Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has tacitly resumed backdoor diplomacy with the Taliban in a bid to revive a peace process that had collapsed towards the fag-end of Hamid Karzai’s regime.
Sources privy to the development said that negotiations aimed at reintegrating the Afghan Taliban into the country’s political equation have started under UN supervision. Officials in Islamabad confirmed that Pakistan has assured the Afghan government and the Taliban that it would help revive the stalled peace process.
Efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban were torpedoed last year by Karzai who had objected to the opening of a political office by the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha. He had refused to recognise the Taliban office, calling it an affront to his government’s legitimacy.
While Karzai’s successor seeks to resuscitate the Doha peace process, the Taliban have intensified attacks on the nascent Afghan security forces and foreign troops. US-led Nato forces are scheduled to pull out of Afghanistan by year-end after a long and costly war. However, under a recently signed security deal between Kabul and Washington, a contingent of foreign troops will stay on beyond December 2014.
Marred by setbacks and growing distrust, the Afghan peace process has been a bumpy ride for all the stakeholders, including Washington. Fissures grew between the US and the Taliban after a negotiated prisoner swap deal between the two ended in acrimony.
The deal, which was seen as an opportunity to jumpstart the peace process, envisaged the release of five former Taliban cadres form the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in exchange for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl who had been held captive by the Haqqani Network for nearly five years.
The Taliban freed Bergdahl, while the US handed over the Taliban figures to the Qatari government which had brokered the deal. The Taliban called it a breach of confidence, claiming that the detainees had not been released. The mistrust had led to the breakdown of backdoor diplomacy, leaving peace efforts in disarray.
The new Afghan leader has been pushing for the resumption of dialogue with the Taliban for which the group has agreed to under UN supervision.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2014.