Intra-Afghan dialogue - end of war more likely than ever

Saul Bowman
July 9, 2019

Afghans who are attending the Intra-Afghan Dialogue Conference for Peace in Doha have said they have noted a significant change in the Taliban's mindset towards some issues in society, such as freedom of speech, human rights, women's employment, and their humanitarian rights, however, they said that the Taliban should demonstrate these changes practically.

A previously planned meeting between Afghan representatives in April collapsed before it started amid disagreement over the size of the proposed 250-strong Afghan delegation as well as over its status as a representative body.

Taliban have so far rejected to hold direct meetings with representatives from the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

"It doesn't address the really hard questions of what role the Taliban is going to play or not play in governing Afghanistan and what happens to the current government and system of government that the United States helped set up", said Miller, now the Asia program director at the International Crisis Group. He added there must be a series of dialogues and discussions before entering negotiations and the Intra-Afghan dialogue had come within the framework of reaching an agreement on the terms of peace among the Afghan factions.

The conference organizers are hoping this first step would pave way for a bigger breakthrough in future.

The Taliban representatives and the United States negotiators have been holding several rounds of talks - excluding the Kabul government - in the Qatari capital of Doha to resolve the crisis in the war-torn country.

Talks between the USA and Taliban will resume Tuesday.

An eager lobby pianist played an eclectic song-book that veered from the possibly prescient Abba hit "Winner Takes it All" to Soviet rockstar Viktor Tsoi as roughly 70 delegates arrived for the intra-Afghan talks.

"The Iran deal is not the first deal we've got out of", said Khalilzad.

Both sides claim the talks are progressing well.

The attack came one day after the top USA negotiator in peace talks with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, told a group of journalists that the past several days of talks with the insurgents had been "the most productive" since such talks began in September, and that "substantive progress" had been made on the four major issues: withdrawal of foreign forces, Taliban anti-terror guarantees, permanent cease-fire and negotiations among Afghans. The two sides will resume on the 9th after this intra-Afghan interaction which Khalilzad called "a critical milestone".

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban's office in Qatar, also expressed his satisfaction over the latest round of peace talks with the US.

"We want to go to the dialogue but they are not letting us", Stanekzai said to an officer, who replied: "We are not joking with you, stop shouting at us".

Delegate Asila Wardak, a member of the High Peace Council established by former president Hamid Karzai to engage with Taliban elements, said "everybody is emphasising on a ceasefire".

She posted a statement on Twitter earlier this evening hailing the participation of the Afghan women in Doha intra-Afghan dialogue on peace.

He felt positive about the discussions held till late Sunday afternoon.

The U.S. -Taliban talks were paused Saturday for several days, during which a group of about 60 Afghan leaders are visiting Doha to meet informally with Taliban leaders at the invitation of the German government. Despite the violence, both the Taliban and U.S. have been positive about their engagement. Last night they sat with women and we chatted.

Reuters spoke to six Afghan delegates attending the talks.

Noorullah Noori (C) and Mohammad Nabi Omari (R), members of the Taliban who were former prisoners held by the USA at Guantanamo Bay and reportedly released in 2014 in a prisoner exchange, attend the Intra Afghan Dialogue talks in the Qatari capital Doha on July 7, 2019.

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