AAN Thematic Dossiers

Thematic Dossier XVII: Peace Talks (2)


The Second meeting of Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation, held on 28 February 2018 in Afghan capital, has marked a change in peace rhetoric. Credit: Tolo
The Second meeting of Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation, held on 28 February 2018 in Afghan capital, has marked a change in peace rhetoric. Credit: Tolo

In the light of Kabul Process meeting that brought together 23 countries, the UN, the NATO and the EU to the Afghan capital to discuss peace in Afghanistan on 28 February 2018, AAN prepared a new thematic dossier, which brings together in one place all of its relevant reporting on peace efforts in Afghanistan from 2010 until now.

The second meeting of Kabul Process for Peace and Security Cooperation, held on 28 February 2018, has marked a change in peace rhetoric. The Afghan government presented some very concrete proposals to Taleban, with a few conditions – respect for women’s rights and basic values of the Constitution. In return they proposed a ceasefire and offered ‘unconditional’ peace talks, passports for Taleban members and their families, visas, an office in Kabul, as well as a promise to work towards lifting the sanctions on those Taleban leaders who would negotiate. It is not clear though in which sequencing and over which time period all this would come together. (read full AAN analysis here).

This dossier brings together AAN reporting on peace effort from 2010 until now. It is divided in the two sections. The first section about peace efforts under President Ghani covers period from 2015 to now. The second section which looks at peace efforts during the second term of the former President Hamed Karzai, covers period from 2010 to 2014. ​

 

Peace efforts under the current President Ghani

1. Words, No Deeds: 2017, another lost year for peace (talks) in Afghanistan

Words, No Deeds: 2017, another lost year for peace (talks) in Afghanistan

Authors: Thomas Ruttig and Obaid Ali

Date: 24 January 2018

Despite a new offer by the Afghan government through the High Peace Council, there was not much movement toward government-Taleban talks to end the war peacefully in the past year. Both sides continue to engage in general pro-peace rhetoric, while allowing little to happen in practice. Currently, they are bogged down in a dispute over whether the Taleban political office should be in Kabul or Qatar. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig and Obaid Ali have been looking at peace-related developments in 2017 – following up on our 30 December Afghan migration review for the past year – and found that this disagreement masks larger issues.

 

2. “Not nation-building,” but “killing terrorists”: Trump’s ‘new’ strategy for Afghanistan

“Not nation-building,” but “killing terrorists”: Trump’s ‘new’ strategy for Afghanistan

Author: Kate Clark

Date: 23 August 2017

The American president’s long-awaited announcement on United States policy in Afghanistan has finally been made: more troops (number unspecified) and no end-date to the US deployment; fighting “to win” (defined only as preventing a Taleban take-over), aiming at “killing terrorists” and not “nation-building”; new, unspecified threats against Pakistan to stop supporting the Taleban and a call on India to do more and; postponing any attempt at a negotiated end to the conflict to a hoped-for and ill-defined future. AAN’s Kate Clark looks at President Trump’s ‘new strategy’ for Afghanistan and finds it to be little different from Obama’s, albeit announced with more bluster.

 

3. Looking at the ‘Nicholson plan’: A bid to tilt the Afghan war in the government’s favour

Looking at the ‘Nicholson plan’: A bid to tilt the Afghan war in the government’s favour

Author: Kate Clark

Date: 24 May 2017

The United States is reviewing its military strategy towards Afghanistan, as part of an overall strategic review. Nothing is certain until President Trump makes a final decision, but proposals, drawn up with the Afghan government, are circulating. We already know what the commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, would like to see: a focus on support to the Afghan special forces and air force, reform of the defence and interior ministries and a few thousand more NATO soldiers. Kate Clark concludes that this is basically a plan for maintaining the status quo, albeit with an eye to trying to shift the balance of fighting in favour of the Afghan government.

 

4. Peace With Hekmatyar: What does it mean for battlefield and politics?

Peace With Hekmatyar: What does it mean for battlefield and politics?

Author: Borhan Osman

Date: 29 September 2016

The peace deal signed today by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-e Islami, and President Ashraf Ghani, has been hailed by the Afghan government as the first major peace achievement of the last fifteen years. However, expectations should be tempered. Given Hezb-e Islami’s almost total absence on the battlefield, the deal is unlikely to significantly lower the current levels of violence. It is also unlikely to inspire the Taleban to follow Hezb’s example, considering the completely different trajectories and aims of the two groups. Even so, says AAN’s Borhan Osman, Hekmatyar’s outsized ‘jihadi credentials’ could present a challenge to the legitimacy of the Taleban insurgency and his eventual return to civilian life can only be expected to leave its mark on Afghanistan’s politics.

 

5. Taleban in Transition: How Mansur’s death and Haibatullah’s ascension may affect the war (and peace)

Taleban in Transition: How Mansur’s death and Haibatullah’s ascension may affect the war (and peace)

Author: Borhan Osman

Date: 27 May 2016

The killing of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur in an American drone strike has deprived the Taleban of their official, and before that, de facto leader of six years. Mansur had shaped the movement profoundly – leaving it stronger militarily, but with more internal dissension. His successor, Mullah Haibatullah, is an austere, pious man with higher religious credentials than either of his two predecessors, but also a legalist theologian who has no military or leadership experience. AAN’s Borhan Osman assesses Mansur’s legacy and what we might expect from the new man in charge.

