May 13, 2015
Last week representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban engaged in unofficial talks in Qatar aimed at ending Afghanistan’s 13-year-old war. Participants emphasized that they represented only themselves and were providing only their personal opinions, not those of the Afghan government or the insurgents. The talks came as fighting had escalated following the withdrawal of most U.S. and allied troops. The presence of foreign military in Afghanistan became a major sticking point for the Taliban representatives, who declared that they would not stop fighting until all foreign forces had left. The talks ended without a peace agreement; however it was agreed that the Taliban should reopen its political office in Doha for negotiations with the Afghan government. The parties agreed upon several other things, including that foreign forces have to leave Afghanistan soon. A summary of the talks was published by the Pugwash Conferences, an international organization that sponsored the discussions.
The Taliban representatives appeared to dismiss Pakistan’s role in future negotiations, criticizing the nation’s former peace talk offers to neighboring countries; Pakistan has been reluctant to support peace negotiations that its government is not in control of and has shielded senior Taliban leadership within its borders for many years. This week, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to discuss the Afghan Taliban and pledged to work together to fight terrorism, with Prime Minister Sharif stating that “any effort by any militant or group to destabilize Afghanistan will be dealt with severely and such elements will be outlawed and hunted down.”
Despite discussions between representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government, Taliban-led attacks in Afghanistan have increased as part of the militant group’s annual spring offensive. In an effort to promote peace in the region, Pakistan’s government publicly denounced the Taliban’s yearly spring offensive, urging them to stop the attacks and engage in peace negotiations with the Afghan government. It is widely believed that Pakistan’s support is necessary to reach an effective peace deal between the Taliban and Afghan government, and the public support of Prime Minister Sharif is a positive step towards beneficial negotiations.