ISLAMABAD – Qatar has officially proposed that warring parties in Afghanistan agree to third party mediation to advance their stalled peace negotiations and reach a power-sharing arrangement before US-led foreign forces complete their withdrawal from the country by September 11. Meeting.
The proposal comes ahead of the crucial meeting between US President Joe Biden and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his main peacemaker, Abdullah Abdullah, in the White House on Friday. Biden is expected to urge all Afghan parties to negotiate âsensiblyâ to end the long conflict in their country.
Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani, Qatari special envoy on counter-terrorism and conflict resolution mediation, said his administration shared the mediation proposal with representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents last week. He made the remarks during an international seminar this week in Qatar’s capital, Doha.
The two Afghan opponents have been conducting peace negotiations in Doha since last September, including with the host government as mediator. But the process has made little progress as both negotiating teams blame the other for the deadlock.
âWe don’t think relief is enough.[Afghan negotiators]need a formal mediation, “said Qahtani on Monday.
The organizer of the seminar, the independent Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Doha, released a video of his speech on Thursday.
“The[two Afghan]The parties have not yet finalized their mediation agreement. One party needs two mediators, the other one mediator, âsaid the Qatari envoy without going into detail. âWe expect the parties to come to us very, very soon to discuss their final position. You are almost there. “
Qahtani said the mediator’s opinions, decisions and suggestions were not binding on the Afghan parties but did not say who would conduct the proposed mediation.
The Qatari official insisted, however, that it must be an “impartial mediator who understands the cultural sensitivity of the conflict” in order to help the Afghan parties to a peaceful solution “in full compliance with international law“.
Doha, home to the Afghan Taliban’s political office, served as the venue for Washingtonâs negotiations with the insurgents that spawned the landmark February 2020 troop withdrawal agreement and paved the way for the US to complete nearly two decades of military engagement in Afghanistan.
The peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government stemmed from the US-Taliban agreement. The pact also obliges the insurgent group not to allow terrorist groups to use Afghan soil to attack the United States and its allies.
Stuck intra-Afghan talks
Qahtani said the deadlock in intra-Afghan talks was primarily due to major disagreements over the government of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign troops.
âAny kind of system, whatever you want to call it. Any kind of name you want to suggest I think it’s up to you. More important is the power, the system, the future government, âhe said.
The Taliban reject Ghani’s government as an illegal entity and product of the US occupation of Afghanistan and demand a new “Islamic system of government” in Kabul. The Afghan government claims that the country is run under an Islamic constitution and that any transition must be made in accordance with existing laws.
“I confirm that we received a proposal from the Qatari Foreign Ministry on the role of Qatar as a mediator,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told VOA. “This is now being discussed in our negotiating team and we will send you our answer soon after our deliberations,” said Suhail, who is based in Doha and is also a member of the Taliban negotiating team.
VOA was unable to get immediate confirmation from the Afghan government as to whether it had received Qatar’s proposals and what its possible response would be.
Territorial control of the Taliban
The Taliban have expanded their area of ââcontrol dramatically since the process of foreign military withdrawal officially began on May 1 and dozens of districts were occupied. The United Nations estimated on Tuesday that more than 50 Afghan districts have fallen victim to the insurgents since the beginning of May.
The Afghan security forces also escalated the counter-offensive, killing hundreds of combatants on both sides in the ensuing fighting.
The violence has fueled fears that the withdrawal of international forces without a peace deal could plunge Afghanistan into another round of bloody civil war and chaos.
However, the US chief military officer on Wednesday downplayed the recent insurgents, saying that most of the Taliban-controlled district centers were confiscated before US forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, speaking to the House Military Committee earlier this week, admitted that the Taliban “shelled and pillaged outposts,” and they have also confiscated some district centers.
âWe believe that 81 district centers are currently under the control of the Taliban. There are 419 district centers. There is no provincial capital under the control of the Taliban, and there are 34 of them, âMilley said.
âSixty percent of the 81 were confiscated last year and the rest for the past two months or so. So, yes, we are concerned, we are watching, but there are 300,000, plus or minus, military, Afghan army and police, and it is their job to defend their country, âadded the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Washington, Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors and regional countries, including Qatar, have called on the Taliban to reduce violence and seek a political solution to the war. They warn that attempts by the insurgents to seize power militarily would be unacceptable to the world community.
A White House statement earlier this week said that Friday’s visit by Afghan leaders to Washington “will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Afghanistan.”
But the Taliban criticized the meeting between Biden and Ghani in the White House on Friday.
“It seems that his visit serves to extend his power rather than to find a peaceful solution to the Afghanistan issue,” said Taliban spokesman Suhail. “It is in the interests of the US to focus on a peaceful solution to the problem rather than strengthening a dying regime.”