Four-way Afghanistan peace talks resume in Kabul

Representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and US call on 'all Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government' after meeting in Kabul

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Afghan protesters shout anti-Taliban and government slogans during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan in this October 1, 2015 file photo

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States held talks on Monday aimed at laying the ground for a negotiated end to an almost 15-year war between the US-supported government forces and Taliban militants.

The four nations in a statement after the meeting in Kabul called on "all Taliban groups to enter into early talks with the Afghan government to resolve all differences politically."

The next round of talks will be on February 6 in Islamabad.

The Taliban, which now controls or contests more territory than at any time since it was ousted by a US-led intervention in 2001, did not attend the talks.

Any further delay by the Taliban "to come to the table for talks now will further isolate them in the eyes of the Afghan people," Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said in his opening remarks earlier.

"The talks are strategically important for everyone involved, but are unlikely to go anywhere right now," said S. Chandrasekharan, director of the South Asia Analysis Group.

"The Taliban are making gains and the army is on the defensive. Until there is a stalemate, the talks are unlikely to succeed."

Representatives from the four countries have met in Kabul to revive a peace process that collapsed last summer, after the first and only face-to-face meeting between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Islamabad.

That initiative faltered when Kabul announced that the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar had died more than two years ago, but the group had kept it a secret.

Subsequent meetings were cancelled and relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan chilled after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani publicly accused Pakistan of using the Taliban to wage war on his country.

However, now the ultimate goal of the meetings is to draw representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban into direct negotiations on the country's future. A previous round of talks took place in Islamabad a week ago.

The participants of the meeting were Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson, the top US Defense representative for Pakistan General Anthony Rock and China's special envoy on Afghanistan affairs Deng Xijun.

The decision to hold a meeting came after Pakistani Army General Raheel Sharif met with President Ashraf Ghani to set a course for the peace talks in Kabul in December.

Afghan's chief negotiator said last week that Monday's talks would focus on creating a peace plan to persuade the Taliban to give up violence.

Although the Afghan army and the Taliban are intensifying fighting on the battlefield, a political settlement is seen as the most likely solution to the conflict.

A statement on a Taliban website on Saturday did not rule out joining talks but rejected US involvement, saying the country was to blame for a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

"On the other hand, they take the first row among peace negotiators," the statement said.

Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour's faction gave signals that it is warming to the thought of finally participating in peace talks and other groups are thinking of negotiating, a senior member of the movement previously announced.

However, Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund, the supreme leader of the High Council of the Afghanistan Islamic Emirate (a splinter Taliban group), has rejected Mansour's authority and any talks where an intermediary role is held by Pakistan, the US or China.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan before a US-led coalition occupied the country and helped form a new government in 2001.

Even though the Taliban lost control of the country control following the US invasion in 2001, it was able to re-establish itself in some districts between 2005 and 2009.

TRTWorld and agencies