From the assassination of former President Rabbani to the closure of Taliban Office in Qatar: Why peace talks with the Taliban failed in the past?


Many analysts believe the First International Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was not a successful process, due to the exclusion of some disputant parties which were in involved in the conflict of Afghanistan. The compromise and reconciliation process in Afghanistan should have included all the actors for bringing persistent peace and stability to the war-torn country. After one decade of grievous war against Taliban and other extremist pro-Pakistan movements, the international community and Afghan government came to the conclusion that the prolonged conflict in Afghanistan could be merely terminated through national reconciliation and consensus rather than by hard power. Despite denial of talks with the Taliban by the Northern Alliance, on 5 September 2010, the Afghan government established a High Peace Council (HPC) to persuade Afghan Taliban to give up their arms and join the reconciliation process. However, Afghan civil society stated its worries about the members of HPC. They claim HPC is a money-generating organization and its members are unqualified and incompetent to succeed the talks with the Taliban. After the US policy change towards the Taliban, Hamid Karzai former president of Afghanistan in 2004, used its assets to reintegrate the Taliban to the peace process. In April 2003 he had already told “we should draw a clear line between the ordinary Taliban who are the honest sons of this land and those who are the adversaries of this land and see the end of their illegal interests in a peaceful, independent and stable Afghanistan.

The new approach of Karzai persuaded Mullah Haji Jilani a Taliban commander in Paktika province, to ban and stop fighting against the Afghan government. Sebghatullah Mujadidi who completed his education in Al-Azhar, and led a political party, was designated to head the reconciliation initiative named Tahkim-e- Solh (PTS). However, this approach was not productive to help the peace process due to the lack of political support and fraud among the members.  In October 2010 the Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Program replaced the PTS, a program that came under the High Peace Council which functioned under the former President Burhanudin Rabbani.

The appointment of Mr. Rabbani as the head APRP was not welcomed by the Taliban because of his earlier background as the leader of the Northern Alliance, although the APRP succeeded to launch direct talks with a number of prominent Taliban commanders. Rabbani, the head of APRP was killed by a peace agent, which had concealed 150grams of plastic explosive in his turban, arrived at Rabbani’s house in the most secure neighborhoods of Kabul and exploded himself in the house of Rabbani, and succeeded not only in slaying Rabbani but in severely injuring the head of the High Peace Council Secretariat Masoom Stanikzai. Rabbani was one of the key leaders of Afghan Mujahidin movements of the 1980s who fought against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and he was the President of Afghanistan from 1992-1996. Plenty of Afghans were shocked by the treacherous misuse of the rules of talks that the assassination involved. The slaying of the former President induced reminiscences of the killing of Ahmad Shah Massoud on September 9, 2001. Massoud was anti-Taliban mujahidin commander, who had been allied with Rabbani’s party, Jamiate-e- Islami (Islamic Society).

 Following the assassination of Rabbani, all peace talks were adjourned with the Taliban. In the absence of the 71-year old Mr. Rabbani, it will be enormously hard to see progress in the peace process. Soon after his assassination, Northern Alliance leaders denouncednegotiations with the Taliban and stating that the Taliban should not be trusted and he added: “This is a message for all of us that we shouldn’t fool ourselves that these groups, who have committed so many crimes against the people of Afghanistan, are willing to make peace”. Abdullah also added: “We have to be realistic about what we are up against. We are up against people who don’t believe in any humanity. They assassinatepeople on the streets of Kabul; they kill those trying to attain peace. No one took it seriously and they should have and it is also time for President Karzai to wake up,” he said. “These are the people, who he calls his ‘dear brothers,’ they are behind what happened.” He stated to President Hamid Karzai’s tendency for calling the insurgents “dear brothers” or “disappointed brothers.”

In June 2013 US-Taliban wassupposed to resume peace talks in the Persian Gulf city Doha. The government of Afghanistan had agreed with the Obama administration to give permission to the Taliban to open political office for the peace talks in Doha. The US administrationhad promised Afghan President Karzai that their office would be called “Political Bureau of the Afghan Taliban.” President Karzai and the Afghan officials were stunned when the Taliban appeared and acted as the representatives of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the name under which the Taliban led Afghanistan until 2001.

President Karzai accused the Obama administration for violating its promise and of infidelity. Irritated by a press conference of Taliban in Doha at which they attempted to act as a government in exile, the Afghan president suspended the negotiations on the Afghan-US Strategic Security deal under which US troops would get permission to have military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry, called Afghan president Karzai to calm him down and tell him that everything will be all right. The United States continually has asked Taliban to break ties with Al-Qaida and stressed that rebels should not use Afghanistan’s territory to harm other nations and the Taliban should accept and honor Afghan constitution. Washington ratifies that the reconciliation initiative has to be led by the Afghans, but the State Department frequently argued that the US must be engaged in talks with the Taliban to deliberate wider matters such as denying violence, women rights and Al-Qaeda. The Taliban are not motivated to talk to Karzai’s government. The office in Qatar was considered as “an address merely to negotiate with the US”, Mozhdah said. For the Afghan civil society activists, any negotiation with the Taliban must be done with thoughtfulness.  From the “Afghanistan 1400” perspective, which is a national association of Afghanistan’s new generation, the Doha political bureau should not be regarded as any openness of the Afghan nation, particularly the new generation. “The only reason the Taliban’s bureau in Doha should to function is as an address for holding their leaders responsible for their terror and endeavors at rejecting normal Afghans a peaceful future,” the movement said in a statement. Taliban might be keen to negotiate with the US for finding a political solution for Afghanistan beyond 2014, but they are not willing to sign any agreement with Hamid Karzai because of his weak management, lack of legitimacy and high corruption in his administration.  A report exposed by the British think tank the Royal United Services Institute, based on interviews with four prominent Taliban figures, suggests an emerging realistic compromise within their leadership. Admitting they cannot succeed in the war through by using violence, the Taliban leadership is keen to get involved in the peace talks in order to find political solution for Afghanistan.  These four officials interviewed by the institute, encompassed ex- ministers and an insurgent leader, are all related to the Quetta Shura (Councilof Taliban), led by the ascetic leader.However, the Taliban in several statements refused to negotiate with Afghan government, urging all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan before coming to the negotiation table. According to the Afghan government, if the US troops would leave Afghanistan, pro-Taliban countries will try tooust Afghan government in their proxy war which could have dire consequences for Afghanistan and the world. Hence, Afghanistan will need US military presence in the coming years because the Afghan Security Forces are not fully equipped to defend its territory and ensure the security of Afghan people.

Author: Iqbal Dawari Political and Security Analyst