Afghanistan seems to have dropped old ‘red lines’ before talks with Taliban

KABUL (TIP): As the Afghan government goes into a new spell of talks with the Taliban on Saturday, Kabul appears to have “dropped” the “red lines” that had earlier defined the Kabul-Taliban negoitiatons. Violence by the Taliban against Afghans is virtually at an all-time high, yet the government will not insist that the terror group either give up violence or endorse the constitution before going into the talks.

Talking to jouirnalists in Delhi, the Afghan chief executive, Dr Abdullah Abdullah said, the “red lines” would apply when they talk to the Taliban. “The red lines are the rights of the people, especially women’s rights, the right to education, the democratic process all of which are enshrined in our constitution. We will not compromise on these when we talk to the Taliban. People who are violent or in touch with the terrorists cannot join the political mainstream. But this is in the outcome of talks. Before the talks there will be no pre-conditions.”

He said the Afghan government would talk with “those who were willing to talk. Once they (Taliban) agree to sever links with terrorist groups and be part of a political process, at that stage we can think of going beyond. At this point, they continue to insist on being called the Islamic Emirate.”

This has been stressed by Pakistan, the chief patron of the Taliban, and endorsed by the US and UK. The latter, said sources, are looking at an exit deadline before the end of the Obama administration. On January 11, Sartaj Aziz was quoted as saying, “The primary objective of the reconciliation process is to create conditions to bring the Taliban groups to the negotiation table and offer them incentives that can persuade them to move away from using violence as tool for pursuing political goals … Threat of the use of military action against irreconcilables cannot precede the offer of talks to all the groups and their response to such offers.”

So Afghanistan is in the unenviable position of talking to the Taliban, without any reduction in violence (the most recent attack claimed by Taliban was in Kabul earlier in the week), or any promise of reduction.

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Pakistan is in the driving seat here, as they had been earlier. The last round of peace talks fell apart after it was revelaled that the Taliban’s reclusive leader, Mullah Omar had been dead for over two years. Taliban continues to get support from Pakistan, that has not changed. They are the only country to exrt the most influence on the Taliban. But the Afghan people’s appetite for peace talks with the Taliban is likely to diminish if attacks continue and Afghan casualties rise every day.

Afghans are joining the flood of refugees crowding into European countries which is adding to the western desire to bring some sort of closure to the Afghan situation.

The Afghan economy is slowing down any way, Abdullah observed, adding the people were expecting greater delivery of governance. India is picking up some of the slack — the third phase of India’s successful small development projects were announced last week, which would be about 92 infrastructure projects in different parts of Afghanistan. But that will not be enough, because the big investments are still afraid of the adverse security situation. Like the Indian Hajigak investment or the Chinese investments in Aynak or in the north. The new entrant in the fragile security situation is Daesh or ISIS, which is making its presence felt in the eastern areas, particularly Nangarhar. “Daesh in Afghanistan is different from those in Syria and Iraq,” Abdullah said. A number of them are disaffected Taliban, mixed up with criminals.”

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