Taliban, Afghan Delegates Agree On Road Map To Peace — But Texts Differ | Security Risks Asia Made with Humane Club

Taliban, Afghan Delegates Agree On Road Map To Peace — But Texts Differ

Published Jul 10, 2019
Updated Apr 10, 2020

The Taliban and a delegation representing Afghan society have  agreed at talks in Qatar upon a road map for a future political settlement  in what is seen as a major step toward ending Afghanistan’s nearly 18-year  war.

However, there are major discrepancies between different versions of the  resolution released in the Pashto, Dari, and English languages that  highlight where difficulties in the negotiations remain.

The English version, released on July 9 by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as  an “unofficial translation,” declares that the Taliban and intra-Afghan  delegates had agreed to assure Afghan women their fundamental rights in  “political, social, economic, educational, [and] cultural affairs” in a  way that is “in accordance with the values of Islam.”

That is a key demand from Afghanistan’s internationally backed government  in Kabul. The English translation also did not contain any reference to one of the  key issues for the Taliban — their demand for the withdrawal of all  foreign military forces from Afghanistan.

Women’s Rights

In Pashto, the main language of most Taliban, the text included references  to the withdrawal of foreign troops as part of the road map. But it did  not include any reference to guarantees for women’s rights. Like the English text, the Dari version of the resolution included  references to guaranteeing women’s rights but did not mention the  withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

In all versions of the joint declaration, the Taliban and intra-Afghan  delegates said they agreed to reduce “civilian casualties to zero” with  pledges not to attack hospitals and schools or critical infrastructure  such as hydroelectric dams. They also said they agree to the unconditional release of old, disabled,  and sick prisoners, and to be more diplomatic in their public statements  about each other.

The document is nonbinding and is seen as a basic framework for future  talks on a final peace agreement between the Taliban and Afghan government  representatives. The road map comes as the United States and the Taliban continue  negotiations on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for a commitment from the militants that Afghan territory will  never again be used to launch terrorist attacks against the United States  and its allies.

The latest round of the U.S.-Taliban negotiations began on July 1 but was  paused on July 7-8 for two days of intra-Afghan dialogue. U.S. and Taliban negotiators resumed their talks in Qatar on July 9. The Taliban has refused to hold direct negotiations with the Afghan  government until the United States announces a timetable for the  withdrawal.

Khalilzad has said the United States is seeking an agreement on a cease-  fire and on direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government  before the finalization of any peace deal. Khalilzad on July 9 tweeted congratulations to the participants of the  intra-Afghan dialogue: “Afghan society representatives across generations,  senior government officials, Taliban – for finding common ground.” 

‘Most Productive’ Talks Ever

A joint statement on July 9 by Germany and Qatar, the co-organizers of the  intra-Afghan dialogue, said their joint declaration was the “first step to  finding an understanding between the conflicting parties.” “They engaged in substantive discussion over the course of two days  covering a wide range of issues of common concern to the Afghan people,  including rights of women and minorities, a cease-fire, the withdrawal of  foreign troops and combatants, and the political future of Afghanistan,”  Germany and Qatar said.

“We are very pleased today to reach a joint statement as a first step to  peace,” said Mutlaq bin Majid al-Qahtan, the Qatari  foreign Ministry’s  special envoy for conflict mediation, on July 9. The Afghan-Taliban road map is seen as critical in moving forward toward  an overall peace deal.

Khalilzad described the latest round of U.S.-Taliban talks as the “most  productive” ever, telling RFE/RL that “a lot of progress” has been made. 

In a Twitter message on July 9, Khalilzad said he finished meeting with  Taliban negotiators in the morning before he left Qatar for China. One sign of progress was the agreement of Taliban representatives to meet  for the first time with Afghan government officials for face-to-face talks  under the format of the intra-Afghan dialogue, although Kabul officials  participated in a personal rather than official capacity.

The intra-Afghan delegation also included opposition politicians, women,  and members of Afghan nongovernmental organizations. The Taliban had previously refused to meet directly with any members of  Afghanistan’s government, calling them “Western puppets.”

Fawzia Koofi, a female lawmaker among the intra-Afghan delegates in Qatar,  told RFE/RL that their joint declaration with the Taliban “addresses many  of the issues and concerns of the [Afghan] people.” Koofi said the sides agreed to the wording of the document on July 8 after  about 14 hours of “long and exhaustive” talks.

But Koofi said the Taliban delegates refused to recognize and respect the  country’s international commitments, especially related to women’s rights. Nader Nadery, the head of the Afghan government civil service commission  and one of the participants, said on Twitter that the intra-Afghan  meetings were “an important platform” for Afghans to “voice their  grievances, concerns and aspirations.”

“The Taliban heard many stories of pains & destruction, echoed by majority  of the participants,” he said. But he said the Taliban delegates did not respond positively to calls for  an immediate cease-fire and did not agree to denounce and oust foreign  militants from Afghanistan.