PEJOURNAL – The lack of consensus among foreign actors on the Afghanistan peace talks, along with fundamental differences between the two sides, will pave the way for achieving a balance of actors’ interests.
Representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government formally met for the first time since the signing of a US peace agreement with the Taliban in Qatar on September 13, 2010 to begin inter-Afghan peace talks. Although the Taliban and the Kabul government are parties to the talks, other countries in the region and beyond are both influencing the outcome of the talks and the outcome. This article will examine the favorable scenario of foreign stakeholders regarding the results of inter-Afghan peace talks.
Since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in February 2020, the Taliban and the Kabul government have accused each other of obstructing the talks. The release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, especially the release of the last group of 400 dangerous Taliban fighters, and the formation of the Supreme National Reconciliation Council were the most important obstacles to the start of the talks, which were resolved by the representatives of the parties.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive Officer and Mullah Baradar, Head of the Taliban Political Office in Qatar, in the presence of US and Qatari Foreign Ministers, as well as a video conference of the Foreign Ministers of China, Pakistan and India, as well as UN, NATO and NATO Secretaries General. And the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The Afghan government has entered into peace talks with a 21-member team and an oversight body called the Supreme National Reconciliation Council, chaired by Abdullah Abdullah.
Matinbek (Advisor to the President), Bator Dostum (son of General Dostum), Khalid Noor (son of Ata Mohammad Noor, commander of the Northern Front and ally of Abdullah Abdullah), Fatemeh Gilani (daughter of Pirsid Ahmad Gilani, one of the leaders of the Sufi Afghanistan and former chair of the High Peace Council who died) And Ghairat Behir (Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s son-in-law) are other negotiators in the government team.
Leading the government team with Masoom Stanekzai is a supporter of Ashraf Ghani and former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service. The 21-member Taliban team is made up of prominent members of the group militarily, politically and religiously, led by Sheikh Abdul Hakim, a Durrani Pashtun cleric close to Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the former Taliban leader.
Maulvi Abdul Kabir (military commander and second deputy head of the Taliban Council of Ministers), Mullah Shirin (military commander close to Mullah Mohammad Omar), Anas Haqqani (half-brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network) and three Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay Khairullah Khairkhah, Fazel Mazlum and Noorullah Nouri are among the other members of the Taliban negotiating team.
Although the Taliban and the Kabul government are two sides in the talks, other countries in the region and beyond are both influencing the outcome of the talks and the outcome.
The issue of ceasefire and the nature of the negotiations are the most important issues. The government is seeking a complete ceasefire, but the Taliban are using it as leverage. The government also insists on building a republic, but the Taliban want the emirate. Although the Taliban have not introduced the form and framework of the Islamic system, it seems that the Taliban insist on the illegitimacy of the US-led government and its insistence on changing or amending the current constitution to form an interim or transitional government.
In other words, the Taliban, with some realism and flexibility, will seek a gradual transition from the current government to the regime, and therefore do not see the need for a quick agreement and do not shy away from prolonging the talks. In this regard, the Taliban are likely to oppose a ceasefire for a long time, and on the other hand, the government will refuse to do what is called reform. On the other hand, the Kabul team’s conflicting interests and the possibility of a rich rift with Abdullah and jihadist groups allow the Taliban to seize this opportunity to weaken the government team.
In such a situation, the option of supporting the formation of an interim government by the rich opposition accompanied by the Taliban could seriously challenge the current government. Overall, the result of such a situation could be a protracted dialogue and even a failure. In this regard, the most important foreign actors in the outcome of the inter-Afghan peace talks include the United States, Pakistan, India, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Below are their favorable scenarios for the outcome of the talks.
U.S. and Afghanistan peace talks
US officials had always insisted that the Taliban enter talks with the Kabul government before holding bilateral peace talks between Khalilzad and the Taliban, but the Taliban insisted they did not recognize the Kabul government and only with the Americans after The withdrawal of all its troops from Afghanistan will be negotiated. With the reversal of US positions and the acceptance of talks with the Taliban without the presence of the Kabul government, as well as the Taliban’s agreement to negotiate with the US while withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, nine rounds of talks took place that legitimized and weakened the Kabul government.
After that, despite the Taliban’s refusal to fire, the US government put a lot of pressure on the Afghan government to release the group’s prisoners. To the extent that Kabul was forced to agree to the release of the Taliban prisoners, even those accused of murder and aggression, against the cabinet’s wishes, in order to form favorable Taliban negotiations.
