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Was the Tashkent Conference a Success?

April 16, 2018 in Economics

By Sahar Khan

Sahar Khan

In the last week of March, Uzbekistan hosted a conference in its capital, Tashkent,
on Afghanistan’s peace process. It was attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, UN Secretary
General Antonio Guterres, UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto, High Representative of the
EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherni, as well as representatives
from approximately 20 countries, including China,
Russia, India, Pakistan, and Iran.

As expected, the Tashkent conference resulted in a
joint declaration in which the international community
strongly backed the Afghan government’s offer to the Taliban,
made in February, to hold direct talks “without preconditions.” The signatories
also urged the Taliban to accept President Ghani’s offer, and
praised the offer for being “Afghan-led and
Afghan-owned” and in accordance with various UN
resolutions.

So was the conference a success? Yes and no.

The international community’s strong support for the
Afghan government’s olive branch to the Taliban is a
significant change—and an encouraging show of unity. The
Afghan government’s offer to the Taliban includes legitimacy
in the form of a political party, a ceasefire, and even prisoner exchanges and passports. For any of these to be successful,
Afghanistan requires the support of regional countries and international
organizations like the UN and EU.

Yet, the Taliban did not show up. Their absence highlights three
influential—and interconnected—strands running through
the current peace process.

Stakeholders may need to
start planning for a Taliban rejection of Ghani’s olive branch.
Peace continues to remain elusive in Afghanistan.

First is the Taliban itself, which sometimes takes a long time
to make decisions. For example, during negotiations with the Obama
administration
, the Taliban would often remain silent for months before engaging in
serious dialogue again. Their current silence, therefore, may be in
keeping with that pattern.

More importantly, the Taliban leadership views the United
States, not the Afghan government, as the more important player in
Afghanistan. The Taliban consider the U.S. an occupying force that has installed an illegitimate
“American-style” government
in Afghanistan. As
such, they are more interested in having direct talks with the United States rather than
the Ghani government. The Taliban views the government as a puppet
regime while the Afghan government considers the Taliban an
insurgency that violates Afghanistan’s constitution and
routinely threatens its territory by staging terrorist attacks. The
Taliban’s absence and current silence on Afghanistan’s
offer may also be an indication of some internal divisions. While
the Taliban have demonstrated cohesion over …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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