Hidden aspects of Tehran’s peace initiative for Afghanistan

TEHRAN, Jul. 22 (MNA) – The composition of participants in the intra-Afghan talks in Tehran differed from that of any other talks in Doha or Moscow, heralding a political solution to the country's crisis with the participation of all Afghan groups. 

Twenty years after the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, the international community has come to the conclusion that the only way to end the crisis in the country is diplomacy and political talks with the presence of all political parties and ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

The United States, whose presence in Afghanistan has only ever led to insecurity, the spread of violence, and an increase in illicit drug cultivation and trafficking, has been making futile efforts over the years and under former President Obama to hold talks with various Afghan groups.

However, it was not until February 29, 2020, that the Americans reached an agreement with the Taliban to ensure their own security and interests while failing to take into account the legitimate government of Afghanistan and other influential parties in the country.

The agreement included the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban's commitment to preventing al-Qaeda from operating in Taliban-held areas, and talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Under the agreement, the US would reduce the number of its troop from 12,000 to 8,600 and would then withdraw completely within 14 months if the Taliban lived up to its commitments. The US also pledged to close five of its bases within 135 days and consider lifting its sanctions on the Taliban by August 27, 2020.

The hidden clause in the Doha agreement: Protecting foreign forces

Many experts believe that there was a hidden clause in the Doha agreement under which the Taliban had pledged to protect foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Six months later, on September 12, 2020, Qatar hosted another meeting on Afghanistan peace talks, but this time the Afghan government was also present in the meeting. The second round of talks was held in Doha on January 9, 2021.

Following that, it was Russia’s turn to host the meetings. Known as “Extended Troika”, the meeting was held on March 18, 2021, with the participation of representatives from the Taliban, the Afghan government, Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan. In this round of talks, which coincided with the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, preparations were made for the next meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. 

The sides reached an agreement in Moscow on two proposed dates for the Istanbul meeting: April 16 and April 24. However, in the absence of the Taliban, the meeting came to a standstill.

Following the failure of the diplomatic process, Joe Biden announced on April 13, 2021, that the US military would leave Afghanistan by September 11.

The US failed to achieve any of its goals in Afghanistan

Many experts believe that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is irresponsible, because they came to Afghanistan with the aim of establishing a modern government as well as peace and security in the country, but failed to achieve any of these objectives in the end.

Shoaib Bahman, an expert on international affairs, said in an interview with Mehr News Agency that the Americans have been occupying Afghanistan for two reasons; "The Americans’ first objective in Afghanistan was to fight terrorism, but eventually they had to sit at the negotiating table with the group they used to call terrorists, that is the Taliban. Therefore, this shows that their first objective was an utter failure.”

As diplomatic processes failed one after another, the Taliban’s military forces continued to cover more ground in Afghanistan, and there seemed to be no hope of reconciliation as all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan were getting ready for a full-scale civil war.

Tehran talks; an initiative like no other

On July 7, Seyed Rasoul Mousavi, Director General of the Department of South Asian Affairs at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, announced on his Twitter the visit of four high-ranking political delegations from Afghanistan to Tehran.

According to Mousavi, these four delegations included, "a delegation from the cultural commission of the Afghan parliament, a high-ranking political delegation from the Taliban, a high-ranking political delegation from the Republican party and a high-ranking delegation overseeing the process of citizen identification.” 

This notable meeting that raised hopes for a political solution to the Afghan crisis was held on July 7 in the presence of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. 

Speaking at the meeting, Zarif referred to the unfavorable results of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and deemed the return to the inter-Afghan talks and commitment to political solutions the best choice that the leaders and political parties in Afghanistan would make. 

Zarif also voiced Iran’s readiness to help facilitate the talks between the Afghan sides aimed at resolving the current conflicts plaguing the country.

The two-day meeting wrapped up with a six-point joint statement that included:

1. The delegations commend the hospitality and the efforts and goodwill of the Islamic Republic of Iran in securing peace in Afghanistan.

