The Inside Story of Negotiations with Taliban - 2012
by Omar SAMAD, Tolo News, 22 December 2012
Dampening expectations, the two-day long intra-Afghan discussions held near Paris ended Friday with more questions than answers about the future of the peace and reconciliation process deemed critical for Afghanistan's stability and a successful transition process following the US and Nato military disengagement scheduled for 2014.
For the second time in a year, envoys from the Taliban leadership Council (also known as the Quetta Shura) came face to face with two dozen representatives of the quasi-governmental High Peace Council (HPC), main political opposition groups, the parliament and civil society. This was the third such gathering, part of a track II initiative organized by the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) and backed by the French Government.
HPC envoys and a Taliban representative had indirect contacts in Kyoto, Japan, last June as part of a peace conference held at Doshisha University.
According to three participants from various groups present in Chantilly, who did not want to be named, the Taliban representatives attending the gathering at the off-limits Chateau de la Tour, were in an uncompromising mood, opposed to talks with government representatives and presented a hardened posture on key agenda issues.
They did agree, nonetheless, to consult with their leadership about attendance in future meetings. They also agreed for the first time to form a commission to engage non-governmental groups in intra-Afghan dialogue. The modalities for such a mechanism are not yet known, but may be an irritant for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has gone the extra mile to seek rapprochement with his armed opposition.
Although not billed as negotiations and not intended to initiate peace talks, many observers expected the Paris event to be an ice-breaker and to create some momentum for more substantive talks between Karzai's government and the mainstream Taliban belonging to the Quetta Shura.
However, according to participants at the meeting, Taliban representatives, Shahabudin Delawar and Naeem Wardak, who are reported to have arrived via Qatar, had instructions to reject any talk with Kabul envoys, repeating their previous demand that all foreign troops would need to leave Afghanistan before they could envisage peace talks with the government.
An unnamed participant said "the Taliban were here to say what their position was... but they would not talk to the government."
When opposition political groups raised the issue of the Constitution and the possibility of future amendments to accommodate all sides, the Taliban were non-committal, and questioning the legitimacy of the constitutional order. Taliban leaders consider Sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) as interpreted by their scholars, as the only source of moral code and law in Islam. Afghan analysts believe that the Taliban movement is torn on the issue of political inclusivity.
Pakistan Agrees to Free More Taliban Prisoners - Associated Press
Taliban say they will attend meeting in France on Afghanistan, but won’t talk about peace - Washington Post
Taliban call for new Afghanistan constitution - AFP/Dawn