Quadrilateral process keeps hopes alive for Afghan peace process

BEIJING: Top Afghan, Chinese, Pakistani and U.S. officials, who will keep on their discussions to advance the reconciliation process in Afghanistan, have again pushed the Taliban to enter into early peace talks to resolve all differences politically, Chinese state media reported on Wednesday.
Top diplomats at the Quadrilateral Coordination Group's meeting in Kabul on Jan. 18 were optimistic about the progress on a 'road-map' that the Afghan gov't has now put on the table to convince the Taliban join the intra-Afghan dialogue.
The upcoming session in Islamabad on Feb. 6 will hold more consultations on the roadmap "aims to set specific measures that are necessary for creating a conducive environment for the commencement of Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace talks," according to a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the meeting in Kabul.
The stakeholders are now focusing on options on how to reduce violence as concerns are fast growing about possible increase in the Taliban attacks as weather warms in Afghanistan, Chinese Xinhua news agency said in news analysis.
There are genuine apprehensions among the war-weary Afghans that any swell in violence can derail the peace process.
Although the Taliban have not yet officially reacted to the four-way process, sources close to the militants say they are holding internal discussions on how to respond to this new initiative.
As the Taliban have kept political option open, they would be under pressure to come up with a positive response as Kabul is also ready to sit face-to-face with them.
The four-nation mechanism has also assumed importance because the U.S. and China have now formally joined efforts to restart the reconciliation process.
Earlier Kabul had shifted the responsibility only to Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table which was not a logical approach in view of the very complex nature of the Afghan problem.
The uneasy relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan had also been the major hurdle in progress in all previous attempts.
In spite of the U.S. and China participation in the peace process, the onus would mainly be the Afghan government, hinging on what strategy it has to encourage the Taliban to join the intra-Afghan dialogue.
Pakistan's quest that no pre-conditions should be attached to the talks with the Taliban could be seen logical as conditions could create obstacles for the already difficult peace process.
Pre-conditions by Kabul and the Taliban would be counterproductive at this stage and both sides could share them after they open direct negations.
This would also be a naive approach if Kabul insists on the use of power before all options for a political process is exhausted.
This is a reality that a military option has not solved the problem over the past 15 years since the U.S. and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan. So now when efforts to find out a political solution have just started, no one should expect the results in days.
The very complicated nature of the Afghan problem would require patience and flexibility and both the Afghan gov't and the Taliban leadership will have to shift their focus from fighting to political option.
It would be regrettable if the Taliban opt for their traditional "Spring Offensive" in the coming months as it could discredit efforts by Pakistan, China and the United Sates besides the Afghan government, all are considered important players in the Afghan peace process.
As now the U.S. has become part of the four-nation mechanism, its new role, in a way, is in line with the Taliban's own longstanding demand to hold direct talks with the Americans.
The Taliban should be aware that no country will hold direct talks with them and that all countries, including China, want direct negotiation between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
They should also understand that only Afghans are entitled to decide their future and other countries should have only the role of facilitators and even not mediators.
Source: http://nation.com.pk/international/20-Jan-2016/quadrilateral-process-keeps-hopes-alive-for-afghan-peace-process

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