An international think tank has warned that US-led talks with the Taliban are going nowhere and has called for the UN to take the lead in peace negotiations to prevent Afghanistan from sliding into civil war.
In a report released Sunday, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said current negotiations were unlikely to achieve a sustainable peace because they were dominated by the US and hampered by a “half-hearted and haphazard” approach by the Afghan government.
"Far from being Afghan-led, the negotiating agenda has been dominated by Washington’s desire to obtain a decent interval between the planned US troop drawdown and the possibility of another bloody chapter in the conflict," the report says.
The ICG said the result thus far of international involvement in negotiations had been to embolden “spoilers” like insurgents, government officials and war profiteers, “who now recognise that the international community’s most urgent priority is to exit Afghanistan with or without a settlement”.
Regional players like Pakistan and Iran have also significantly hindered talks, the report says.
Candace Rondeaux, senior Afghanistan analyst with the ICG and one of the report’s authors, said time was running out to get peace talks back on track.
The past few months had seen efforts led by the US to negotiate with the Taliban “faltering left and right”, she said.
The Taliban announced two weeks ago that it was suspending preliminary talks with the US because of what they described as “the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans”.
The ICG report said the Afghan government must make greater efforts to include a range of ethnic and civil society groups in peace negotiations, and not just deal with warlords.
It said any negotiations must be transparent.
However, the ICG said the Karzai government is not in a good position to agree to a settlement with insurgents because it was “debilitated by internal political divisions and external pressures”.
It said political competition in Afghanistan would heat up in the run-up to the withdrawal of international combat forces at the end of 2014, and “the differing priorities and preferences of the parties to the conflict - from the Afghan government to the Taliban leadership to key regional and wider international actors - will further undermine the prospects of peace”.
A UN-mandated mediation team is needed if a civil war is to be averted once international combat troops leave Afghanistan.
"Given that we only have two years before NATO forces pull out, it is critical that there is intervention from a third party that is acceptable to the Taliban, acceptable to the other opposition groups, acceptable to the Afghan government, and to all the players that are engaged in the negotiation process," Ms Rondeaux said.
FULL ARTICLE (Herald Sun)
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