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Jan 16 2019

Why were Kabul afraid of American talks with the Taliban?

In the first half of January, intrigue around the negotiation process between the team of the US Special Representative for the Peaceful Settlement in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad and representatives of the Taliban, pushed other topics of the Afghan agenda to the periphery that a few weeks ago looked paramount – reports of a massive winter offensive by insurgents hanging in the air the question of the outcome of the scandalous parliamentary elections, the results of which have not been announced until now, as well as the prospect of holding presidential elections. They were first appointed on April 20, 2019, then moved to July, but today observers do not undertake to say when they will take place and whether they are possible in the foreseeable future.rn  rn Kabul fears US peace with Talibanrn  rn The forms that the US took with the Taliban could have a significant impact on these elections, on the entire political system of Afghanistan, and on the military situation in this country. After the publication in the US media of a draft ‘peace agreement’ between the United States, the Taliban and official Kabul, prepared by the American research center of The RAND Corporation, Khalilzad’s contacts with the Taliban are rated in terms of regional or even geopolitics.

This plan contains a proposal to create a transitional government with interchangeable leadership and to hold presidential elections with the participation of the opposition only after a long transition period. Publications in the media caused a sharp reaction from representatives of the central government. So, a week ago, the Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, reproached the United States in an attempt to change the country’s political system behind the backs of the Afghan government. And on January 12, the speaker of the lower house of the Afghan parliament, Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, said that meeting with the Taliban in the absence of Kabul representatives would not help the world, but would alienate hope for it, and lead only to the “heroization of the Taliban.”rn  rn ‘That game, which is called ‘peace negotiations with the Taliban,’ is a nested doll, in which several intrigues are hidden at once,’ said Andrei Serenko, an employee of the Center for the Study of Modern Afghanistan. According to him, ‘the Afghan leadership and society are more and more often visited by thoughts, rather than’ whether the Western allies in these negotiations merge not only President Ashraf Ghani, but the entire current political regime. ‘rn  rn UN blacklist, withdrawal of US troops and other points of negotiationrn  rn “The negotiation process entered the active phase after Khalilzad was appointed US special envoy. At the same time, representatives of Ashraf Ghani themselves do not participate in the negotiations in Abu Dhabi, Doha or anywhere else, and are satisfied with what they are told later on about what the people of Khalilzad talked with representatives of the Taliban, ”says Andrei Serenko. In his opinion, the Afghan elite is seriously frightened by the course of these negotiations and does not exclude such an outcome, which it would treat as a betrayal by the allies from the United States. ‘According to information reaching us from an attempt to force the Taliban to accept the conditions of the American side – to accept the Afghan constitution, break with Al Qaeda, respect the rights of women, and participate in parliamentary elections – the negotiators from the US have already refused,’ the expert says .rn  rn The former director of the special political mission of the United Nations in Afghanistan Taalatbek Masadykov sees the situation somewhat differently. Zalmay Khalilzad held several meetings with representatives of the Taliban in Qatar, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. And regularly holds talks with the president of Afghanistan. The main task of the Americans is to conduct direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of the official Kabul. So far, the Taliban are refusing to do this, insisting that it must first resolve its issues with the United States, and not with a government that does not enjoy the support of the people, ”says a Kyrgyz expert in an interview with DW.rn  rn The conversation is about the exclusion of a number of prominent members of the movement from the UN sanctions list, about prisoners of war (there are certain progress in this aspect). “The Taliban insist that, before the peace talks, the issue of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan must be resolved. Not now specifically to withdraw, but agree on a timetable for the withdrawal, ”he continues. According to Masadykov, in addition to the US, Pakistan also tried to push the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan authorities. “One of the last meetings before the New Year was in Abu Dhabi, representatives of Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia participated in it, and the three of them tried to influence the Taliban, but so far without success. Another round of meetings is expected now, ”says Taalatbek Masadykov.

New Northern Alliance in Afghanistan?rn  rn In his opinion, Khalilzad’s shuttle diplomacy can bring results. However, Andrei Serenko assesses the same facts more skeptically. “The initiative in the negotiations now belongs to the Taliban, they set the conditions that the United States is inclined to fulfill. This concerns the release of a number of prominent Taliban leaders from prisons; this can be seen from a certain American peace plan that has fallen into the media and in one way or another signifies the gradual transfer of power in Afghanistan to the Taliban. There is talk of some kind of transitional government for a period of one and a half years or more, about the abolition of the current presidential election. That is, a change in the constitutional order, ”he says.rn  rn “These conversations are conducted by the Americans without the participation of the Afghan government with the Taliban and the Pakistani military. This, coupled with the willingness of the United States to make big concessions to the Taliban, and with the fact that Donald Trump has a firm intention to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, scares not only the authorities in Kabul, but other political forces in Afghanistan, ”describes the situation Andrei Serenko . According to him, in Afghanistan in these circumstances, the revival of the Northern Alliance is likely. ‘Fear can unite Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah and the leaders of the North who have so far opposed them to the Northern Alliance-2.0,’ the TsISA expert gives a gloomy forecast.rn  rn ‘The Taliban do not need peace, but power’rn  rn He notes that such a scenario worries Russia, Iran, India, China, the countries of Central Asia. “No one can tell how the Taliban will behave if their basic requirements are met. The possibility of incorporating them into a certain coalition cabinet is hard to believe. They need the US to leave as soon as possible, and they return to Kabul. At the same time, they themselves will not cope with stabilization, ”says Serenko.rn  rn Since no one will simply give up power to them, reincarnation of the Northern Alliance is possible, and an escalation of civil war will begin immediately in the country. “The countries of the region will inevitably take part in this war, perhaps more fiercely than in the 1990s, starting with the supply of weapons and ending with direct participation. First of all, India and Pakistan. Russia has so far failed to create a cohesive anti-Taliban front in the region. So they don’t see anything good from Donald Trump’s plan to leave Moscow, ”the Russian expert believes.rn  rn In this context, it is worth mentioning the recent statement by the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Ryabkov that Moscow is not considering the possibility of conducting active military operations in Afghanistan. “This is a signal from Central Asia: the situation is grave, but we will not do it again, so think about your protection and hold on to our umbrella. As in the 1990s, when the United States was not there, ”notes Andrei Serenko.rn  rn In turn, Taalatbek Masadykov stresses that today it is not clear whether the United States will indeed soon withdraw the military. ‘This is not solved by one person. And no one specifically talked about the final withdrawal of troops and the timing. This is a matter of negotiation with the Taliban. The Taliban today show their strength, which can seriously influence the situation. But in the military field, he can hardly win a serious victory, ”says the source. At the same time, the Taliban in January refused another round of negotiations with the team of Zalmay Khalilzad, which was planned to be held in Qatar.

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