 

6. Almost Signed? The peace agreement with Hezb-e Islami

Almost Signed? The peace agreement with Hezb-e Islami

Authors: Thomas Ruttig and Martine van Bijlert

Date: 21 May 2016

On 18 May 2016, two delegations representing respectively the insurgent faction of Hezb-e Islami-ye Afghanistan and the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) initialled a draft peace agreement that should end Hezb’s armed struggle. The status of the document – and whether it may still be subject to changes – is not fully clear, but there is optimism in official circles, particularly within the HPC, that the actual agreement may be signed soon. The government and some of its allies see the draft agreement as a possible blueprint for a peace accord with the Taleban—who so far have shown little interest. As AAN co-directors Thomas Ruttig and Martine van Bijlert write, there are however still some stumbling blocks and open questions.

 

7. Ghani’s Speech to the Parliament: A hardening position on war, peace and Pakistan

Ghani’s Speech to the Parliament: A hardening position on war, peace and Pakistan

Author: Martine van Bijlert

Date: 27 April 2016

President Ghani’s speech to the Afghan parliament, in an extraordinary joint session on 25 April 2016, was unprecedented. Made in response to demands that he clarify the government’s security policies, the televised speech was sober and dignified, and detailed the government’s hardening stance against Pakistan, the Haqqani network, Daesh and “parts of the Taleban.” Although, according to the president, the door to peace was still ajar, the speech’s main aim was to project an image of resolve and military dominance. It represented a further hardening of the rhetoric and was met by an equally harsh statement by the Taleban. AAN’s Martine van Bijlert takes a closer look (with input from Salima Ahmadi).

 

8. In Search of a Peace Process: A ‘new’ HPC and an ultimatum for the Taleban

In Search of a Peace Process: A ‘new’ HPC and an ultimatum for the Taleban

Author: Thomas Ruttig

Date: 26 February 2016

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US – the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) – are pushing to open a new chapter in the ongoing search for a peace process for Afghanistan. The group has now met for the fourth time, although direct talks with the Taleban have yet to begin. Earlier this week, it issued an ultimatum to the Taleban to come to the negotiating table with the Afghan government by early March 2016, or face the military heat. At the same time, the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) was revamped so that it could “more effectively” support the envisaged process. This approach, however, risks once again derailing talks before they have even begun. AAN co-director Thomas Ruttig takes a closer look.

 

9. From Mullah Omar to Mansur: Change at the Taleban’s top leadership

From Mullah Omar to Mansur: Change at the Taleban’s top leadership

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 31 July 2015

After almost two days of silence, the Taleban have finally admitted that their supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar Mujahed, as they call him, has died. On 31 July 2015, they also announced the appointment of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, previously Omar’s deputy, as their new leader. Reportedly, this also includes the key title of amir ul-momenin – commander of the faithful – in an attempt to transfer the dead leader’s religious legitimacy to the new man at the top. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig (with input from Borhan Osman) begins his report on the death of Mullah Omar and its immediate aftermath with some recollections from Kandahar, October 2000, before looking at how news of the death unfolded and what the new leadership looks like.

 

10. Pushing Open the Door to Peace? Pugwash organises next round of Taleban talks in Qatar

Pushing Open the Door to Peace? Pugwash organises next round of Taleban talks in Qatar

Author: Thomas Ruttig    

Date: 31 May 2015

Preparations are on-going for what are labelled “non-official” talks between Afghans of “different parties.” Organised by the non-governmental academic network, the Pugwash Conference, this will be a follow up to a first round of such talks held in Qatar on 2 and 3 May 2015 which brought members of the two biggest insurgent organisations – the Taleban and Hezb-e Islami – as well as political and civil society figures from inside Afghanistan and some internationals, mainly from the United Nations, to one table. All had been invited in their individual capacities. It was not the first time an Afghanistan-related gathering was organised by the Pugwash Conference. However, it was the first time that a final statement was released. This document contains some surprising elements of consensus, writes AAN’s senior analyst Thomas Ruttig. He also asks whether this consensus can kick start, and then sustain, negotiations for a political settlement in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a recent meeting between Afghan government and Taleban representatives in China signals a possible edging (in deeds, not in words) of the Taleban towards direct talks with the government and has given new momentum to these developments.

 

11. Talks with the Taleban, Again: This time for real?

Talks with the Taleban, Again: This time for real?

Author: Thomas Ruttig    

Date: 17 March 2015

Over the past weeks, Kabul buzzed with rumours that talks with the Taleban would begin soon, specifically, in the first week of March. That particular week is now past and nothing has happened. But this does not mean that rumours were completely false or that no movement is being made towards new talks with the Taleban or, importantly, that direct talks between them and the Afghan government might be possible. AAN co-director Thomas Ruttig looks at recent events, Pakistan’s and China’s roles and how these countries are perceived by different Afghan players. He also assesses latest developments within the Taleban and how these might nudge the movement away from its position of not talking with Kabul. He concludes that Kabul’s push for direct talks with the Taleban reflects the president’s philosophy: to achieve peace in order to kick-start the country’s economy. But that is easier thought out than done.

