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    Pakistani Taliban patrol in their stronghold of Shawal in Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan

    Taliban Negotiators May Lack Power to Implement Afghan Peace Deal - Experts

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    Possible negotiations between the US and the Taliban might be a disguised operation of duping each other. The Taliban lacks power to control all of its fighters.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Afghan Taliban negotiators might not be able to guarantee that all of the group's factions will adhere to any peace settlement reached with US and Afghan officials, experts told Sputnik on Friday.

    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been making efforts to engage the political opposition in the country, particularly the Taliban, in negotiations on the settlement of the ongoing confrontation.

    "There are at least 20 insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan under the 'Taliban' brand. I doubt more than half of them would obey orders any longer from [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura [militant group]," Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Army War College, Chris Mason, told Sputnik.

    Mason was responding to news that members of the Afghan Taliban reportedly said they were scheduled to hold direct talks with US officials in Qatar on Thursday, although spokespersons from both the US State Department and the National Security Council (NSC) denied that such discussions were on the calendar.

    Mason said he highly doubts meaningful peace talks, direct or indirect, will ever take place with the Taliban. He even put forth the possibility that the buzz about negotiations in Doha could be a US "false flag" psychological operation, meant "to sow mistrust, disunity and confusion in the Taliban ranks," while the Taliban, for their part, might be trying to fool the United States as well.

    "Peripheral figures could be seeking specific Taliban agenda items, like the release of certain prisoners, and the Quetta Shura leadership thinks they can make fools of the Americans again as they did with the Private Bergdahl trade," Mason explained.

    The Taliban, according to Mason, might be attempting to convince the US Office of the Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan that there is a roadmap to peace talks, in order to achieve more specific concessions.

    Kamran Bokhari, a Middle East and South Asian Affairs analyst for Stratfor, a global intelligence firm, told Sputnik that US officials are concerned that the people they are talking to from the Taliban may not control most of the factions. US leaders are wondering if all the fighters will actually obey the Taliban negotiators and leaders once they agree to end hostilities.

    Bokhari pointed out that there are even separate channels for negotiating within the Taliban, including the quasi-official political bureau in Qatar in addition to representatives in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. Even the overall leaders of the key factions, like the Quetta Shura and Haqqani Network, are unlikely to be able to control all their fighters, at least not right away.

    "Mullah Omar traded operational leadership for physical security and therefore he doesn't directly control the commanders on the battlefield. That creates a lot of autonomy for a lot of these people," Bokhari said. "And now he is trying to bring all these guys under one roof and under his strict command, but that's a work-in-progress, to say the least."

    Shuja Nawaz, a distinguished fellow for the Atlantic Council, told Sputnik that the Afghan president will also be pressing the Taliban to see if the interlocutors he is working with can guarantee compliance.

    "What he [Ghani] doesn't want to do is to have an agreement, then have to negotiate separate side deals with a whole bunch of autonomous characters," Nawaz said.

    Eight individuals including a Taliban commander were killed by US precision airstrikes in Afghanistan - Pentagon
    © AP Photo / Susan Walsh, File
    At the same time, Nawaz added, Ghani will also try to prevent any Taliban representatives from trying to represent all members of Afghanistan’s Pashtun population in general that might be disaffected or have anti-government sentiments.

    In 2012, a Taliban commission opened an office in the Qatari capital of Doha, which received authorization from Taliban leader Mullah Omar to start talks with US and Afghan officials.

    The Taliban is a militant group founded in the 1990s that seeks to establish sharia law in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group is known to have carried out multiple terror attacks against authorities and civilians in both countries.

    In 2014, the Taliban stepped up insurgent activities across Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of international troops from the country. The United States officially ended combat operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, but has kept a residual force of approximately 10,000 troops in the region.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    negotiations, Taliban, Mullah Omar, Ashraf Ghani, United States, Pakistan
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