Published On: Thu, Jun 20th, 2013

What Afghanistan, United States, Taliban Seek From Doha Talks

By Frud Bezhan

Qatari Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri (center) and Taliban representative Jan Mohammad Madani (left) at the opening ceremony of the new Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar, on June 18

Qatari Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri (center) and Taliban representative Jan Mohammad Madani (left) at the opening ceremony of the new Taliban political office in Doha, Qatar, on June 18

It’s possible that they won’t all sit at the same negotiation table, but the Afghan government, the United States, and the Taliban each have their own wish list for peace negotiations.

We look at some of the various expectations, demands, and sticking points among the three main players in the Afghan conflict.

The Taliban is composed of numerous factions, and appears to be sharply divided on the issue of peace talks.

Hard-line Taliban, particularly from the group’s military wing, have protested vehemently against participating in negotiations of any kind. Other high-level members of the insurgent group, some of whom remain in Pakistani custody, have called for a truce.


The Taliban will enter discussions with an eye on winning a few confidence-building concessions, including the release of Taliban detainees held in prisons under the control of the Afghan government. The release of the “Taliban five” held by the United States at its Guantanamo facility will also come up.

The Taliban is also expected to ask for sanctions against its members to be eased. The United Nations’ Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions committee has blacklisted more than 100 people linked to the Taliban, subjecting them to travel bans and asset freezes. At the request of the Afghan government, the UN Security Council has delisted several dozen names as part of a move to encourage the group to hold peace talks with Kabul.

The Taliban will seek to get formal recognition from Washington as a legitimate political entity.

The Taliban is also expected to float more contentious and ambitious demands, such as changes to the Afghan Constitution and other concessions that would give them considerable influence over the country’s social and judicial affairs.

“The Taliban are likely to want significant influence in justice, anticorruption, education, and social affairs,” says Matt Waldman, an Afghanistan analyst based in London. “These are the most notable areas where the Taliban will seek influence, in particular justice [and rule of law.] Taliban leaders feel they are best equipped to deliver justice and administer justice in Afghanistan.”


The Taliban’s inclusion in any negotiations regarding Afghanistan’s future is of considerable concern to Afghan women. Afghan lawmakers and activists are worried that, under a possible peace deal, the Taliban’s ultraconservative views will trample on the many inroads women have made in the past decade.

Resistance within Afghan society will also come from the country’s ethnic minorities, who have gained considerable power within the government.

Former warlords and militia commanders from the ex-Northern Alliance, a mainly Tajik group, hold key government posts and will be reluctant to cede power. Some, such as General Abdul Dostum, an Uzbek militia leader, and Mohammad Ismail Khan, an ethnic Tajik leader, fought the Taliban in the 1990s and have reportedly begun rearming their former militias as a safeguard against a possible Taliban return.

Anatol Lieven, a professor and Afghanistan expert at King’s College London, suggests that there can be no peace without the support of key elements from different ethnic and religious groups.

“Ultimately, the peace in Afghanistan has to be between the Taliban and the other permanent forces of which the components of the former Northern Alliance are by far the most important,” he says. “If, in fact, you can’t get agreement with them then there’s no settlement at all and the war continues.”


The Afghan government has expressed dismay at news that the Taliban plans to set up an office in Qatar and engage in talks with the United States. Kabul insists that the Afghan High Peace Council, the presidentially appointed body tasked with pursuing a peace settlement, will not take part in any talks in Qatar unless the peace process is Afghan-led.

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Source: RFE/RL

Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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