Confusion over who is speaking to whom and what the roles and goals are
[ISLAMABAD] The Afghan Taliban have canceled peace talks in Qatar, with U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, following disagreements over the agenda. The two-day parley which was supposed to be held on January 9and 10, was set to be the fourth-scheduled meeting in Doha.
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid told The Media Line that the group’s representatives claimed that American officials were drifting from the basic agenda and trying to exert pressure on the Taliban on behalf of the Afghan government in peace talks. “We cannot afford it,” Zabiullah said.
The main agenda for the peace talks was to be the withdrawal of forces of the U.S.-led coalition, a cease-fire and prisoner swap, he maintained.
Taliban official Engr Sadullah Haqqani said that they had “demanded the release of 25,000 prisoners, while the Taliban would free 3,000,” but also reiterated that there was mistrust of Washington’s motives in the peace talks.
Earlier, the Taliban also denied attending a scheduled meeting with U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia.
A senior member from its Political Office in Doha privately told The Media Line that Saudi Arabia and UAE were pushing the Taliban to include Afghan government officials in talks, and that the U.S. negotiators were “men behind the gun,” he explained.However, the refusal of the Taliban to confer in Saudi Arabia led to the venue of the talks being changed to Qatar.
Zabiullah, while accepting the Doha office’s line, added that “We firmly believe that talks with any other party are nothing more than a waste of time.” On Jan. 5, Zabiullah accused the Kabul administration of being brought into existence to protect American interests and its strategic policies.
U.S. Ambassador to Kabul John Bass tweeted that reports of talks scheduled for Wednesday between the United States and the Taliban were “inaccurate.”
“The Taliban should talk to fellow Afghans as much as they talk to media,” he added.
The Afghan government has not revealed its version of events regarding the cancellation of peace talks but some officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that peace talks held with neither their leadership nor other Afghans would not be fruitful.
According to the U.S. State Department, Khalilzad will lead an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from January 8 – 21.
Its statement said that the “United States supports the desire of the Afghan people and the international community for a political settlement that ends the 40-year conflict, and ensures Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for international terrorism.”
The State Department’s announcement added that Khalilzad would continue to “coordinate his efforts with President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, and other Afghan stakeholders to ensure an intra-Afghan peace process.”
During his last trip in December, Khalilzad reiterated that the only solution to the conflict is for all parties to sit together and reach an agreement on the political future of Afghanistan.
According to officials, the nation’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah met with Boss in Kabul and discussed the latest developments in the peace process.
Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Atif Mashal also met Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Junjua and discussed the situation. In addition, the Afghan President’s Special Envoy for Regional Consensus for Afghan Peace, Mohammad Umer Daudzai, is currently in Pakistan on a three-day official visit.
On Jan. 8, Umer Daudzai met Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad – in his first visit abroad after his appointment.
Qureshi assured Umer Daudzai that Pakistan would do all it could to help the people of Afghanistan see the earliest possible end to the bloodshed and enter a new phase of peace and prosperity.
He highlighted the growing international convergence on the need to end the suffering of the Afghani people through a peaceful settlement of the conflict.