars the U.S. government from utilizing funds to pay for it and not using a “comprehensive interagency assessment of the risks and impacts” of leaving solely a minimal U.S. navy presence in the nation.

Another stumbling block in the talks is the continued excessive degree of Taliban assaults. A current spate of unclaimed targeted killings, together with shootings and automobile bombs, has left a number of dozen civic and democratic activists, journalists, government officers and others useless. Afghan officers have blamed the Taliban for the assaults, and U.S. navy officers made the identical accusation final week.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration’s particular envoy for Afghan peace, made a whirlwind visit to the area this previous week, holding conferences in Pakistan and Qatar in addition to Kabul in an try to make sure the survival of the U.S.-Taliban deal and press for a nationwide cease-fire to accompany the Doha talks.

Khalilzad met with quite a lot of political leaders and diplomats right here, however Ghani refused to see him. The president, like many Afghans, felt betrayed by the beneficiant phrases of the deal he brokered with the insurgents. Now they view Khalilzad as pushing too onerous for a fast settlement amongst Afghans, particularly amid local media reports that he was encouraging an interim government. Last week Khalilzad referred to as on each side to cut back violence however didn’t blame the Taliban for the current focused assaults.

The chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, mentioned in an announcement on Twitter on Wednesday that the United States just isn’t pushing for a brand new government.

“We have not advocated, and the United States is not advocating, an interim government,” he wrote. “The outcomes of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations are up to Afghans & we believe those outcomes should reflect the wishes & aspirations of the Afghan people.”

Abdullah Abdullah, head of the government council for peace and reconciliation, has mentioned for months that he could be open to the creation of an interim government if that might assist the prospects for peace. Abdullah was Ghani’s prime rival for the presidency in the previous two elections.

“We have to be flexible in our thoughts,” Abdullah advised a global digital convention final yr. “Nothing should derail us from getting to a durable, lasting and acceptable peace for all Afghans, including the Taliban.”

Some Afghan officers and consultants have referred to as for an interim government for use solely as a final resort.

“To form an interim government now would be premature and irresponsible,” mentioned Davood Moradian, director of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies. “It would mean dismantling the current government, and the members would have no real authority to make an agreement. There would be bound to be infighting among them. This might be a possible outcome of talks, but it cannot come first.”

But fears stay about what an interim government would imply for the democratic positive aspects made since the Taliban was compelled out of energy.

“The people of Afghanistan are not supporting an interim government because there is no guarantee its formation could end the war in the country,” mentioned Mohammad Khalid Momand, a member of parliament. “Afghans don’t want to lose the achievements of the past 18 years.”

Sharif Hassan contributed to this report.



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