2. Both sides, in mutual understanding of the dangers and repercussions of continuing the war for the country, agreed that war was not the solution to the Afghan problem and that all efforts must be made to find a peaceful and political solution.

3. The talks took place in a cordial atmosphere and all issues were discussed explicitly and in full detail.

4. Both sides decided to discuss in the next meeting issues that needed further consultation and clarity, such as establishing a mechanism for the transition from war to permanent peace, an Islamic system agreed by both sides and how to achieve it.

5. The parties see the Tehran meeting as a new opportunity to strengthen the political solution to the Afghan problem.

6. Both sides strongly condemn attacks on homes, schools, mosques, and hospitals, as well as the destruction of public facilities, demanding perpetrators be punished.

According to Mousavi, the points mentioned in the joint statement could be considered “the achievement of Tehran's initiative in the intra-Afghan dialogue, which has the logic and firmness required to take the next steps for peace in Afghanistan.”

Mousavi also stressed that the Tehran initiative was different from other initiatives in terms of the concept, its internal logic and how long the plan had been in the making. "The Tehran Initiative considers peace to belong to the Afghan people and believes that the only way to achieving that is through intra-Afghan dialogue and that the role of foreign countries should only facilitate this process."

He also added that the points included in the joint statement were another difference between the Tehran initiative and the others.

Participants at Tehran meeting on Afghanistan

The composition of those present at the Tehran meeting was different from that of other Afghan peace talks, including those hosted by Doha and Moscow, which signals the fulfillment of the Islamic Republic's call for resolving the Afghan crisis politically and with the sole presence of Afghan groups.

The participants at the Tehran meeting on intra-Afghan talks were as follows:

Representatives of the Taliban: Shir Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, Khairullah Khairkhah and Qari Din Mohammad Hanif

Representative of the Government of Afghanistan: Younis Qanuni (former First Vice President of Afghanistan)

Representatives of the Republican Party of Afghanistan consisting of people from the government, the nation, and domestic political dissident groups: Salam Rahimi (adviser to the President), Karim Khuram and Ershad Ahmadi (close to former President Hamid Karzai), Zaher Wahdat (Hezb-e Wahdat political party) and Mohammad Allah Batash (National Movement)

Pir Mohammad Malazehi, an expert on Afghanistan affairs, told Mehr News Agency in an interview that the participants at the Tehran meeting were within the government of Afghanistan but did not side with the current President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani. "These people are of the opinion that Mr. Ghani is exercising a kind of ethnic monopoly and has rendered the government weak and gripped with corruption, and as such lacks legitimacy.” 

Abdul Reza Farjirad, former director-general of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, also told Mehr that the participants at the meeting were “mostly from the Afghan people.”

India, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and several European countries voice readiness to hold intra-Afghan talks 

Sa’adollah Zarei, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, told Mehr that these people chose to come to Iran even as many countries, including India, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Russia, had voiced readiness to host the talks. “Even the Americans were insisting on holding the talks in Doha, but the two sides came to Iran and the meeting was held in Tehran.”

Zarei went on to point out an important aspect in the Tehran meeting, saying "The Taliban agreed in the Tehran meeting that the term 'emirate' not be used in the statement. This is while the Taliban were very sensitive about the use of the term 'emirate' and had used the word in their talks with the Americans in Doha, and the Americans had accepted the use of the term and the formation of an emirate in Afghanistan by the Taliban."

On the other hand, some informed sources told Mehr that "the Taliban representatives at the Tehran meeting said that some European countries had also voiced their readiness to host talks between them and the Afghan government."

It seems that Iran's initiative in the first round of Tehran talks has been to the satisfaction of Afghanistan's domestic parties as well as international actors. It is likely that we will soon see the continuation of these talks in Tehran in the presence of other influential countries such as Pakistan, Russia, India, and China.

By:Mohammad Mohajerani

MNA/5255994

News Code 176389

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