 

12. Taleban for the Ghani Cabinet? A look at a BBC report

Taleban for the Ghani Cabinet? A look at a BBC report

Author: Thomas Ruttig    

Date: 11 January 2015

It sounded like ‘breaking news’ from Kabul: “The Taliban have been offered posts in the new Afghan government, but have turned them down, the BBC understands. The offer came from new President Ashraf Ghani in a bid to end the insurgency that threatens the recovery of the country.” The BBC report, that came just before the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris, was soon overshadowed by those events, although it received a number of quick reactions on social media. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig looks at the likelihood that such an offer was made, of what it might have hoped to achieve and also briefly looks at recent ideas on how to start a process with the goal of a political solution of the Afghan conflict.

 

Peace efforts during the second term of the former President Hamed Karzai

13. The prospect of peace talks after the Bergdahl deal: A Taleban perspective

The prospect of peace talks after the Bergdahl deal: A Taleban perspective

Author: Borhan Osman  

Date: 30 June 2014

Bowe Bergahl, now back in America, and the five Taleban ex-Guantanamo detainees, in Qatar, will all be trying to get used to life after detention. Beyond the personal, what political consequences might the deal have? After years of efforts, it was wrapped up unexpectedly fast and, in the end, was a stand-alone deal, not part of a peace process, conducted in total secrecy, with both Congress and President Karzai informed only after it was complete. The Obama administration cast the swap as necessary to get America’s one ‘POW’ home and hinted only vaguely that it might also open the door to wider Afghan efforts for peace. From a Taleban perspective, however, says AAN’s Borhan Osman, the nature of the deal – its timing, speed and limitations – looks different. After speaking to sources in the Taleban’s political office in Qatar, he offers a fresh perspective on how the Bergdahl deal might actually spur on a peace process.

 

14. Bergdahl and the ‘Guantanamo Five’: The long-awaited US-Taleban prisoner swap

Bergdahl and the ‘Guantanamo Five’: The long-awaited US-Taleban prisoner swap

Author: Kate Clark    

Date 4 June 2014

The prisoner swap negotiated between the Taleban and United States has seen the release of the captured US soldier, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in return for five Taleban held at Guantanamo Bay, including one of the movement’s founders, Khairullah Khairkhwa, and the former chief of the army staff, Mullah Fazl. Much of the reporting on the five has been inaccurate, so AAN has updated research on their backgrounds carried out in 2012 by senior analyst Kate Clark. She also looks at the relevance of the deal (which had been in the cards since 2011 and was enacted secretly through the mediation of Qatar) for any broader negotiations with the Taleban.

 

15. Can the Taleban outwrestle the government? An assessment of the insurgency’s military capability

Can the Taleban outwrestle the government? An assessment of the insurgency’s military capability

Author: Borhan Osman  

Date: 25 March 2014

The Taleban are poised to bounce back and threaten the Afghan state once foreign troops withdraw – this is the kind of doomsday scenario one hears these days as foreign troops prepare to depart. Recent statistics have shown that 2013 was at least as violent as 2011, the previous record year for attacks and casualties. However, as AAN’s Borhan Osman argues, the insurgency does not (yet) look to be showing any signs of winning – whether in the fight on the battlefield or the one for minds. Indeed, he argues that the Taleban can win on the battlefield only if the future government loses legitimacy in the eyes of the people.*

 

16. The Future of Peace Talks: What would make a breakthrough possible?

The Future of Peace Talks: What would make a breakthrough possible?

Author: Borhan Osman  

Date: 23 January 2014

Attempts last year to reconcile the Taleban ended where they had started a year before – stuck in stalemate. Two major developments this year, however, could affect the peace process. The departure of President Hamid Karzai and accession of a new leader in the spring provides an opportunity for rebooting the peace process. At best, this could be a game-changer. The withdrawal of foreign troops, however, could potentially cut both ways. It might trigger an attempt by the insurgents to deliver a knockout blow to the government, thereby intensifying the conflict or it might strip the Taleban of their stated raison d’être for fighting – the presence of ‘infidels’ on Afghan soil – forcing them to at least rethink how they sell their call to endless war. AAN’s Borhan Osman examines the current state of the peace efforts with a look back at the last year and also offers thoughts on the prospects for peace in 2014 and beyond.

 

17. Meeting Mullah Baradar… or Maybe Not: Confusion over Taleban Talks

Meeting Mullah Baradar… or Maybe Not: Confusion over Taleban Talks

Author: Kate Clark

Date: 3 December 2013

Yet again there is the impression of something being afoot on the matter of talks with the Taleban, at least as far as Afghan government aspirations go. During the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to Kabul on 30 November 2013, both leaders had nice words to say about the peace process, with Sharif promising to “extend all possible facilitation.” There were also reports, albeit unconvincing, that an Afghan delegation visiting Pakistan had finally been allowed to see the former Taleban deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, recently ‘released’ from ISI custody. Yet hopes that Islamabad would use its influence on the Taleban to stop the fighting in Afghanistan have been stirred – and dashed – in Kabul before. AAN Senior Analyst, Kate Clark (with input from Thomas Ruttig) asks if, this time, there is anything of real substance to be hopeful about.

