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Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani (C) speaks during a one day meeting with Pakistan, United State and Chinese delegations in Kabul, Afghanistan January 18, 2016. ─ Reuters/File
Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani (C) speaks during a one day meeting with Pakistan, United State and Chinese delegations in Kabul, Afghanistan January 18, 2016. ─ Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Efforts for reviving the reconciliation dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban ran into trouble on Saturday with the main faction of the insurgent group denying it planned to join the process, besides questioning its efficacy.

“We unequivocally state that the leader of Islamic Emirate has not authorised anyone to participate in this meeting,” said a statement by the Taliban, who officially call themselves ‘Islamic Emirate’ — the moniker they used during the period they ruled Afghanistan.

The statement further reiterated the conditions the group has been stating all along for entering the peace dialogue — exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan, lifting of curbs on Taliban leaders and release of Taliban prisoners from Afghan jails.

Surge in operations by Afghan forces and presence of US troops cited as reasons for the group’s decision

The insurgent group headed by Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, which issued the statement, is the dominant militant faction in the Afghan war theatre and is also recognised by the Afghan government as a ‘legitimate interlocutor’. The faction is represented by its Political Office in Doha (Qatar). Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif last month visited Doha for enlisting support of the Qatari leadership for the initiative.

The statement ended hopes of the reconciliation negotiations commencing in the first week of this month — a timeline set by the four countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US — participating in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) on Afghan reconciliation.

This is the second time that QCG has missed the deadline. It had initially planned to open the talks in the last week of February.

The reconciliation dialogue with the Taliban has been suspended since July last year when it transpired ahead of the second round of the process being pursued then that the insurgent group’s leader Mullah Omar had been dead for over two years.

The factors cited by the group now for not returning to the negotiation table include intensification of operations by Afghan forces, deployment of US troops to the battlefield and their participation in air strikes and continuing night raids.

“Peace talks will be meaningless in the light of these developments,” the Taliban insist.

Continuing optimism

Despite the setback, officials engaged in preparations for the meeting that Pakistan is to host say they are still “optimistic” about the process starting very soon.

A top security official saw the statement as a pressure tactic by the Taliban and said that the entire process would not fall apart because of it.

“It is a typical pre-negotiations tactic for setting negotiation agenda. We can only hope that they move away from this stated position,” he stressed.

The QCG had last month adopted a ‘roadmap’, which lays out the various stages and timelines for the process. The official believes the delay would not disturb the roadmap.

“It is important to remember that the roadmap is not an end, only a means. It delineates the process, and there can be adjustments, improvements, retuning as we move ahead,” he said.

The immediate objective before the QCG was to get the process started before the launch of annual spring offensive by the Taliban so that violence could be lowered.

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal too is hopeful that the talks would get under way soon. He was quoted by the Voice of America as saying: “There is a lot happening in the background.” He explained that the planned starting date of the first week of March was “indicative” that plans are moving forward.

Pressure on Islamabad

The Taliban’s inflexibility on dialogue can cause problems for Pakistan.

Afghanistan has long been demanding that Pakistan stop providing shelter to the Taliban. But it was the first time that the Pakistan government at the recently concluded round of Strategic Dialogue with the US accepted to not allow the Taliban to use its soil any further.

“Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to taking action, in line with the country’s National Action Plan, to ensure that the Taliban are unable to operate from Pakistani soil,” the joint statement said.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2016

Comments (26) Closed

Dr. Farooq Khan Mar 06, 2016 08:06am

Kick them out from my homeland. I don't want my government to host their leaders.

Arif Mar 06, 2016 08:07am

Taliban is hungry for power which they will never get now that Afghan people has seen their real face

auginpk Mar 06, 2016 08:10am

Well nothing surprising.

M. Emad Mar 06, 2016 08:16am

Who is pulling strings behind Taliban refusal to reconciliation dialogue with Afghan Government ?

lubna Mar 06, 2016 08:17am

all those lost years which brought only destruction to afghans and made taliban more powerful as reflected by their stance --a sorry state of affairs----unfortunate future ahead as despite military loss americans will remain there which will be the sore point to start any dialogue

ghazal Mar 06, 2016 08:34am

now establishment got to decide what prevails peace or taliban?

Subhan Ahmad Mar 06, 2016 08:58am

At the end, it is the negotiations and not the war that will lead to peace.

S.Khan Mar 06, 2016 09:10am

It is hoped this is not a problem, this is just for the time being, those people who have the leverage, when they will use it the talk will start again.

Sunil Mar 06, 2016 09:19am

US earlier said" we dont deal with terrorists, and now negotiating for peace.

Rasheed Mar 06, 2016 09:28am

The negotiations mediated by the outsiders who has different interest in Afghanistan, impossible to happened or succeed. If reconciliation with Taliban happened and fighting ends, then is there any further agenda with Pakistan to have influence in Afghanistan. Therefore these negotiations will continue and remain on tables without any positive results for ordinary Afghan and Pakistani, both are victims.

subh Mar 06, 2016 10:08am

Great, First Pak admits of hosting Taliban leaders in Pak and now Taliban does not want to talk. May be pak should stop providing them healthcare facilities and start moving them to Jails !!!

Ahmed bin Babar Mar 06, 2016 10:23am

God loves peace, Afghans deserve peace, the Taliban should respect that...

fah-Isloo Mar 06, 2016 10:35am

US would do any thing to get out of Afghanistan. Even negotiate with Terrorists. Double standards.

Khan Mar 06, 2016 10:36am

Very simple solution, tell their leadership to leave Pakistani Soil alongwith their families and carry on with their struggle for power grabbing from within Afghanistan.

At the same time joint operations with Afghan forces should be carried out to root out the militants in both countries.

Mustafa Mar 06, 2016 10:40am

The world should learn that there was no negotiations between Nazis and the rest of the world and the only solution to bring about peace was use of force.

U Mar 06, 2016 12:14pm

Peace in Afganistan is not possible without bringing Taliban into mainstream politics And only Americans can do it

U Mar 06, 2016 12:16pm

@subh spot on

Gurjeet singh Mar 06, 2016 12:38pm

Why organise such meets when, refusal was already planned!

Cyrus Mar 06, 2016 02:33pm

@Sunil ... You are taking that out of context. Washington does not deal with terrorists who take hostages.

Cyrus Mar 06, 2016 02:40pm

@fah-Isloo .... ... Afghanistan is not a strain on the US economically. The military needs a place to train for larger conflicts. The US military has tried to make the Afghan Army stand up, but most of them are pathetic. They don't have an air force and don't know how to use field artillery.

M.Saeed Mar 06, 2016 07:10pm

If exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan, lifting of curbs on Taliban leaders and release of Taliban prisoners from Afghan jails are the conditions for talks, then what is left for the talks?

shahzad Mar 06, 2016 08:40pm

@subh right on dude. Well said.

crackerhacker Mar 06, 2016 10:29pm

@shahzad hahahhahah!! again!

crackerhacker Mar 06, 2016 10:30pm

@Gurjeet singh exactly!

crackerhacker Mar 06, 2016 10:32pm

@S.Khan take it to court..nt all!

Mustafa Mar 07, 2016 03:01am

@M.Saeed Talks can change hearts of human beings, not beasts.