UNHAPPILY, when it comes to anything involving Afghanistan, even extremely cautious optimism can seem misplaced. On Monday, in an announcement clearly timed to coincide with the handover of all of Afghanistan’s security to the Afghan security forces, Taliban representatives held a press conference in Doha, Qatar and announced their willingness to seek a negotiated peace agreement. But hours later, an attack in eastern Afghanistan left four foreign soldiers, presumably American, dead and yesterday President Karzai, in another apparent fit of pique, suspended his government’s negotiations with the US on an agreement to leave behind a residual foreign force in Afghanistan post-2014 and declared that the High Peace Council will only participate in the Doha talks if they are “Afghan-led” — something the Afghan Taliban have showed little interest in. If Mr Karzai is maddening, the Taliban are frightening, the US is vexing and Pakistan is opaque, meaning there is virtually nothing that can be said with any certainty about the prospects for a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan other than that there will be many bumps on the road to peace.

Nevertheless, it is a positive sign that the US and the Afghan Taliban have been able to move beyond their stubborn insistence on talking past each other rather than directly to one another. The Taliban’s incentive to talk peace with an exiting superpower in a war that the US will clearly not win has always been hard to pin down: why would a resilient and powerful insurgency borne of a regime that ruled Afghanistan until the Americans arrived in 2001 give away anything at the negotiating table just because domestic opinion in the US had turned against the Afghan war, triggering a massive scaling down of US commitment to Afghanistan? If that answer has never been clear, there does seem to be another incentive for the Taliban to show up in Qatar: having an official address where the world can interact with the Afghan Taliban and they can sideline an Afghan government that is accepted as weak and unsustainable, particularly with President Karzai or his cohorts calling the shots.

Which is perhaps why Mr Karzai has reacted with such fury to the Taliban’s attempt to infuse its office in Doha with the aura of an alternative seat of Afghan power. Such are the many hiccups on an uncertain path to peace. For Pakistan, perhaps an assurance should be sought from the Afghan Taliban that Pakistan too will not be threatened by groups operating on Afghan soil.


Do you have information you wish to share with Dawn.com? You can email our News Desk to share news tips, reports and general feedback. You can also email the Blog Desk if you have an opinion or narrative to share, or reach out to the Special Projects Desk to send us your Photos, or Videos.

More From This Section

Afghanistan deal

Unhappily, three elections into a new era aspiring towards democracy, the Afghan electoral process remains hostage.

Politics & development

Since the elections in 2008 there is some evidence that, politically, Pakistan has made several crucial gains.

Polio emergency

In recent days, almost 20 new cases have been reported across the country — 13 on Sept 16 alone.

Comments (2) (Closed)


M. Asghar
Jun 21, 2013 03:45pm

The only rational way out of the Afghnistan's mayhem is to get out of this sinister foreign occupation for the geo-ends and the help of its neighbours to pacify the country for its people.

Abid Khan
Jun 22, 2013 03:02am

I have just happened to find out shocking amisses in your reputed newspaper editorials which I show here with some depiction.

Fallacy: presumably American..... Correct: Presumably Americans.....

Fallacy: reacted with/in such fury correct: reacted with such fury that................

Poor Style: If Mr Karzai is maddening, the Taliban are frightening, the us is vexing and Pakistan is opague, meaning there .......

Good/Standard Style: If Mr. Karzai shows madness, the Taliban and the US show vexing attitude, and Pakistan has opacity towards the commencement of peace talks in Qatar, it is likely to damage the immediate & long-lasting effects of peace process itself.

It is shocking for me to have often seen such amisses in one of our leading newspapers, called, DAWN. Please keep its reverence intact.

THANKS WITH REGARDS,

ABID KHAN (KHI) A WELL-WISHER FOR THE PAPER