Is Peace with the Taliban Possible?

Hugh Fox
February 7, 2019

The renewed fighting coincides with a two-day round of peace talks now underway in Moscow between Taliban representatives and several Afghan officials, who are not affiliated with the Kabul government.

On Tuesday, the President Hotel in central Moscow was the scene of an unusual, high-profile event: the launch of a two-day conference on Afghanistan.

Ghani's allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process, and ostensibly the months-long push by the U.S. to engage the Taliban has been aimed at convincing them to negotiate with the government in Kabul.

The Moscow Talks are expected to run over two days, and have for the first time brought together dozens of Afghan politicians and at least 10 Taliban members - with the focus being on peace.

"Today a lot of Afghans sit together, we believe InshaAllah (God willing) after the withdrawal of foreign forces, after the withdrawal of occupation forces, we can sit together and we can resolve all issues together".

In addition, a number of civil society activists on Wednesday demonstrated outside the Russian embassy and came out in support of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and opposed the proposal for the establishment of an interim government.

The Moscow meeting undermines the progress the United States has made during the talks in Qatar with the insurgent group, and highlights Russia's growing influence in Afghanistan.

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"Peace talks with the Taliban continue, but [the Defense Department] has not received a directive to change the force structure in Afghanistan", said Manning.

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Girls were banned from schools and colleges and women prohibited from the workplace save in a few areas such as medicine.

"But after ending their military presence, their non-military teams can come and we need them too, they can come and take part in the reconstruction and development process", he said.

But the meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government, which has criticized the gathering.

"Part of the Taliban's approach here is, 'We are not against talking to Afghans... we don't want to talk to the Kabul government because they aren't in a position to negotiate".

The Taliban were represented by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, a former mujahideen fighter who has led the movement's office in Qatar since 2012.

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Ghani's representatives were not welcomed by the Taliban to Qatar, where the insurgents held talks with USA representatives for six days in January alone. A more involved role for Moscow has surprised many, mostly due to Russia's bloody history in Afghanistan (when it was the Soviet Union) during its occupation of the country from 1979 to 1989.

Taliban's chief negotiator said they do not intend to monopolize power after an end to foreign invasion but want to establish an Afghan inclusive Islamic system with the consent of all Afghans.

The Taliban are not willing to talk to the Afghan government that has not participated in the meeting.

"We look to regional actors such as Pakistan to cease behaviour undermining regional stability and play constructive role in achieving peace in Afghanistan as well as the whole of South Asia", General Votel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Their current chief negotiator, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, painted a picture of the group's current view of the role of women in society, rejected the current Afghan constitution and called for the end of U.S. presence in Afghanistan. The Taliban representative also denied involvement by the Taliban in targeting civilian vehicles with IEDs. "Let hundreds of such meetings be held".

"Moscow does not believe in Ghani's future", said Serenko of the Centre for Contemporary Afghan Studies, suggesting Russian Federation was backing Atmar in the run-up to the polls.

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