The US move to negotiate with the Taliban, pushing Kabul to release the group’s prisoners and trying to build a consensus between major powers including China and Russia on the Afghan peace process were all aimed at persuading Trump to reach an agreement with the Taliban in the 2020 presidential campaign. Name it as a foreign policy achievement that has led to the return of American troops to the country and the pursuit of the Afghan peace process. The United States appears to have reached an agreement with the Taliban on the outcome of peace talks on the form of government.
This understanding could take the form of three possible scenarios: maintaining the current Kabul government and the Taliban’s participation in the structure in half; The creation of an interim government in which the Taliban will normally play a leading role compared to other actors, and ultimately the establishment of the Islamic Emirate.
Therefore, the current US administration has little concern about the outcome of the peace because, given the financial need of any government, even the Taliban in Afghanistan, for US post-war reconstruction and the inability and willingness of other actors to play this role in Afghanistan’s future, the US has an undeniable role to play in post-reform era.
Russia and Afghanistan peace talks
Central Asian countries’ influence over Afghanistan, the rise of ISIS in the country, and the US threat to Russia’s interests have prompted the Kremlin to pursue relations with the Taliban more seriously. The holding of inter-Afghan talks hosted by Moscow in 1397 and 1398, showed that Russia pursues its interests from the position of a country active in the Afghan peace process.
Russia’s main concern in Afghanistan is insecurity. The existence of a government in Kabul of any ethnicity or composition that can prevent the spread of insecurity to Russia’s neighbors in Central Asia is supported by Moscow. Russia has therefore supported holding talks aimed at determining its political future. Although Moscow announced after the signing of the US-Taliban agreement that it would not accept the revival of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Moscow might not oppose a change in the current power structure if the Taliban could secure Russia’s security interests and concerns in a peace plan.
In particular, given the undeniable role of the United States in the current negotiations, if the Trump administration continues to have a more favorable relationship with Putin than the Democrats, it may be able to persuade the Russian government to accept changes in the political structure in favor of the Taliban.
The issue of ceasefire and the nature of the negotiations are the most important issues. The government is seeking a complete ceasefire, but the Taliban are using it as leverage. The government also insists on building a republic, but the Taliban want the emirate.
China and Afghanistan peace talks
China has not played a significant role in the political and military developments in Afghanistan in the last decade, but has always sought to secure its economic and security interests through cooperation with Kabul. China, like Russia, is concerned about security, especially in terms of its economic interests. It is also concerned about the spread of Islamic fundamentalism to the Xinjiang region. That is why China played an important role in persuading the Taliban for peace talks.
Holding various peace meetings in Afghanistan is one of Beijing’s actions in this regard. Following the signing of the Taliban-US peace agreement, Beijing, which sees the agreement as more in the interests of the United States, has emphasized the US’s responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan and warned of the consequences. Given China’s close ties to the Taliban in recent years and the use of Pakistani influence in the group, China can secure assurances from the Taliban to reduce security concerns about strengthening Islamic fundamentalism in China’s East Turkestan to strengthen the Taliban in the negotiations.
This scenario could be China’s support for the formation of an interim government dominated by the Taliban. However, Beijing’s stated position in this regard is a comprehensive and lasting peace in Afghanistan, which will be ensured in the official expression of the current structure of Afghanistan under the name of the Islamic Republic and the preservation of the constitution in the form of Kabul’s partnership with the Taliban.
Pakistan and Afghanistan peace talks
Pakistan is one of Afghanistan’s key players. Despite its geographical, religious, and ethnic ties, it has pursued its own interests in preventing Afghanistan from recognizing the Durand Line, failing to form a strong central government in Kabul, and providing political, military, and political support to the Taliban and other fundamentalist militant groups in Afghanistan.
Financial and logistics. In addition, another consideration of Pakistan is to prevent Indian influence in Afghanistan. Therefore, in order to protect its interests, it is leading the peace process in such a way that a pro-Indian government or a government that pursues the interests of Delhi in Kabul is not stable in Afghanistan. So he sees the Taliban as a lever of pressure on other actors. From Pakistan’s point of view, the continued presence of militant groups and the escalation of insecurity in Afghanistan, given the border with India, could deter Delhi from an effective and sustained presence in Afghanistan.
That is why Pakistan’s declaration of a stable, peaceful, and independent Afghanistan differs from its official actions. Pakistan In the peace process, efforts will be made to weaken the role of Pakistan’s rivals in Afghanistan, including Iran and India. For example, it will indirectly link the issue of peace in Afghanistan to the issue of Kashmir.
So Pakistan’s advantage in the outcome of the talks will be the formation of an Islamic Emirate or at least an increase in the Taliban’s share of power in the interim government, or any other scenario that guarantees the Taliban’s maximum role in power. Meanwhile, given the opposition of some Taliban elements to peace with the United States, it is possible that the management of these dissatisfied elements will also consider if its wishes are not fulfilled.
