After immense delay, the long-awaited intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan government and Taliban are set to commence in Doha. Both sides have overcome numerous hurdles and years of animosity to finally arrive at the negotiating table and discuss their nation’s future.
The latest obstacle was the release of Taliban prisoners involved in violent crimes. Under the US-Taliban agreement, the Afghan government was supposed to release 5000 prisoners. The Taliban have also changed their chief negotiator and appointed hardline Maulana Abdul Hakim. The Afghan side includes Abdullah Abdullah who has a history with the Taliban. Now both sides despite their disdain for each other will have to sit down and chart the future course of action.
The top priority on the agenda is calling for a permanent ceasefire. Violent attacks have continued although the Taliban have not claimed any responsibility. This week the deputy prime minister and former intelligence chief barely survived an assassination attempt. Earlier there was an attack on female lawmaker Fawzia Koofi who was part of the negotiating team. Despite the continued violence, both sides will have to find ways to bring lasting peace.
The United States had welcomed the commencement of the historic Afghan talks. This is good news for President Trump who will certainly use it as his achievement with just months left before the presidential election. The biggest issue would be deciding a new political setup as the Afghan government wants to preserve the current system, while the Taliban want to re-impose their version of an Islamic system of governance.
The Taliban gained notoriety for its ultra-conservative style imposing harsh punishments and suppressing women. The recollection of the Taliban rule has sent shivers down many Afghans who witnessed the atrocities. The Afghan government will have to ensure that there is no return such archaic and regressive system which would a gigantic challenge during the negotiations.
The negotiating team also includes women rights activists. The Taliban have not clarified whether they will adopt a less strict stance toward women. The Taliban have claimed that now they don’t oppose women’s education or them working, but many remain skeptical. The rights of women will certainly be a burning topic during the negotiations. In either case, both sides much avoid spoilers and ensure the talks move forward as the lives of millions of Afghans depend on it.