 

18. The Release of Mullah Baradar: What’s next for negotiations?

The Release of Mullah Baradar: What’s next for negotiations?

Author: Kate Clark  

Date: 21 September 2013

It has been reported that Pakistan has released the most senior Taleban it had in its custody, Mullah Abdul-Ghani Baradar. At the time of his arrest in Karachi in 2010, Baradar was the effective number two in the movement and de facto operational chief of the insurgency. Both the Pakistani and Afghan governments have said they believe his release will help reconciliation. AAN Senior Analyst Kate Clark looks at who Baradar is and what he might contribute to finding a negotiated end to the conflict, with input from Thomas Ruttig and Martine van Bijlert.

 

19. What came out of the Peace Talks in Islamabad? An Afghan and a Pakistani take

What came out of the Peace Talks in Islamabad? An Afghan and a Pakistani take

Author: Reza Rumi and Borhan Osman  

Date: 28 August 2013

Did the Afghan-Pakistani peace talks in Islamabad over the past two days yield results to speak of? There were surprisingly positive moments – moments that justified the hope pinned on this trip. Then again, listening in closer to the concluding statements of the Pakistani Prime Minister and the Afghan President, both leaders seemed to be “on different pages.” AAN has asked a Pakistani and an Afghan analyst to cast an eye at the meeting in Islamabad and read between the lines about both countries’ interests and future relations. Raza Rumi, an analyst and journalist from Islamabad, looks at it from the Pakistani perspective and explains the new Prime Minister’s approach to Afghanistan. AAN’s Borhan Osman and Christine Roehrs ponder if Afghanistan’s expectations were met.

 

20. Déjà Vu All Over Again: The Af-Pak roller coaster and a possible new Taleban office

Déjà Vu All Over Again: The Af-Pak roller coaster and a possible new Taleban office

Authors: Borhan Osman  

Date: 25 August 2013

Tomorrow, 26 August, President Hamed Karzai is visiting Islamabad; it will be the first visit since February 2012. At the top of the agenda: peace talks – again. In the lead-up to this visit, officials of the two countries spoke of alternatives to the Taleban’s Qatar office. AAN’s Borhan Osman (with input by Thomas Ruttig) ponders how much hope to pin on Pakistan, now under new leadership, and how promising the alternatives to the “Qatar process” are. He concludes that Kabul’s attempts at wooing Islamabad to open talks with the Taleban have been a diplomatic roller coaster, rendering chances for serious cooperation dim. He also finds that the Saudi Arabia and Turkey options, as opposed to Qatar, will be ineffective as long as the Taleban are not consulted.

 

21. Who Played Havoc with the Qatar Talks? Five possible scenarios to explain the mess

Who Played Havoc with the Qatar Talks? Five possible scenarios to explain the mess

Author: Borhan Osman and Kate Clark  

Date: 9 July 2013

The bizarre turn of events following the opening of the Taleban office in Doha has led many to wonder whether the affair could have been deliberately sabotaged. Was it possible it had just been badly handled? So rapidly did the optimism about potential talks give way to bewilderment at their suspension, and the Taleban’s re-appearance under a blaze of international media coverage end in their re-disappearance. It was an embarrassing setback for the US, the Taleban and the host nation, Qatar, although the Afghan government, which had never been keen on the Qatar option in the first place, was more likely to have been quietly pleased. Borhan Osman and Kate Clark have been piecing together the sequence of events and have come up with five possible scenarios of how exactly it all went so badly wrong.

 

22. Talking to the Taliban: A British perspective

Talking to the Taliban: A British perspective

Author: Kate Clark  

Date: 3 July 2013

The deputy commander of ISAF and most senior British soldier in Afghanistan, General Nick Carter, has told The Guardian that, ‘the west should have tried talking to the Taliban a decade ago, after they had just been toppled from power’. AAN Senior Analyst, Kate Clark, who witnessed many of the events of that time, not just the fall of the Taleban but the first stirrings of uprising, says the problem was not that the Taleban were excluded from the Bonn Conference in 2001, or from subsequent discussions on the future of the country, but that they were actively persecuted. Clark also looks at General Carter’s assessment for the post-2014 years: the Taleban will not be able to ‘threaten’ central government, but will control parts of the country and the war is set to continue.

 

23. The Taleban in Qatar (2): Biographies – core and constellation

The Taleban in Qatar (2): Biographies – core and constellation (Amended with more details)

Author: Kate Clark  

Date: 24 June 2013

The very public cutting of a red ribbon marking the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar on 18 June 2013 and the videoed raising of their flag allowed the world to see, for the first time in many years, a public face for the clandestine insurgent group. It has also allowed an initial assessment of who is in the Taleban’s Qatar office and what their credentials as negotiators on behalf of the movement might be. One of the new spokesmen, Dr Muhammad Naeem, said there were 6 major figures in the office; AAN counted 13 Afghans at the flag raising ceremony. On 24 June, AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark (with input from Claudio Franco, Gran Hewad, Borhan Osman and guest blogger, Anand Gopal) published biographies of the men who may be about to start talks with the Americans and the Afghan government. Since then, AAN’s Borhan Osman has gathered further material. Here we re-post our piece with new details added and a few corrections (which are footnoted).

