The Fate of Taliban’s Qatar Office
The government of Afghanistan has set some preconditions for the Taliban’s Qatar political office. Afghan Foreign Affairs Minister Zalmay Rassoul said on Wednesday that the government of Afghanistan will not consent to opening of the office in Qatar if the Taliban refuses to talk with the Afghan government. Mr. Rassoul stressed that the office, when opened, will not give the Taliban legitimacy but it will be used only for talks with the insurgent groups. Moreover, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the government of Afghanistan is talking with Qatari government on an agreement for opening the office, and based on the plan, Afghanistan keeps the right to close the office in case of any infringements.
Now, as the plan of Qatar office for the Taliban is reaching to the dead end, it seems that the fate of the Qatar-centered peace talks is more than ever vague. The government of Afghanistan has always been suspicious over the US plan for opening Taliban’s Qatar office. After the US secretly opened talks with the Taliban for resuming peace talks and opening an office for the group, the government of Afghanistan opposed the plan. Despite later agreement with the US-initiated plan, the government of Afghanistan has remained skeptical about that, as the Taliban have refused to include the Afghan government in the talks.
Insistence of the Taliban that they will not talk with the government of Afghanistan under any circumstances will remain a major obstacle for any kind of peace talks. All major players including the US and United Nations have officially recognized that the talks must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Here, for persuading the Taliban to directly talk with the Afghan government, the US and Pakistan could have a strong role in boosting the role and status of Kabul in any type of negotiations.
The preconditions set by the government of Afghanistan do not seem to be unrelated to the latest developments around the peace plan efforts for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict. Pakistan has shifted policy towards supporting negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict and leaders of the Taliban, particularly those who are described as moderate leaders of the group, seems to be convinced that they have no better choice except negations. All these developments put the government of Afghanistan in a better position which is reasonably trying to take lead in any future peace talks with the insurgent groups.
Now we should wait and see the respond of the Taliban. Most likely, the Taliban will come under pressures from other players including Pakistan and United States, who is the only side that Taliban have so far consented to talk with, to compromise and come on table of negotiations with the government of Afghanistan. From another perspective, the latest preconditions of the Afghan government may undermine the US-initiated plan of Qatar office for the Taliban in favor of the latest peace efforts assisted by Pakistan.