KABUL: There can be no peace deal for Afghanistan without Kabul’s consent, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani told Arab News on Saturday, as talks continued between the US and the Taliban to end the years-long war.
Harun Chakhansur said the government was willing to negotiate with the armed group, which has refused to engage directly with Kabul and calls Ghani’s administration a puppet of the West.
Ghani has insisted that the peace process must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, but his officials have been excluded from key meetings in Doha and Moscow.
“The government of Afghanistan is ready at any moment to engage in negotiations and strike a peace deal with the Taliban based on our constitutional framework and the road map presented by the president,” Chakhansur told Arab News, adding that the sooner a peace deal was agreed upon, the better it would be for the nation.
“Nothing regarding the peace process is executable unless agreed upon with the Afghan government. All prospects that lead to sustainable and lasting peace is the goal. Any possibility that undermines the main objective of sustainable peace will not be acceptable by the people and government of Afghanistan.
“But on the Taliban side there are some sticking points that need to be addressed ... if they are sincere about peace negotiations. Hurdles could only be discovered during the direct negotiation process between the Afghan government and Taliban.”
A Taliban spokesman said the group refused to comment on the matter when contacted by Arab News.
The Taliban has said it will hold talks with the government once the US fulfills its promise to withdraw troops from the country.
US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives are expected to meet for further talks in Doha on Feb. 25.
The planned meeting follows last week’s talks between the Taliban and Afghan delegates in Moscow, where the two sides agreed on a total pullout of foreign forces from the country.
On Friday, Khalilzad said Washington hoped to reach a peace agreement with the insurgents before the Afghan elections in July. The already-delayed polls would be held as scheduled if the talks failed to make any headway, he added.
There is speculation that, instead of the polls going ahead, an interim government will be formed with the Taliban’s participation. Ghani, who is standing for re-election, has objected to the the idea.
US President Donald Trump has not hidden his impatience to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and bring the costly war to an end.
Washington has also sought assurances that Afghanistan will not be used as a base by terrorists to carry out attacks.
Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst familiar with the workings of Taliban leaders and who was at the Moscow meeting, said the insurgents and Khalilzad may strike a peace deal in Doha on Feb. 25.
“The Taliban told me (in Moscow) they have no obstacle and that America has accepted their main demand, which is the pullout of the troops,” he told Arab News.
He said all participants at the Moscow meeting believed there would be no elections in July and that Ghani would have to give up his seat.
“Those who have earned wealth and power fear the repercussion of any peace deal. They fear the Taliban may go after them,” the analyst said.
“At the Moscow meeting the Taliban clearly told the commanders and leaders that ‘we have to forget the past and move forward because we can’t wash blood with blood’,” Mozdah pointed out.
Another analyst, Harris Wadan, explained why there were doubts over the election and Ghani’s future.
“One big perceived result after … Khalilzad’s talks with the Taliban was that Ghani has to go and the election is a distant event that might not happen, an interim government instead might be formed,” he told Arab News via email.
“The Afghan government’s role has shrunk, hence the future set-up (elections) will not be a priority and Trump has downgraded the role of Afghan government to stakeholder.”