Op-Ed: Peace talks on Afghanistan in Qatar indefinitely postponed

Posted Apr 20, 2019 by Ken Hanly
The Qatari government which is hosting peace talks with the US, Taliban and Afghan representatives announced that the talks are postponed indefinitely as they never even started even though they were scheduled to begin earlier this week.
Ashraf Ghani replaced Hamid Karzai as Afghan president in September 2014
Ashraf Ghani replaced Hamid Karzai as Afghan president in September 2014
Timothy A. Clary, AFP/File
A big blow to peace efforts
US and Taliban representatives have been working for months to arrange the talks. The Taliban refuse to negotiate with the Afghan government as they consider it a puppet of the United States. This is probably behind the problems as the Afghan government has been a drag on the process. This move may have stopped the process altogether. It certainly has for now as no dates to resume the talks have been set.
The probable cause of the situation
The Afghan government appointed a large 250 member delegation but when they arrived at the airport the government stopped their departure. No reason was given for the action. Some signs are the Afghan president Ghani was annoyed that many of those chosen to attend the talks were not his direct allies. The delegation included many other political factions other than his own and his allies. No doubt without such a selection the Taliban would not have agreed to the talks. A Taliban spokesperson also complained of the size of the delegation. A commentator on the appended video suggests this as part of the cause for the talks not taking place.
Another account of the situation
Another article notes that Sultan Barakat who is director of the Qatar Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies which is sponsoring the talks said the postponement was necessary to build further confidence as to who should participate in the talks.
The talks were scheduled to begin on Friday and were considered a significant step in finding a solution to end the war and for the eventual withdrawal of US troops ending America's longest lasting war.
A senior official claimed that the problem was that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani opposed a list of participants announced by Barakat's organization, a list of 243 people announced by Qatar on Thursday. Ghani has submitted his own list of 250 people which an official said contained many more women. No doubt they along with the others were allies of Ghani. The Taliban will not recognize any officials sent as part of the government except as ordinary Afghans. A Taliban spokesperson questioned the size of the delegation.
It seems clear that Afghan government will sabotage the talks if president Ghani does not get the Afghan representatives he wants to be there. However, if he does it is not clear the Taliban will agree to the talks. Perhaps there will be pressure on Ghani to agree to a compromise as it seems reasonable that groups other than Ghani's allies should represent Afghans at the talks. If all the Afghans are Ghani supporters it is not clear that even if the Taliban accept them that there would be any progress possible. It is clear that a consensus about which Afghans and how many should take part in the talks is needed.