After the initial direct conversation between Taliban and the Afghan government-led delegation in Doha, the obstacles are getting more complicated, according to the report Al Jazeera on Wednesday (23/9/2020).
A contact group consisting of a Taliban delegation and the Afghan government was formed to set terms and conditions before formal talks could begin with the participation of a larger group.
The group is an attempt to pave the way for agenda-setting talks aimed at achieving lasting peace in the war-torn country.
Intra-Afghan talks are planned in a deal between the Taliban and the United States signed in February.
Government Trump wants the rivals in Afghanistan to reach a peace agreement, because it wants to withdraw American troops from the country after nearly 20 years of its longest-running foreign war.
The Afghan government contact group was represented by Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, Nader Nadery, Zarar Ahmad Muqbil Osmani, Fawzia Koofi, Mohammad Natiqi and Khalid Noor.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has been represented by Maulvi Abdul Kabir, Abbas Stanekzai, Noorullah Noori, Shaikh Delawar and Shaikh Qasim as representatives.
Al Jazeera have seen the fourth and most recent version of the draft agenda for terms and conditions discussed in the initial contact group meeting.
There were 20 points first prepared in Kabul before the team arrived in Doha.
Most of the points are technical. Differences in agreement between the two sides have emerged over Islamic law, issues related to sects and other minority groups, and the language used in the draft.
All parties are spoken to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, due to the fragile state of the process and some not authorized to speak to the media.
Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh)
It was stressed that the “Hanafi” school of law followed by the majority of Afghanistan’s Sunni Muslims should serve as guidelines for all aspects of the terms and conditions of peace negotiations.
After initial rejection of the inclusion of jurisprudence in the document, which also discussed technical details, the two sides finally agreed to make it a comprehensive guide.
With the dominance of Sunni-Hanafi scholars from rival parties, this becomes complicated when the settlement of disputes is associated with one sect, as there is no representation for another sect, such as the jurisprudence Jaafria sect.
Afghanistan is home to a minority group from other Islamic jurisprudence schools, including Shia Muslims.
The country of 30 million is also home to a dwindling Hindu and Sikh minority, who fear marginalization if the majority’s religious interpretation is established as the only guiding principle for resolving disputes.
The current draft calls for allowing other schools of Islamic thought to be applied to their respective followers.
However, problems related to non-Muslim minorities will be resolved according to their religious law, provided it is in “sharia law”, ie it does not contradict the basic principles of Islam.
Small changes like changing “Quran and Sunnah” to “sharia” require a lot of back and forth discussion between the two sides.
This terminology is also an important point as the members consider every word of the fourth draft.
One side must give in to the phrase “social justice” for the sake of “Islamic justice”. The other side, on the other hand, has had to succumb to pressure to portray the turmoil in Afghanistan initially as “jihad” into “conflict”, a more acceptable term for both sides.
There are also disagreements about whether the “Doha agreement” can be included as part of the text in the terms and conditions.
This opens Pandora’s box because the “Doha agreement” made in February only lasts between governments AS and the Taliban. The Afghan government is not a party to it.
The Western-backed Afghan government wants to mention the “loya jirga”, the council of traditional Afghan tribal elders, and their agreement with the US, which was signed in Kabul following the Doha accord.
Several Afghan government officials, including the first Vice President Amrullah Saleh, have made fiery statements against the Taliban, to which the Taliban have responded.
However, during the peace talks in Doha, efforts have been made to keep talks warm.
Several uncomfortable lines were exchanged, with the delegation saying “people should be put in their place”, but generally the tone of voice remained calm.
So far, there has been no fierce bickering or insinuation, although there have been some emotional moments in the meetings between contact groups.
Attempts have been made to break the ice and make jokes, so that violent politicians on both sides do not take control of the meeting.
Owned Afghanistan, leader of Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s international partners do not believe that this is the right time for them to step in to help advance the situation.
“It seems they (themselves) are getting more and more advanced,” said one diplomat.
“Opportunities will not be closed on our side, we will continue to find creative ways to get involved,” an Afghan government delegate told Al Jazeera, stressing that there is real hope for continuing talks and moving towards meaningful dialogue.
Meanwhile, the Taliban said they were committed to peace agreement and making progress.
The group has been fighting Afghan forces since being ousted from power in the 2001 US-led invasion.
As talks continue in Doha, Afghan security officials say dozens of government soldiers have died across Afghanistan in the past 48 hours.
The Interior Ministry accused the Taliban of carrying out attacks in 24 provinces, including Uruzgan, Kandahar, Wardak, Takhar and Baghlan.
However, Taliban leaders have informed Al Jazeera that these attacks were on newly established security posts, and accused the Afghan government of trying to expand its territory by sending additional troops.
Criticism in the US
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad faces a tough test for his testimony before a house representative hearing on Tuesday (9/22/2020).
Congressman Tom Malinowski asked the US special envoy, “We all work for peace and I understand people want to achieve that, but I think what you are selling us is not peace. It’s a fairy tale to make us feel better about leaving Afghanistan. “
Khalilzad stressed that it was the best way to move forward considering the constraints. “Our withdrawal is conditional and will be based on action not just words from the Taliban,” he told Al Jazeera.