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Pakistan Sidelined: Afghanistan-Taliban Secret Talks at Qatar?

Dr Raj Kumar Sharma writes: However, there was no Pakistani presence, hinting that the three parties – Afghan government, the US and Taliban are disillusioned with Pakistan’s peace efforts in Afghanistan.

Media reports have come up saying Afghan government has restarted peace talks with Taliban at Qatar. Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, brother of slain Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was present at the talks. It is expected that Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar will soon join the talks. So far, two rounds of talks have taken place where a US diplomat was also present. However, there was no Pakistani presence, hinting that the three parties – Afghan government, the US and Taliban are disillusioned with Pakistan’s peace efforts in Afghanistan.

Pakistan was part of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) which also included the US, Afghanistan and China. However, Pakistan was unable to deliver on its promise of bringing the Taliban to peace negotiations and after the US killed Mullah Mansoor, the chances of further peace talks under the QCG faded. However, the media reports do not mention whether the talks were held with the consent of present Taliban leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada. He is closer to Pakistan and could create problems for the talks if he is not onboard.

The Taliban has recently increased its regional outreach and has communication channels with Russia, Iran and China. Maulvi Nek Muhammad, who was education director when Taliban ruled southern Kandahar province before being toppled in 2001, is the Taliban’s envoy to Iran. Taliban has also appointed envoys to the Central Asian Republics.[1] Increasing threat of Islamic State in Afghanistan has made Taliban an important player in the country and increased its importance for the regional countries who wish to control spread of ISIS. This could be an ideal situation for them to begin the talks and reach an agreement where they can join hands with Afghan government to take on the ISIS.

Link to the news story is: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/18/taliban-afghanistan-secret-talks-qatar

Endnotes

[1] Taliban enhance diplomatic contacts with Iran, Russia, http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2016/10/17/taliban-enhance-diplomatic-contacts-iran-russia

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