A warring Afghanistan's future remains a question mark

The next round of the intra-Afghan talks will focus on modalities of the division of powers, said Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, a member of the Afghan government negotiation team. As the Afghan government sets to enter into the second crucial phase of the intra-Afghan talks, the violence-battered country has yet to form a consensus on the issue of an interim government, according to Afghan media reports

Shraddha Nand Bhatnagar Jan 03, 2021
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The next round of the intra-Afghan talks will focus on modalities of the division of powers, said Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, a member of the Afghan government negotiation team. As the Afghan government sets to enter into the second crucial phase of the intra-Afghan talks, the violence-battered country has yet to form a consensus on the issue of an interim government, according to Afghan media reports. 

The warring Afghan sides are to resume their negotiations on 5 January in Doha, Qatar. In the last four decades, this is the closest Afghan parties have come to achieving a political solution to end the conflict. Yet the road ahead, over the structure of future government, remains challenging.

Mansoor said he is supportive of the idea of the formation of an interim government besides it protects the gains of the republic and makes way for peace. 

“If the system is protected, if the values remain in their place, if the departure of a person and the coming of a new one helped us to reach peace, I will support it,” Mansoor was quoted as saying by TOLOnews.

For the government team, the protection of human rights, freedom of speech, and a ceasefire remain key priority areas. On the formation of an interim government, the republic team is still a divided house. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been rejecting the idea, calling it “dangerous.” 

Till now, the Taliban has not raised the issue of the interim government. The agenda list that the Taliban had exchanged with the government has a mention of just the “Islamic system.” It is yet to be seen how the Taliban reacts to the idea of an interim government once it comes in the next round of talks.

Fawzia Koofi, another key member of the government negotiation team, said on Friday there is no consensus within the government on a future government. Just days ago, Masoom Stanekzai, the head of the Afghan negotiation team, also criticized the delayed formation of the High Council for National Reconciliation. The delay, he said, hampered the consensus-building among key stakeholders.

On the other hand, the Taliban, which already has a battlefield advantage, is likely to take more leverage in future talks in view of the lack of consensus within the government. Koofi also said the post-2001 Afghanistan remained “unacceptable, indigestible” for the Taliban. 

Mansoor, too, has a similar perception of the insurgent group. He said, “They (Americans) said the Taliban has changed. The Taliban is no longer the former Taliban. But my understanding says there has been no change in the Taliban’s ideology.” The insurgent group thinks of the presence of women in the Republic negotiation team is “just symbolic,” Mansoor claimed.

“There are questions that what ideology and system the Taliban is talking about and what are their perspective about governance?" Mahmad Nataqi, a member of the republic negotiation team, was quoted as saying by TOLOnews. 

Nataqi isn’t the first to question the Taliban’s lack of vision for governance. Earlier, just before the intra-Afghan talks, Afghan’s First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh, a known Taliban critic, had expressed a similar view in an interview to Al-Arabiya.

“They lack political manifest, all they know is the gun in their hand, looking at your forehead. The moment they put their gun  (down), what other skills they have to be used in society? Nothing,” Saleh said. “The very moment they make peace, society will eat them away within six months.”

Earlier, in a veiled warning to the Taliban, Masoom Stanekzai, the head of the republic negotiation team, said, “If talks fail, there will be only one way will be left for the people of Afghanistan, that is public mobilization against the Taliban.” And the mobilization would be much easier this time, he added. 

After 2001, there is a whole new generation of Afghans, young, educated, and full of aspirations. “This generation isn’t a generation of whipping and slapping,” said Ghulam Farooqi Majroh, a member of the republic negotiation team.

As the withdrawal deadline closes in for foreign forces in Afghanistan, it is yet to be seen how amenable an emboldened Taliban would remain in the Intra-Afghan talks to end the decades-long war in the country. 

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