Building Peace and Connectivity through Research and Dialogue

HAS Track 2 Dialogue Series 8th Session Discusses Afghan Peace Process Hiatus as US Policy Review Looms

HAS in collaboration with Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Center hosted the 8th session of its flagship Track 2 dialogue among national and international foreign policy experts, former diplomats, and academia. The dialogue series was launched in May 2020. In wide ranging, closed door discussions, the state of the Afghan peace process was debated.

The slow pace of the peace talks, the high levels of violence in the country, potential review of US-Taliban agreement by Biden Admin, the continued role of regional countries, how the new US Admin may overcome Trans-Atlantic divisions and build regional consensus, were explored.

While violence levels are high & hopes for a settlement soon remain bleak, what could be done to move the peace talks forward? It was stated that the US review may actually be more modest in scope than Afghan and regional actors anticipate; it may just focus on synchronizing the four elements of the US-Taliban agreement and clarifying points of ambiguity in its implementation.

It was noted that given delays in Afghan negotiations, the Biden Admin may want to seek a short-term extension of complete US troop withdrawal timeline. Will such an extension be agreed by the Taliban? What will be positions of regional countries on this question?

Several participants shared their assessment that key regional powers incl China, Russia, and Pakistan would be open to supporting an extension to the 1 May deadline if Biden Admin engages region through an early and high level diplomatic initiative.

It was underlined that regional states, e.g. India vs Pakistan, which are divided on other issues, must seek common ground on Afghan peace for the sake of regional security and stability that would benefit them and the wider region.

Participants also highlighted the primary responsibility of Afghan leaders on the Gov and Taliban sides to replace their approach of reacting to the positions of the US and other major outside players, and pursue urgent negotiations on the key issues divide them aimed at achieving an early peace agreement.

Participants also highlighted continued importance of Track 2 dialogues involving all sides in Afghan peace process, esp in resolving thorny issues before they move to Track 1 negotiations for final resolution.