The most important occurrence witnessed by Afghans during the 1397 solar year (March 22, 2018 to March 22, 2019) was the negotiations held between the US and Taliban officials in Doha as well as between Afghan politicians and members of the Taliban in Moscow. However, Afghan government’s delegates were absent in the meetings.
The new solar year will be celebrated on Thursday, March 22. There are increasing hopes among Afghan politicians about making progresses in peace during the upcoming solar year.
The peace efforts started after the US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells held talks with Taliban in Qatar on July, followed by the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation last September.
In his first visit to Kabul on October, Khalilzad said he is hopeful to break the stalemate in Afghanistan's peace.
“I will use my experiences in international issues, the lessons I have learned, my relationships in the region and the world and anything that God has gifted me for achieving peace in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad said when he first visited Kabul as the US special envoy last year on October.
After consultations with Afghan politicians and government officials, Khalilzad started talks with the Taliban and he had his first meeting with the group on November and after few weeks, he held his second meeting with the group.
The third meeting between the US negotiators led by Khalilzad and the Taliban members took place in Abu Dhabi on December. This round of talks was the first steps toward reaching an agreement. The negotiating teams in the talks held tough discussions on US forces withdrawal and counterterrorism efforts.
The talks, however, did not end with an agreement. Khalilzad said the meetings were productive.
After limiting the issues under discussion, both negotiating teams left Abu Dhabi for consultation with their leaderships and then came together in Qatar for the fourth round of the talks.
In the fourth round of the talks, again both sides had serious discussions on troop withdrawal and counterterrorism efforts. Again, they called off the talks for consultations.
The fifth round of the talks was held on February and continued for 16 days.
At the fifth round, the Taliban team was led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the new head of Taliban’s Qatar office as well as the deputy leader of the group. This time, the two teams entered the talks with more authority comparing to the previous rounds of the talks according to US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad. In this round of talks, the two sides agreed in draft on two key issues under debate – troop withdrawal and counterterrorism assurances.
Peace requires agreement on four issues: counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, intra-Afghan dialogue, and a comprehensive ceasefire, Khalilzad said in a tweet after he wrapped up the fifth round of talks with the Taliban.
Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who was Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan during Taliban’s regime in Kabul and who has been engaged in Qatar talks, told TOLOnews peace has turned into a definite happening.
“Now peace has become a definite occurrence. The trust which was needed, has been achieved to a high extent,” said Zaeef.
In addition to the US and Taliban talks, Afghan politicians and members of Taliban had a meeting in Moscow on February in absence of the Afghan government where they issued a declaration.
The Afghan government has said that Moscow’s declaration is not applicable, but delegates of the meeting said the event was a good development as the two sides shared their views in a peaceful environment.
“This meeting was in favor of the peace process and for the first time a number of Afghan politicians sat together with the Taliban in one meeting and expressed their views to each other,” said Wahid Muzhda, an analyst and a delegate of the Moscow meeting.
Taliban’s denial to talk to Afghan government has left Kabul delegates out of the meetings which were held during the last one year.
Recently, Hamdullah Mohib, the National Security Advisor for President Ashraf Ghani accused Khalilzad of bypassing government in the peace talks and for trying to create an interim government and having ambitions in Afghanistan.
The comments faced with reactions by the US government as Mohib was reportedly summoned by the US Department of State.
Reports indicate that government delegates and Afghan politicians will probably meet with Taliban in Qatar on April 24.