cloudy.png
Thursday October 29th, 2020 2:58PM

Historic Afghan peace talks fraught with uncertainty

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Historic negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s political leadership opened in Qatar on Saturday, offering the best chance of peace after decades of war.

The U.S. had hoped negotiations would start within two weeks of Feb. 29, when it signed a peace deal with the Taliban, effectively acknowledging a military stalemate after nearly two decades of conflict. The agreement called for direct intra-Afghan negotiations but required both sides to release prisoners as a sign of good faith ahead of talks.

The Afghan government, which was in the throes of a political crisis over a disputed presidential election held last September, balked at being told to free 5,000 Taliban but eventually relented.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who invested a year and a half negotiating the peace deal, called negotiations between Afghanistan’s warring sides “a historic opportunity for peace ... one that benefits all Afghans and contributes to regional stability and global security.”

But as negotiations begin, the issues that separate the two sides are many, the mistrust is deep and the way forward is fraught with uncertainty.

Here’s where things stand going into the talks.

BIG AGENDA ITEMS

One of the first items on the agenda will be a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire.

The government has been relentless in its demand for one, and the Taliban have repeatedly said it would be one of the first items on the agenda when negotiations begin. The big hurdle is likely to be what to do with tens of thousands of armed Taliban fighters and the militias loyal to government-allied warlords.

Protection of rights, particularly women's, will also be high on the agenda. Afghanistan, including the government, is deeply conservative and in 19 years has refused to pass a women’s rights bill. The eyes of the international community are likely to be the biggest motivator for making progress for women.

The Taliban have already said yes to women and girls attending school, women working, women in politics and as lawyers and judges. However, they say they draw the line at a woman president or Supreme Court chief justice. The Associated Press has surveyed numerous political leaders in Kabul — men and even a few women — who say this is a compromise they can live with. Not everyone agrees, including the former head of Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission, Sima Samar.

Constitutional changes are also expected to be high on the agenda, and big in many Afghans' minds will be the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic rules. Other housekeeping issues include deciding on the name of the country: Islamic Republic or Islamic Emirate?

AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE

On the Taliban side, the 20-member negotiating team is a solid group that includes 13 members from the movement’s leadership council. It is led by Taliban chief justice Abdul Hakim, whose appointment last weekend came as a surprise. He replaced Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanikzai, who is now deputy head of the Taliban team.

Taliban chief Maulvi Hibatullah Akhunzada reshuffled the negotiating committee throughout August, removing a key negotiator Maulvi Amir Khan Muttaqi, who is considered close to Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan. He added another four from the leadership council. The strength of the team means they can make decisions pretty much on the spot.

The man who negotiated the peace deal with the Americans and is a co-founder of the movement, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, heads the organization's powerful office in Qatar's capital, Doha.

The Afghan government's negotiating team is led by Mohammad Mamoon Stanikzai, no relation to the Taliban head negotiator. He is a former head of Afghan intelligence who was forced to resign after an anti-terrorist intelligence unit was implicated in civilian deaths.

The real power to make decisions will rest with the High Council for National Reconciliation led by Abdullah Abdullah, who was given the post in a political compromise with President Ashraf Ghani after challenging Ghani’s win in controversial presidential elections last year. Abdullah’s council will seek expert opinions on legal, religious and constitutional issues as they come up before reaching any agreement.

WORRIES GOING FORWARD

Afghan observers and analysts have expressed fears that disgruntled former Taliban fighters could join other militant groups, most notably the Islamic State group's affiliate in the country.

Taliban fighters have been battling the upstart affiliate, but the Taliban have already lost fighters to the radical militant Sunni Muslim group. Many Taliban fighters are disillusioned at their leaders entering peace negotiations and believe they could win militarily, with nearly 50% of the country already mostly in their control.

