Former US ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker has said that peace talks between representatives of the Taliban and US officials in Qatar further undermines the credibility of the Afghan government.
This comes in the wake of reports that US officials met with Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, to discuss the possibility of peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan.
According to Crocker, no representative from the Afghan government was in the room during the talks between the Taliban and the US.
“It is different, not, I think, in a positive way for the United States - certainly not for the government of Afghanistan. These talks apparently took place without the Afghan government being present. That's a huge deal because the Taliban has long insisted that they are ready to talk to us but not with the illegitimate - their term - Afghan government in the room. They got what they wanted. It will further delegitimize the Afghan government. So this may lead somewhere. I don't think it's going to lead anywhere good for the Afghan government itself,” said Crocker.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah has said that the Afghan government is fully aware of these developments and that the main objective of the efforts by Washington is to pave the way for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
“These contacts have also been held in the past, similar issues were also reported recently, the Afghan government is fully aware of that, the efforts are aimed at laying the groundwork for direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government,” said Abdullah.
“Discussions have been held on confidence building measures and the nature of talks in the future, there is the possibility that after Eid more solid discussions will be held on certain issues,” said political analyst Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen.
According to Crocker, the US is staying in Afghanistan at the invitation of the Afghan government, but he said that when the Afghan government is not present in the room, it creates concerns about the legitimacy of government.
“Not at all. What it does is put the Taliban really on a - if not a legal plane with the United States, certainly symbolically. They are talking about the American withdrawal and the circumstances of that withdrawal. We are there at the invitation of the Afghan government. They're not in the room. So if we withdraw, to whom do we hand this over to, the Taliban? That's the symbol we've got out there now. That's what the country is seeing, that the Taliban is their future because that's who the Americans are talking to, not the government in Kabul,” he said.
In addition, Hüseyin Avni Botsalı, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to Afghanistan, has said that the OIC hopes a breakthrough is achieved regarding peace in Afghanistan in the next few months.
“I am hopeful that in the coming months ahead, there will be visible progress in our engagement and with the collective authority and support of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and its member states, the psychological environment, the political environment and subsequently the economical and development environments also will start improving so that our modest contribution may add some momentum to the efforts and hopefully to the results towards building lasting peace,” he said.
According to report, the first round of these talks between the US and the Taliban were held in the last week of July in Qatar.
Alice Wells, the US’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs and Mullah Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Taliban’s political office, represented their sides in the talks.
Some media reports have however indicated that officials from the Pentagon and the Centeral Intelligence Agency (CIA) were also present at the talks.
The Taliban so far has not confirmed that these talks took place in Doha.
But media reports indicate that a number of Taliban officials have met with US officials on several occasions in the past few months.
Last month Wall Street Journal reported that Wells met with Taliban officials to discuss ways to lay the groundwork for peace talks.
The report said the aim of the discussion was to build on momentum created by the recent three-day ceasefire over Eid al-Fitr.
According to Qatar’s The Peninsula daily, US and Qatari officials discussed recent progress towards an Afghan-owned, and Afghan-led peace process, and pledged to continue both countries’ efforts toward combating terrorism and promoting regional peace and stability.
Last week President Ashraf Ghani met with Qatar’s Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani, who was visiting Afghanistan.
According to a statement issued by Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation.
The ministry said in a statement Ghani and Al Qantani also discussed ways to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan and the efforts by Qatar in terms of mediation in bringing together various parties involved in the conflict.