Afghan peace process: Taliban unlikely to open new office

Discussions likely to take place without formal office.

Kamran Yousaf September 23, 2013
Discussions likely to take place without formal office. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan Taliban are unlikely to open any formal office as part of the effort in seeking direct talks between the stakeholders of the wartorn country.

Since the closure of the Doha office earlier this year, due to objections raised by the Karzai administration, efforts were being made to break the deadlock by relocating the Taliban office to some other country.

However, the major stakeholders including Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States are believed to be inching towards finalising a new arrangement where Afghan Taliban will have no formal office in any country, a Pakistani official familiar with the development told The Express Tribune.

The idea behind the new mechanism, according to the official, was to pre-empt any controversy that might prove to be a ‘deal breaker’.

The official, who asked to remain anonymous, acknowledged that the Doha process was mishandled.

The office opened on June 18 as the first move towards a possible peace deal after 12-years of fighting.

However, the office had to be shut down after Afghan government strongly objected to a flag-raising ceremony for the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ - the name of the country under Taliban rule.

“The Taliban should not have used the Doha office to project the image that it was their embassy or foreign mission,” said the Pakistani official.

“Under the new plan, discussions will probably take place in Saudi Arabia but without giving Afghan Taliban any formal office,” he said.

Pakistan does not consider that the location of the dialogue, or other formalities, is of much importance but it is making every effort to bring the reconciliatory process back on track.

The sources have revealed that during his visit to Pakistan, Afghan President had requested Pakistan government to host talks between Taliban and the Afghan government.

However, Pakistan had politely turned down the request as it did not want to assume any role other than that of a facilitator.

“We are and we will extend all possible assistance in the Afghan peace process but we cannot be involved in the process in a way where we would be held responsible for any failure,” said the official.

Diplomatic sources said the recently released influential Taliban former commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar may play a crucial role in bringing both the insurgents on to the dialogue table.

Though Mulla Baradar’s whereabouts have been kept secret, it is expected that he will be moved to Saudi Arabia to take part in possible talks with the US and the Afghan government.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2013.


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