Washington’s watchdog, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, has expressed concerns that Taliban fighters returning to their homes could be targeted by corrupt officials or threatened by authorities. This happened in 2001 when former fighters went home after their government was ousted by the U.S.-led coalition for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Those fighters went into the mountains and back into the ranks of a — at that time — largely destroyed Taliban. The attacks against the returning fighters also exacerbated ethnic divisions, with most Taliban, who are ethnic Pashtuns, feeling marginalized.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, AP World News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Warring Afghans meet to find peace after decades of war
Afghanistan’s warring sides have opened much-anticipated negotiations for the first time, bringing together the Taliban and delegates appointed by the Afghan government for historic meetings aimed at ending decades of war
7:06AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Antarctica is still free of COVID-19. Can it stay that way?
Antarctica remains the only continent without COVID-19
7:02AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Boris Johnson defends Brexit change to avoid UK 'carve-up'
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has strongly defended his government's plan to override sections of the Brexit deal that he negotiated with the European Union and accused the EU of having an “extreme” interpretation of the treaty that could jeopardize the U.K.'s future
6:45AM ( 54 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump looks west, eyeing new paths to White House
President Donald Trump is pushing to expand his electoral map as he makes a trip west this weekend
12:31AM ( 7 hours ago )
Prosecutor looking into the origins of Russia probe resigns
More turmoil at the Justice Department
12:20AM ( 7 hours ago )
Collins won't say in debate who she'll vote for in November
Democrat Sara Gideon sought to link Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine with President Donald Trump during their first debate
10:19PM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Elections
Belarusian leader set to visit Russia as protests continue
Belarusian authorities have detained scores of demonstrators while seeking to end more than a month of protests against the country’s authoritarian president, who is set to visit Russia to help shore up his hold on power after 26 years in office
3:21PM ( 16 hours ago )
The Latest: Relatives, Trump, Biden gather to mark 9/11
Former Vice President Joe Biden laid a wreath under First Officer LeRoy Homer’s name at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, before going to greet some of Homer’s family members with elbow bumps
3:17PM ( 16 hours ago )
US marks 9/11 anniversary at tributes shadowed by virus
Americans are commemorating 9/11 as the coronavirus pandemic reconfigures memorial ceremonies and a presidential campaign carves a path through the observances
2:53PM ( 16 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
Thousands still homeless after Greek refugee camp fire
Thousands of asylum-seekers spent a fourth night sleeping in the open on the Greek island of Lesbos, after successive fires destroyed the notoriously overcrowded Moria camp during a coronavirus lockdown
4:21AM ( 3 hours ago )
Venice Fest closes amid cheers for daring to open amid virus
The Venice Film Festival is wrapping up the first COVID-era international cinema showcase with critics, filmmakers and actors alike cheering organizers for having dared to hold the festival amid a pandemic
4:08AM ( 3 hours ago )
UN assembly approves pandemic resolution; US, Israel object
The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution on tackling the coronavirus pandemic over objections from the United States and Israel, which protested a successful last-minute Cuban amendment that strongly urges countries to oppose unilateral economic, financial or trade sanctions
12:17AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP World News
Warring Afghans meet to find peace after decades of war
Afghanistan’s warring sides have opened much-anticipated negotiations for the first time, bringing together the Taliban and delegates appointed by the Afghan government for historic meetings aimed at ending decades of war
7:06AM ( 34 minutes ago )
Antarctica is still free of COVID-19. Can it stay that way?
Antarctica remains the only continent without COVID-19
7:02AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Boris Johnson defends Brexit change to avoid UK 'carve-up'
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has strongly defended his government's plan to override sections of the Brexit deal that he negotiated with the European Union and accused the EU of having an “extreme” interpretation of the treaty that could jeopardize the U.K.'s future
6:45AM ( 55 minutes ago )
The Latest: Hungary sees another record number of new cases
Hungary has registered another record number of people newly infected with the coronavirus, with 916 new cases
6:17AM ( 1 hour ago )
More than 50 killed at collapsed gold mine in eastern Congo
Officials say more than 50 people are dead after landslides caused the collapse of three artisanal gold mines near the city of Kamituga in eastern Congo’s South Kivu province on Friday
6:13AM ( 1 hour ago )