 

24. The Taleban in Qatar (1): Head of office Tayyeb Agha

The Taleban in Qatar (1): Head of office Tayyeb Agha

Author: Anand Gopal  

Date: 23 June 2013

The opening of the Taleban’s political office in Doha brought the slither of a clandestine insurgent movement into the public eye. But just who is in the office, about to negotiate with the US and the Afghan government – if, that is, all sides can sort out protocols and procedures? The first of three pieces on the ‘Qatari Taleban’ is a re-posting of a biography of the head of the newly opened office, Muhammad Tayyeb Agha. The piece was written by guest writer and Taleban expert, Anand Gopal in July 2011 when it was revealed that Tayyeb Agha had been speaking to US officials in Germany. As Gopal reports, Tayyeb Agha, who speaks English and Arabic, operated at the heart of the Taleban government as Mullah Omar’s press secretary and translator. Since 2001, he is believed to be one of the very few people to have maintained a direct line to the Taliban leader.

 

25. The Opening of the Taleban Office in Qatar: A propaganda coup and an angry government

The Opening of the Taleban Office in Qatar: A propaganda coup and an angry government

Author: Kate Clark  

Date: 19 June 2013

The long awaited Taleban office in Qatar has opened on 18 June 2013 with a press conference in which two spokesmen presented their movement as a government in waiting. With the old Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan flag behind them, Sohail Shaheen, in English and Mullah Naeem, in Pashto managed to portray an insurgency, whose main victims, after all, are Afghan civilians, as a ‘jihad to put an end to the occupation, and form an independent Islamic system… utilis[ing] every lawful means.’ It was a propaganda coup. The US, meanwhile, has been briefing optimistically, calling it an Afghan-led process and, in the words of President Obama, an ‘important first step toward reconciliation’. There was an ominous silence from the Afghan government, followed, this morning, by the announcement that President Karzai had suspended talks with the Americans over the post-2014 Bilateral Security and Defence Agreement. AAN Senior Analyst, Kate Clark reports (with input from Martine van Bijlert and Gran Hewad).

 

26. The Qatar Office Conundrum: Karzai’s quest for control over Taleban talks

The Qatar Office Conundrum: Karzai’s quest for control over Taleban talks

Author: Thomas Ruttig    

Date: 5 April 2013

During President Karzai’s recent visit to Qatar, discussions about a possible Taleban office were high on the agenda, and the visit had been charged with expectations in advance. Surprisingly, not much has been officially publicised about its outcome after the president returned home. AAN’s Senior Analyst Thomas Ruttig tries to make sense of the trip and thinks that while it was just an episode, its is part of a wider strategy, to neutralise third parties’ potential communication channels with the Taleban. Since the beginning of the year, Kabul has made some progress on this but also suffered some setbacks. The major setback was that Pakistan did not become more cooperative – the bilateral relations have hit rock bottom, again, and the Afghan-Pakistani road map to peace shelved.

 

27. Afghanistan’s vain attempts at wooing Pakistani Islamists for peace

Afghanistan’s vain attempts at wooing Pakistani Islamists for peace

Author: Borhan Osman    

Date: 7 March 2013

The recent assertion by Pakistan’s chief cleric, Tahir Ashrafi, about the permissibility of Taleban’s suicide attacks was completely the opposite of what Afghanistan had been looking for. Indeed, Kabul has had difficulties in mobilising religious leaders to speak against suicide attacks. A long sought conference of ulama from Afghanistan and Pakistan aimed at delegitimising militancy has never happened due to disagreements between Afghan and Pakistani clerics. Pakistan’s support is at the heart of Kabul’s intended roadmap for peace, but assertions such as that of Tahir Ashrafi clearly go against the Kabul plan. So who is Ashrafi and how much can Afghanistan hope to secure Pakistan’s support when it comes to religious backing? Borhan Osman has talked to Ashrafi and the leaders of two main Pakistani religious parties to gauge the opinion of these key religious-political actors regarding war and peace in Afghanistan. He concludes that Afghanistan is hopelessly trying to use the Taleban’s longstanding friends against the Taleban.

 

28. Qatar, Islamabad, Chantilly, Ashgabad: Taleban Talks Season Again?

Qatar, Islamabad, Chantilly, Ashgabad: Taleban Talks Season Again? (amended)

Author: Thomas Ruttig    

Date: 31 December 2012

There has again been movement in the positions marking the landscape of ‘reconciliation’ or, more precisely, of contacts and possible negotiations with the Taleban seem to be moving again. A track II meeting, labelled as ‘intra-Afghan’ talks, was held in France and, before that, the so-called ‘HPC roadmap’ leaked, indicating a more active role of the Afghan government, mainly through the High Peace Council, in conjunction with Pakistani involvement. Media and western diplomats, meanwhile have been insisting that Pakistan has given up its destructive, pro-Taleban position. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig tries to make sense of it all and concludes that much of it still is ‘talks about talks’, combined with wishful thinking designed to make the US/NATO withdrawal 2014 more palatable – basically, he says, it is too early, still, to open the Champagne bottles. (With input by Said Reza Kazemi, Borhan Osman and Gran Hewad.)

