ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban have been involved in ‘intense discussions’ on the crafting of a strategy for the possible resumption of peace negotiations, a member of the Taliban political office in Qatar said on Wednesday.
Speaking by Skype, the Taliban negotiator said the leadership has also taken field commanders into confidence about the expected political process in a clear sign that the group is looking for a consensus view.
“We are now exploring the options for talks with foreign stakeholders, as well as with the Afghan side,” the Taliban leader told The Express Tribune in an interview from Qatar. He was speaking on the condition that he would not be identified by name.
“It will be a national level decision. The consultation process was strong. The Taliban military commanders, who had not been on-board earlier, have also been taken into confidence. I would say the consultation process was initiated at the grassroots level this time,” he said.
He rejected the notion that the Taliban want a military solution to the Afghan problem. “We want a non-military solution,” he added.
He condemned President Ashraf Ghani’s recent move to seek UN sanctions on Taliban chief Maulvi Haibatullah and said any such act could undermine the on-going efforts for talks.
“We think that the Kabul administration’s efforts are aimed at creating hurdles in the way of peace. We view such acts as anti-peace. It seems the government leaders do not show sincerity in the political process,” he said.
When asked if the talks would be held in Qatar, he said other countries could also host talks but the centre would remain the Qatar office, which is still closed.
Responding to a question, he said the Taliban could accept the guarantee of Russia, China and other countries. The Taliban leader welcomed the growing Russian role in the Afghan peace process and said the Taliban view Moscow’s efforts as “positive.”
He said the Taliban did not attend the Pugwash conference in Islamabad because they were not invited to the meeting.
The Taliban had taken part in Pugwash meetings in Qatar in the past.
A participant at the conference held in Islamabad on Wednesday told The Express Tribune that the delegates from Pakistan and Afghanistan called for improved relations between the two neighbouring countries.
The participants — including MPs, former ambassadors, former ministers and analysts — also threw their support behind peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Responding to a question about the visit to Pakistan by Taliban political representatives, the Taliban leader only said that the recent visit to Pakistan was “useful”.
The delegation comprises Maulvi Shahabuddin Dilawar, Maulvi Salam Hanafi and Jan Muhammad were in Pakistan for two weeks and discussed prospects for the peace process.
The Express Tribune has learnt that the Pakistani leaders had clearly told the Taliban negotiators to join the peace process and bring to an end the longest war in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban had sought two to three months for internal consultations,” a Pakistani source said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2016.