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Fresh UN-led bid to restore peace in Afghanistan likely as Doha talks falter

File photo of an explosion in Afghan capital Kabul (IANS)

With the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government failing to make any headway, a fresh plan to hold a UN-led international conference to resolve the deadlock is being worked out.

This was indicated by the US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, during his visit to Kabul this week. According to some members of Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament), Khalilzad told them that there was little hope that the Doha talks would be successful and that instead a UN-hosted international summit on the future of Afghanistan is being considered.

He told Afghan politicians that the peace talks in Doha will be “sidelined” and that a Bonn Conference-style meeting will be held at the international level to discuss the prospect of a participatory government that would include the Taliban.

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Khalilzad met with influential political figures and Afghan government leaders and discussed the establishment of a transitional period to move toward a future political structure and hold a UN hosted international conference on Afghanistan, Tolo News cited a US official as saying.

Two decades ago, the Bonn Agreement was the initial series of agreements passed on December 5, 2001 and intended to re-create the State of Afghanistan following the US invasion of Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. Since no nationally agreed-upon government had existed in Afghanistan, it was felt necessary to have a transition period before a permanent government was established.

Afghans have lost hope in the ongoing peace talks amid bloody violence that continues to rock the country.

Former Afghan Vice President Mohammad Younus Qanooni on Thursday told the media that a new roadmap for peace in Afghanistan is taking shape with the support of the international community, and that the main focus will be on forming a regional and national consensus for peace in Afghanistan.

“Khalilzad pointed out that the Qatar talks have not achieved anything in the past six months, we don’t have any hope for Doha talks, the country leader must sit in a second country and foreign countries must monitor meeting so they reach an agreement, amendment of constitution so the grounds are prepared for a new government,” said MP Kha Agha Rezaei.

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said  on Thursday that the country is trying to pave the way for a political agreement between the Afghan parties,”what we’re looking at very carefully is what further progress can and must be made on the agreements that, for example, we reached with the Taliban under the previous administration and the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan are working on to see if the conditions can be in place for a durable peace.”

But Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has once again said that the Taliban will not see an interim government in Afghanistan while he is alive. Addressing a virtual conference of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) on Thursday, Ghani told the international community that Pakistan has a large amount of leverage to use for peace in Afghanistan, “Pakistan has an especially significant role to play in supporting a lasting peace process, for it is the country most likely to suffer from the adverse consequences of a failed peace process.”

Ghani said, “Pakistan’s support for a comprehensive ceasefire to accelerate the negotiations in Doha is essential.”

The Taliban and their allies have been getting unstinting support from Pakistan’s military for decades.

The Afghan government has charged Pakistan, particularly its military establishment, of supporting and sheltering the Taliban. Though Pakistan has repeatedly said that they do not care who rules in Kabul as long as there is peace in Afghanistan.

Despite the publicly announced position, Pakistan actually wants the Taliban to “emerge in some sort of position” by having a stake in the future power-sharing arrangement. Pakistan gives the Taliban leadership sanctuary in Pakistan, and it has become an advocate for the Taliban’s stand on the peace process.