 

29. Just about over the First Hill: Pakistan’s Release of Afghan Taleban

Just about over the First Hill: Pakistan’s Release of Afghan Taleban

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 15 November 2012

The release of a number of Afghan Taleban by Pakistan, as announced on 14 November, may prove crucial for an urgently needed breakthrough on a political settlement in Afghanistan. It is also the first big personal success for Rabbani Junior at the helm of the Afghan High Peace Council. But too much optimism would be inappropriate. The possible integration of some released leaders into a Taleban negotiation team is only the first of many hills to be overcome on the long run towards meaningful negotiations. First and foremost, the Taleban leadership is yet to be persuaded to enter into direct talks with the Afghan government. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig looks at this and other open questions.

 

30. The Haqqani Network Blacklisted: From US Asset to Special Foe

The Haqqani Network Blacklisted: From US Asset to Special Foe

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 20 September 2012

Earlier this month, the US government blacklisted the Haqqani network, labelling it a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’. Leaving aside the pros and cons of this decision, which have been fairly widely discussed, AAN co-director Thomas Ruttig looks at other questions: why did the blacklisting happen so late and why is the network singled out from the Taleban movement to which it belongs? He sketches the relationship of the Haqqani network with the Taleban movement and how it turned from being an US ally into one of its ‘most formidable adversaries’ (Financial Times)

 

31. Back to Qatar? Talks about talks, again

Back to Qatar? Talks about talks, again

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 27 August 2012

This summer has brought news that indicated that talks between the US and the Taleban (or even the Afghan government and the Taleban) might possibly be rekindled. It all started rather sensationally with a member of the Taleban leadership publicly attending an (academic) conference, moving on to speculations about Pakistan allowing Kabul access to an incarcerated Taleban leader and to new US thoughts about transferring key Taleban prisoners out of Guantanamo. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig summarises what has happened, before arguing that what looks like a lot of movement has not yet resulted in practical progress. However, he says that Mulla Omar’s latest Eid message has made the Taleban’s vision of a post-withdrawal Afghanistan much clearer than any previous statement.

 

32. Another Hit at the High Peace Council: Arsala Rahmani Killed

Another Hit at the High Peace Council: Arsala Rahmani Killed (amended)

Author: Kate Clark  

Date: 13 May 2012

One of the leading reconciled Taleban, Arsala Rahmani, who was also a senator and, until last month, acting head of the High Peace Council, has been shot dead in Kabul. On 3 May, the Taleban declared they would be targeting High Peace Council members in their ‘Spring Offensive’, but a spokesman has said they did not kill Rahmani. The dead mawlawi had been a major mujahedin commander in the 1980s, a Supreme Court judge during the mujahedin government of the mid-1990s and deputy minister for higher education during the Taleban regime. From 2002, he actively called for reconciliation. However, his and others’ early efforts were rebuffed until after the Taleban insurgency took off. By this time, argues AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark, the opportunity for them to play any major role in reconciliation had been lost. (With contributions by Thomas Ruttig).

 

33. A second Rabbani takes the helm at the High Peace Council

A second Rabbani takes the helm at the High Peace Council

Author: Gran Hewad    

Date: 7 April 2012

The competition for a successor to the late former president Burhanuddin Rabbani at the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) is over: Rabbani’s eldest son Salahuddin has been appointed by President Karzai. But is this appointment a real attempt to get a peace process on track, or is it instead, simply an alliance-building manoeuvre within the Kabul political establishment – just as with the original appointment of his father? AAN’s Gran Hewad looks at the background and possible implications of the decision.

 

34. The End of the Affair? Taleban Suspend Talks

The End of the Affair? Taleban Suspend Talks

Author: Kate Clark    

Date: 6 March 2012

The Taleban have announced that they are suspending talks with the Americans, only six weeks after the opening of their political office in Qatar. In a statement, they described the US approach as ‘shaky, erratic and vague’ and accused the Americans of breaching a memorandum of understanding which had been previously arrived at. This decision does not appear driven by the killing of 16 civilians in Panjwai by a US soldier earlier in the week, but has to do with how the talks were going – particularly the non-release of Taleban prisoners from Guantanamo and Washington’s insistence that the Taleban deal with President Karzai – and with internal Taleban politics. Meanwhile, President Karzai, in the wake of the Panjwai killings, has demanded a faster track transition of security from ISAF to Afghan hands. AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark reports.

 

35. Are the Taleban talking to Karzai (and does it matter)?

Are the Taleban talking to Karzai (and does it matter)?

Author: Martine van Bijlert  

Date: 18 February 2012

When little is clear, all clues seem relevant. And so it can happen that a handful of fairly vague sentences by the President are taken as proof of a significant new step towards negotiations in Afghanistan. A closer look at these claims of emerging “three-way talks” shows that this reading is rather premature, as is also reflected in the immediate Taleban denial. But there is, if nothing else, at least an acknowledgement that there may be a process and – for the moment – those involved seem careful not to decisively spoil it. This may not last, it may go nowhere, but it does provide a chance.

