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Global Times

Intl meeting begins on Afghan peace; China could play 'bigger role' to mediate

Global Times

By Liu Xin and Wang Wenwen Published: Aug 11, 2021 10:05 PM

The Afghan government and the Taliban were trading blame over the issue of "seriousness" for peace talks at the extended troika meeting attended by diplomats from China, Russia, Pakistan and the US, which kicked off in Doha, Qatar on Wednesday.

Analysts said intra-Afghan peace talks may face a long stalemate with no party willing to compromise, which needs the international community for better mediation.

A member of the Afghan government delegation at the Doha negotiations told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that having a mediator at the talks is necessary and the Taliban has no interest in negating but rather achieving its goals with violence. The delegation member also urged the international community to pressure the Taliban to show seriousness.

However, a spokesperson for the Taliban told the Qatar-based broadcaster that the Afghan government had "rejected the principle of a mediator." The spokesperson said that the Taliban is committed to the negotiations and does not want it to fall apart.

The "battle of words" took place before meetings on Afghan negotiations of the Troika Plus - China, Russia, Pakistan and the US and the Taliban-Afghan government delegates - were held in Doha, Qatar to achieve a political solution for a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan. Analysts said it shows how difficult it would be for the intra-Afghan peace process.

It seems that the scale has tilted toward the Taliban in the battlefield in Afghanistan with the latter reportedly having taken nine provincial capitals. However, it does not mean the Taliban has secured absolute dominance domestically, as the government decided to withdraw to major core cities, Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The Taliban seized three more provincial capitals in Afghanistan and puts pressure on the central government to stem the tide of the advance, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. The Taliban earlier captured six other provincial capitals in the country in less than a week, including Kunduz in Kunduz province - one of the country's largest cities.

Qian said that given the distrust between the Afghan government and the Taliban as well as the current sticky situation of the domestic battlefield, no side would easily compromise, which makes intra-Afghan peace talks difficult and calls for more efforts from the international community to mediate.

The US has been incapable of handling the current situation in Afghanistan since its withdrawal, and its recent air raid on the Taliban to stop the latter from taking more cities and to urge it to go back to the negotiating table is not as useful as it had thought, analysts said.

The US sent B-52 bombers and Spectre gunships from an airbase in Qatar, hitting targets around Kandahar, Herat, and Lashkar Gah in Helmand province in a bid to stop the Taliban, who were marching toward three key cities, local media reported on Saturday.

US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad brought a warning to the Taliban on Tuesday that any government that comes to power through force in Afghanistan won't be recognized internationally.

Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, thinks that the US' tactics to pressure the Taliban with international reorganization have failed and it is hard to make the Afghan government and the Taliban engage in a ceasefire.

"Afghanistan may enter into the period with the 'Syrian style' - battles will continue until one side wins," Zhu told the Global Times on Wednesday.

But Sultan Baheen, former Afghan ambassador to China, is expecting more from the extended troika meeting as it could be the best mechanism for including the big powers interested in peace in Afghanistan and the most relevant parties, too.

"They should echo the voice of Afghanistan that war is not the solution and support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Time is crucial for Afghanistan," Baheen told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that China, as a neighbor, a good friend and a big power, could do something to help mediate between the Taliban and the Afghan government to help them go back to the negotiating table.

When asked about the potential outcomes of the meetings, Yue Xiaoyong, Chinese special representative on Afghanistan, was quoted by Doha News as saying that it was only the beginning and both sides previously agreed that there can only be a political solution to the ongoing war.

Insisting that Afghan affairs should be solved by Afghan people, China has played an active role in promoting peace talks in Afghanistan, Qian said, saying that although the future of Afghanistan is unclear, the international community has reached a consensus on not letting it be battered by wars, terror attacks and drugs, and it needs different countries to work together.

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