U.S. offers to include Taliban representatives in caretaker Afghan government

December 19, 2018

TEHRAN - U.S. government and Taliban officials engaged in two-day hectic negotiations in UAE, during which the two sides reportedly discussed six-month ceasefire in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of foreign troops.

The meeting in Abu Dhabi, facilitated by the UAE government, with the participation of officials from UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – three countries that have close ties with the Taliban – was the third time U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met Taliban representatives in recent weeks.

According to reports, quoting Taliban officials, the U.S. delegation insisted on a six-month truce and an agreement to name Taliban representatives to a future caretaker government in Kabul.
However, the reports said, Taliban negotiators resisted the ceasefire proposal as they believe it will give the Afghan government an upper hand at a time when the insurgent group is clearly negotiating from the position of strength.

In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the Taliban said the talks had mainly concentrated on the “U.S. occupation”, adding: "Nothing about interim government, ceasefire, election or other internal issues has been discussed”.

“Talks revolved around withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan, ending the oppression being carried out by the United States and her allies,” the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

An Afghan government delegation had also traveled to UAE with a hope to be part of deliberations between the U.S. and Taliban officials but according to sources the delegation was completely sidelined as the insurgent group, which considers the government in Kabul “puppet” of U.S. –  refused to engage with it.

The team had traveled to Abu Dhabi “to begin proximity dialogue with the Taliban delegation and to prepare for a face-to-face meeting between the two sides”, Afghan government spokesman Haroon Chakansuri said in a statement.

While Khalilzad was holding talks with the Taliban delegation in one hotel in Abu Dhabi, Afghan delegation was waiting in another. By late evening, the Afghan officials were still waiting, reports stated.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had earlier warned that no meetings between the Taliban and the Afghan government would take place during the two-day consultations in Abu Dhabi.

On Tuesday, he repeated the warning, hours after it was announced that President Ashraf Ghani’s recently appointed chief negotiator, Abdul Salam Rahimi, had arrived in Abu Dhabi. “No chance,” the Taliban spokesman said.

The Taliban delegation was led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, head of the group’s political office in Qatar, and included senior Taliban leaders based in Pakistani city of Quetta.

Mohammad Taqi, a Pakistani political commentator, writing in The Wire said these talks inspired little hope for a breakthrough. “Pulling off in four months something that has remained elusive for two Afghan and three US presidents, and nine administrations among them, will be truly miraculous,” he said, adding that the Taliban would be back in the battlefield by spring.

Meanwhile, the reports about Taliban representatives being part of the future ‘caretaker government’ in Kabul, as proposed by the U.S. delegation, has raised many eyebrows in Afghanistan. Experts call it a “sell-out” as it will provide a platform for the Taliban to regain power in the war-ravaged country.

“It means the Taliban will be back, and all the years of fighting have been a waste,” said Abdul Haamid, a Kabul-based activist. “If this is what the ‘peace deal’ looks like, then Afghanistan’s future is doomed, and U.S. will be completely responsible for it.”

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