India and Afghanistan peace talks
India seeks its national interests in economic participation in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the formation of a strong central government completely independent of Pakistan, based on regional cooperation in the country and supports the existing political system led by the current Kabul government.
India’s political and border disputes with Pakistan, the Kashmir issue, India’s support for Bangladeshi separatists against Pakistan, nuclear rivalry with Pakistan, and finally the existence of fundamentalist militant groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network are among the issues affecting India’s principled policy in Afghanistan. It has also caused the rivalry and rivalry between India and Pakistan to continue in a different way in Afghanistan.
Given the border between India and Afghanistan, preventing the spread of Islamism to India, especially Kashmir, is Delhi’s most important security concern for Afghanistan’s political future.
India is aware of the background and depth of the Taliban’s relations with Pakistan and the negative impact of the group’s rise to power in Afghanistan on India’s security and the influence of militants and their attacks in Kashmir. For this reason, he will not be satisfied with the process that will strengthen the Taliban in power. Also, given India’s history of cooperating with Northern Front forces to fight the Taliban in the past, relations between India and the Taliban are unlikely to improve.
Accordingly, a favorable scenario for India in terms of the outcome of the inter-Afghan talks is the preservation of the current Kabul government and, ultimately, the participation of half of the Taliban and other Afghan groups in the future structure of the country. The creation of an interim government, although not pleasant for Delhi due to the Taliban’s role in it, will be acceptable to India if the interim government is in the form of the Islamic Republic and not the Islamic UAE.
Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan peace talks
The country has continued to have extensive ties to fundamentalist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, given the nature of its ties. Although the Taliban have not been very close to Saudi Arabia in recent years, the historical and ideological background of Riyadh-Taliban relations, Saudi aid to the group, and the role of Pakistan (Saudi ally) in bringing Saudi-Taliban positions closer have led Riyadh. Wants to play a role in the Afghan peace process. This role is mainly aimed at countering the presence and influence of Iran.
So the most favorable scenario for Riyadh would be the establishment of an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan or a larger share of the Taliban in the interim government. As the space for Shiite activism in Afghanistan becomes narrower. Another favorable scenario would be that at least the Jafari Shiite religion would not be recognized in the constitution of the next government. As the Taliban stated during the talks, the Hanafi religion is their criterion for judging when disputes arise, and this has been one of the main causes of tension in the negotiations between the two sides.
Iran and Afghanistan peace talks
Establishing peace and security in Afghanistan has always been one of Iran’s demands. That is why, in the years since the occupation, it has declared that a political solution and dialogue between Afghan groups without a US military presence in the country is the only rational option available to resolve the crisis.
The United States has sought to exclude Tehran from regional consultations on the Afghan peace issue and to prevent the Islamic Republic from plotting in this regard, as part of its proximity to Iran approach. However, the favorable relations between the governments of the two countries, along with Iran’s very close relations with some ethnic groups, such as the Hazaras, and some groups, such as the surviving parties on the northern front, prevented the realization of the American will.
Iran’s interests require that the United States not be present in neighboring countries. The Islamic Republic, with the support of the Government of Afghanistan, calls for the withdrawal of US forces while maintaining security and democratic structures and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, especially Shiites.
Accordingly, the most favorable scenario for Iran is to maintain the current government of Kabul and ultimately the participation of the Taliban. A scenario that is not to the liking of Iran is the creation of an interim government, which would mean changing the constitution and guaranteeing the rule of the Taliban.
However, in the event of this scenario, efforts should be made to have the interests of all ethnicities and religions recognized by the Taliban. The most difficult scenario for Iran is the formation of the Islamic Emirate and return to the era of terror and insecurity on the eastern borders, which in addition to spreading insecurity to the eastern provinces, will increase Afghan migration to Iran and form new waves of economic and social problems in Iran. Especially in the current context of difficult sanctions, its management is becoming very costly.
Examining the positions of the above countries regarding the results of the peace talks, it is clear that the interests of foreign actors in these talks are different and even conflicting. Pakistan and China, for example, are reluctant to strengthen India’s role in Afghanistan’s future. The United States, along with Saudi Arabia and to some extent Pakistan, will seek to block Iranian influence. The Kabul government, along with India and Iran, seeks to maintain existing legal structures.
Although Russia and China have also stated their support for the current Afghan regime, they may reach an agreement with the United States and the Taliban to change the current Afghan regime, provided Moscow and Beijing serve their interests. However, the existence of these differences indicates a lack of regional and trans-regional consensus on the outcome of the peace talks. The lack of consensus among foreign actors, along with the fundamental differences between the two sides in the talks, will pave the way for achieving a balance of actors’ interests.