Afghanistan holds traditional peace talks to discuss deal with Taliban

Afghanistan holds traditional peace talks to discuss deal with Taliban

Today, over 2,500 Afghan politicians, ethnic, religious and tribal leaders will meet in Kabul to discuss possible peace talks with

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Photo: TASS/Sergei Savostyanov

Today, over 2,500 Afghan politicians, ethnic, religious and tribal leaders will meet in Kabul to discuss possible peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. Convened by President Ashraf Ghani in February, the “Loya jirga” is only rarely convened to discuss pressing issues.

The United States—especially President Trump—seeks a negotiated settlement between the US, the Afghan government and the Taliban. To date, the Taliban have refused to meet the Afghan government and have aborted several attempts to meet; the latest in Doha for April 19.

Any consensus outcomes of the Jirga, like the kind of red lines the government should have in peace talks with the Taliban, is likely to be complicated by electoral rivalries. Ghani faces 12 main challengers in September 28 presidential elections; most are boycotting the Jirga. Some of them met with the Taliban in Russian-brokered talks held in Moscow in January—talks which excluded Ghani and undercut US-Taliban negotiations.

Should Ghani win, he’ll press home his claim as the legitimate government to negotiate with the Taliban. However, the Taliban still views Ghani as a US-puppet. He could still be ignored by the Taliban in favour of the opposition. Should an opponent win, Russia’s influence as facilitator of Afghan-Taliban talks rises significantly, given strong ties to both parties.

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