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    ‘US Itself Is a Party to the Conflict in Afghanistan’ – Think Tank

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    According to a Taliban* official, cited by the Wall Street Journal, a meeting between a US State Department delegation and Taliban representatives in Doha has resulted in very positive signals. One Taliban representative said that the meeting was conducted in a friendly atmosphere, adding it was one of the meetings intended to start formal talks.

    Sputnik discussed the latest meeting between US officials and the Taliban with Dr. Abdullah Khan, an expert on militancy and regional security, as well as managing director at the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.

    Sputnik: In your view, how productive are these meetings between the United Stated and the Taliban?

    Abdullah Khan: Actually, the US had tried its best to sideline and ignore the Taliban in the political process. It tried to find alternatives to bring the desired outcome, but it failed. The Taliban started to gain recognition as a political movement by regional and global powers like China, Russia and other regional countries. Then the US realized that it was actually losing its political influence in the country; so now the US has adopted a correct course of action and they are talking to the Taliban directly. I think this is a positive step in the right direction.

    The key thing is that the US and the Taliban, not the actual running government in Kabul, are the key to the peace. I’d like to say that the US has done well by accepting Taliban’s demand for direct talks. Now greater responsibilities are also on the shoulders of the Taliban leadership, as well as how they will proceed in the future and how they will reciprocate.

    Sputnik: How high are the chances that the two sides will be able to achieve lasting peace with US mediation?

    Abdullah Khan: I think it’s not a matter of mediation; the US itself is a party to the conflict. The mediation can be done by someone from the outside, like Russia started a peace process last year, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has a contact group on Afghanistan and some other countries have made some peace efforts recently. So the US is actually a party, we cannot say there will be a mediation by the US.

    As far as a lasting peace is concerned, it depends upon the US future course of action in the region and its intentions. Unfortunately, wherever America has made military interventions, it has brought conflicts and chaos except in, I think, Kosovo or Bosnia, where they were settled down. Otherwise everywhere we can see conflicts. Complete peace is actually linked with the complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.

    READ MORE: Ex-Afghani Envoy: US Trying to Open 'Second Track Policy' in Afghanistan

    Another factor that’s very important is that we cannot ignore the presence of ISIS* [Daesh] which is a bigger spoiling factor in the region now. A lot now depends actually upon the fight against ISIS and, unfortunately, the role of the US in fighting ISIS is also seen with suspicion. There’s a perception that the US is behind the promotion of the group in the region, because despite using the “Mother of All Bombs” against the group, it is spreading and conducting more lethal operations and attacks. Lasting peace, for the time being, is far from reality, but it is something not impossible; we all should wait for that, but at the moment it is something that I can’t see in the near future.

    Sputnik: How do you see this agreement? Will the Taliban be allowed to form its own political party and be included in the parliament?

    Abdullah Khan: If we look at the Taliban movement, they are not actually struggling to become a political party. That [would have been] very easy for them, because Ashraf Ghani had offered them to become a political party. There are two objectives of the Taliban and, unfortunately, the Ashraf Ghani government always ignores one and that is the thing which is now being discussed between the Americans and the Taliban directly – the Taliban are fighting for a complete withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan; for them this is the primary objective. The other objective is to implement Islamic Sharia as per their understanding in Afghanistan. How the Afghan government will meet both these objectives, how they will reciprocate to these demands – that will actually set the future course of this peace process. I don’t think the Taliban will just settle for becoming a political.

    Sputnik: Do you think that the Afghan government will be allowed to participate in future negotiations?

    Abdullah Khan: I think the basic demand of Taliban was that they wanted to have direct talks with the Americans, which [has been] met; but I think at this time, the Americans have taken on board the Kabul government because Abdullah Abdullah has endorsed these meetings and I think in the future, the Afghan government will be on board. It is already on board, as per my information, and in the future I think it will pave the way for direct talks with the Afghan government and the Taliban.

    Sputnik: How important is international support and facilitation to achieve peace in Afghanistan after 17 years of war?

    Abdullah Khan: I think international support is a must to bring peace in Afghanistan. The international community actually supported the US occupation of Afghanistan back in 2001, but that resulted in civil war and drug production. Back in 2001, before the US invasion, the cultivation of poppy crops had become zero in Afghanistan and now 90% of the drug is being supplied from Afghanistan in the entire world. Drug dealers and cartels have deep roots in the US installed system in Afghanistan.

    READ MORE: Afghan Government Rejects US Plan to Establish Independent Anti-Corruption Body

    Billions of dollars of illegal trade are at stake if there’s stability and peace in Afghanistan; so the international community will have to focus more on drugs and related issues in Afghanistan if they really want a lasting peace. Apart from that, the role of the SCO contact group is very important for me and the role of the regional powers like Russia, Pakistan, China and Iran is also very important, because these are the countries which are directly affected by this conflict. And America will have to take an inclusive approach instead of a solo flight; all the regional and international efforts must complement each other rather than work in isolation, that’s my understanding of the issue.

    * terrorist organizations banned in Russia

    * The views and opinion expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position

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