 

36. Talks on Two Channels? The Qatar office and Karzai’s Saudi option

Talks on Two Channels? The Qatar office and Karzai’s Saudi option

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 29 January 2012

The latest reports about developments on reconciliation – or better: talks with insurgent groups, both with the Taleban and Hezb-e Islami* – have been rather contradictory. Or haven’t they? The main insight from these reports, is that President Karzai has only rhetorically bowed to the unilateral US/German thrust to establish a Taleban liaison office in Qatar, estimates Thomas Ruttig, Senior Analyst at AAN, and that he tries to develop his own channel of talks now, independent of the US, instrumentalising Qatari-Saudi tensions.

 

37. An Address for the Taleban in Qatar

An Address for the Taleban in Qatar

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 16 December 2011

The much heralded Taleban office in a third country seems finally about to be opened. The news that this will happen in Qatar, broken by an Indian newspaper on Wednesday* and picked up by Kabul-based Tolo TV a day later, was followed by President Karzai calling back his ambassador in Doha ‘for consultations’ claiming that he was not consulted again. This will probably settle soon and, if the news is confirmed, there should finally be an address for talks with the Taleban, a major minor step on the long and thorny way towards a political solution in Afghanistan, says Thomas Ruttig, senior analyst at AAN.

 

38. Thinking out loud about peace, talks and tensions

Thinking out loud about peace, talks and tensions

Author: Martine van Bijlert  

Date: 7 October 2011

In the weeks after Rabbani’s death by deceit and in the days after President Karzai’s oblique announcement of a new peace strategy, Afghans are trying to make sense of a complicated and murky situation. They are thinking out loud and what they say illustrates the complexity and the confusion, the diverging view points and the internal contradictions. A few longer conversation excerpts give a taste:

 

39. The government’s new peace strategy: Who to talk to?

The government’s new peace strategy: Who to talk to?

Author: Martine van Bijlert  

Date: 4 October 2011

After the Rabbani assassination, the Afghan government has made it clear that it intends to revise its peace strategy. It has however been very short on the details of what this might look like, other than that it needs to revolve around ‘talking to Pakistan’. The change comes in the midst of deteriorating relations with Pakistan and concerns that we may be witnessing the birth of yet another ad hoc approach.

 

40. The Death of Rabbani

The Death of Rabbani

Author: Kate Clark  

Date: 20 September 2011

One of the most senior Afghan leaders has been killed in a suicide bombing at his home in Kabul. Burhanuddin Rabbani was a founder and leading activist in the Afghan Islamist movement in the 1960s and 1970s, one of the seven leaders of the (Sunni) mujahedin parties in the 1980s and – at least formally – president for almost a decade. More recently, he has been an MP and chairman of the High Peace Council, charged with seeking to make peace with the Taleban. AAN senior analyst, Kate Clark assesses Rabbani’s life and what his death may mean for the prospects of peace.

 

41. Guest Blog: Amrullah Saleh’s new language on the Taleban

Guest Blog: Amrullah Saleh’s new language on the Taleban

Author: Ahmad Shuja  

Date: 19 June 2011

Former NDS chief, Amrullah Saleh, wrote an op-ed article on Bloomberg.com in which he tacitly agreed to the idea of negotiations with the Taleban and called for a truth commission as a way of reconciliation. Saleh, it seems, is rebranding himself outside Afghanistan as a pragmatic opposition leader open to concessions, writes our guest blogger Ahmad Shuja(*).

 

42. Taleban Contacts between Smoke and Mirrors: Karzai’s 18 June speech

Taleban Contacts between Smoke and Mirrors: Karzai’s 18 June speech

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 19 June 2011

Nothing is what it appears in the T2T drama series. Talking to the Talebs is a cabinet of mirrors. The mirrors make it appear that smoke is rising from one place while the fire is burning at another. And it is not even clear whether this is real smoke and fire, or just Javanese-style shadow play. Karzai’s Saturday speech in Kabul ‘confirming’ US direct contacts with the Taleban, mirrored as a sensation in the international media, is just the latest act of an ongoing performance the direction of which remains opaque, concludes AAN’s Senior Analyst Thomas Ruttig.

 

43. Talking about peace talks; a morass of misunderstandings and abstractions

Talking about peace talks; a morass of misunderstandings and abstractions

Author: Martine van Bijlert  

Date: 22 March 2011

For a while now I have been feeling uneasy over the direction the debate on ‘talking to the Taleban’ is taking. The more I listen to conversation about reaching some kind of settlement, the more I feel as if I am wading into a morass of misunderstandings and abstractions, with a potentially dangerous level of superficiality and easy assumptions.

 

44. Flash to the Past: Missed Opportunities for Reconciliation

Flash to the Past: Missed Opportunities for Reconciliation

Author: Anand Gopal  

Date: 15 November 2010

Our guest author Anand Gopal (*) looks back how chances for integrating Taleban into Afghanistan’s past-2001 political system were squandered and how the alienation of leading former commanders in Kandahar became a key motivating factor in sparking the insurgency. Therefore, the original article had the following sub-line: ‘The Victor’s Hubris and the Failure of Reconciliation’.

