Review of the Day: Afghan Government to form a new negotiating team

Sources in the Afghan Government said that consultations with political elite inside and outside have resumed for the formation of a negotiation team to follow peace talks with the Taliban. Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, Afghan senate chairman told the BBC that a list of potential members of the negotiating team has been drafted and will soon be submitted to the government-backed over 40 member peace consultative committee for approval. Last month ‘intra-Afghan’ planned peace talk in Doha was canceled at the very last minute over differences on the participants’ list. The Taliban said 250- member list was overcrowded mocking it as a wedding party guest list and mostly dominated by government figures.
Now the plan is to come up with a list of not more than 30 people comprising the political elite and some members of the government. The Taliban still refuse to talk to the Afghan government directly and have said that the government can take part in the ‘Intra-Afghan’ talks as Afghans but no as representative of the government.
The new team is being made at a time that the Taliban and U.S negotiators finished their 6th round of talks in Doha without any major breakthrough. Both sides said that although progress was made there is still a need for more discussion in next round talks. US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted that ‘’Faster progress’’ is needed in talks with the Taliban.
Kai Eide, UN Special Representative in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2010, recently suggested in one of his articles that the Afghan government should no longer insist on sending “government representatives” to talks in Doha as a solution to the deadlock in intra-Afghan peace talks. He also suggests that “other stakeholders will have to accept that real negotiations will be impossible if they all insist on being represented”. He said in his article, ïn my opinion, stakeholders in Kabul should make their best efforts to agree on a smaller team of individuals – probably 10-15 – to represent the Afghan society.” Besides this, he adds, “it is my conviction that an international convener would be useful and should be appointed – preferably by the UN Security Council. The US negotiator, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, cannot play this role.” He concludes, “The real challenge lies within the Afghan society. Is it possible to agree on a team small enough to conduct meaningful negotiations? At the moment I am not optimistic. But there is no other way”.
The Afghan Government has not been able to come up with a list of the negotiation team that could convince the Afghan polity and analysts. At times, the people on the list are seen as less capable to lead the most sensitive stage in the Afghan peace process, at others, the list has been too long to be qualified as a negotiation team. Failure to come up with a reasonable list has been the cause of division among the Afghan Government and stakeholders of the peace process. Hence, it will be crucial for President Ghani and his team to come up with a list of nominees that could minimally satisfy all parties.

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