by Farid Behbud
Xinhua Chinese Newspaper
July 10, 2015
KABUL — The first face-to-face talks between a delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Pakistan have revived hopes for peace and normalcy to return to the war-torn Afghanistan.
“I think the initial talks would give further push to the peace process and enhance national reconciliation. It is the first time that the representatives of the Taliban and the Haqqani network took part in direct talks with the government of Afghanistan,” Ghafoor Jawid, a respected political analyst, told Tolo News, a local publication.
The much-awaited peace talks since the collapse of Taliban regime in late 2001 were held in Pakistan’s scenic town Murree near Islamabad on Tuesday and both sides agreed to hold the second round of talks after Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month.
A four-member delegation headed by Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai represented the Afghan government in the talks.
On the same day, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the media that the preliminary peace negotiations will discuss three main issues, including ways to turn the meeting into a continuous process, undertaking confidence building measures and preparing a list of important issues to be put on the agenda of the next round of peace negotiations.”
During a meeting with Afghan political experts, analysts and media workers, Ghani said regional and global states as well as the Taliban outfit have realized that the Afghan security forces are invincible, so the government of Afghanistan will participate in the negotiations from a stronger position.
However, Zabihullah Mujahid, who claims to speak for the Taliban, has expressed ignorance over holding the peace talks. He said he would share with the media if he receives information about the talks with Afghan government.
Jawid said he and his countrymen are hopeful that the initial talks could serve as a basis for further negotiations that could result in achieving lasting peace in the country.
When asked why the two sides did not reach an agreement for setting a ceasefire, Jawid said what happened were just the initial talks and the issue of a ceasefire or cessation of hostilities could be tackled in the next round of talks.
“As both Afghan government and Taliban agreed to continue talks, more time will be needed for them to reach an agreement regarding the ceasefire, and that the ceasefire would definitely be discussed in the upcoming second round of talks,” Jawid said.
However, some local analysts disagreed with Jawid’s point of view.
“I am not very optimistic as to the outcome of the initial talks between the Taliban and the government simply because the Taliban representatives to the talks were minor functionaries and not their leaders,” another respected Afghan analyst, Mir Ahmad Joyanda, told Xinhua in an interview Thursday.
Joyanda, a communications and research expert, said if the Taliban were sincere they should have sent their top leaders to the talks.
According to Joyanda, the emergence of the Daesh (Islamic State) may have prompted the Taliban to agree to the initial talks with the government. He said the Taliban have realized that some of its more radical members have switched side to the IS.
Joyanda also noted that while the Taliban was holding initial talks with the government, they have carried suicide attacks and ambuscades in different parts of the country, thus putting its sincerity to work for peace into question.