 

45. Splitting the Haqqanis with NATO Reconciliation Air?

Splitting the Haqqanis with NATO Reconciliation Air?

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 1 November 2010

The initial big wave of reports about talks with the Taleban gathering speed and of a possible short-term ‘reconciliation’ have given way for a slower but steady trickle of spicy detail. A detail dropped here, some names there, mixed with half-denials like Richard Holbrooke’s ‘There is less than meets the eye’ line keep the shurwa(*) boiling. The focus seems to be on the Haqqani network for the moment. AAN’s Senior Analyst Thomas Ruttig looks back at how the ‘talk about talks’ developed, what the prospects are and who is flying which ‘airline’ to the talks.

 

46. Reconciliation in Afghanistan: Can the UN right some wrongs?

Reconciliation in Afghanistan: Can the UN right some wrongs?

Author: Horia Mosadiq  

Date: 31 October 2010

Our guest author Horia Mosadiq(*) looks at the United Nations’ role now and then in Afghanistan, with special attention to its numerous attempts to ‘peace deals relying largely on power-sharing’. She sees the latest initiatives for ‘reconciliation’ as a continuation of this approach and discusses its possible implications for justice, with its inherent differentiation of human rights abusers in ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ones.

 

47. Talking to the Taleban: Who’s under pressure now?

Talking to the Taleban: Who’s under pressure now?

Author: Anand Gopal  

Date: 22 October 2010

The last US plan – to have a more broad-based reconciliation process only after its military would regain the upper hand on the battlefield – has not worked. The surge has not shifted the momentum. Not the Taleban but in reality the US are under pressure, and fundamental questions open about how and where a ‘dialogue’ with the Taleban should go, argues our guest author Anand Gopal(*).

 

48. Are Talks with the Taleban Snow-Balling?

Are Talks with the Taleban Snow-Balling?

Author: Martine van Bijlert  

Date: 20 October 2010

There has been a lot of excitement lately in the press about the supposedly snow-balling talks with the Taleban leadership and what this could mean for the prospects to end the war. The major news outlets have been trying to outdo each other in terms of talking up details provided by spokespeople and unnamed officials. Most Afghans remain largely underwhelmed. So what to make of all of this?

 

49. Afghan Reactions to the High Peace Council

Afghan Reactions to the High Peace Council

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 14 October 2010

The establishment of the High Peace Council (HPC) by President Hamed Karzai on 18 September has created a lot of attention. Finally, the competition about who will chair the body has been decided in favour of 1992-96 Interim President Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani. Also, the still missing members have been appointed which let the HPC become a 70-member body: Wazhma Frogh and Sheela Samimi from the Afghanistan Women’s Network, two of the few civil society members(*).

 

50. Who wants peace, needs to get serious about justice

Who wants peace, needs to get serious about justice

Author: Nader Nadery  

Date: 12 October 2010

The current ineffectiveness in Afghanistan’s justice sector is a legacy of three decades of war and factionalism but not of an historical absence of a formal system of independent adjudication of disputes through courts of law. That it has not been rebuilt, is less due to an inherent inability but to a lack of political will – because justice was seen as ‘counterproductive’ for ‘stability’, argues our guest author Nader Nadery(*).

 

51. Talk about Talks Again

Talk about Talks Again (updated)

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date: 7 October 2010

‘Bazaar du-bara garm shud’ – the market has become hot again. That’s how many Afghans reacted to the breaking news of ‘high-level talks’ between Taleban leaders and the Kabul government (and possibly some US actors) as well as about the not-so-secret-anymore talks in the Kabul Serena. But look at the small print: The talks were of a ‘preliminary nature’ and the sources of the news even ‘differ on how specific they [the talks] were’, where they took place etc. AAN’s Senior Analyst Thomas Ruttig has a few footnotes.

 

52. Warlords’ Peace Council

Warlords’ Peace Council

Author: Martine van Bijlert    

Date: 28 September 2010

After a series of announcements that the members of the High Peace Council would soon be announced, and a considerable delay reportedly about who should chair the council – a question that is still open – the names of 68 members were finally released today (with apparently two more still to be added). Looking at the list, AAN’s Senior Analysts Martine van Bijlert and Thomas Ruttig find the council’s composition no surprise, but a disappointment all the same.

 

53. General Petraeus about Taleban contacts

General Petraeus about Taleban contacts (updated)

Author: Thomas Ruttig  

Date. 28 September 2010

Reconciliation – a.k.a. talking to the Taleban – is a hot issue. Anything new is picked up quickly by the media world-wide, in particular when it comes from someone with a political weight like Gen. Petraeus. But please also read the small print.

 

54. London Conference (2): Peace, Reconciliation and Reintegration

London Conference (2): Peace, Reconciliation and Reintegration

Author: Martine van Bijlert  

Date: 2 February 2010

The London Conference and the media chatter around it has put the subject of reintegration and negotiations with the Taliban firmly on the agenda. Although both issues had been repeatedly raised by Afghan government and international officials over the last few years, the media and wider public still seemed to be taken by surprise. A closer look at what was said and some of the implications.

 

 

 

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