Afghan government talks
August 23, 2021 - The Taliban have reached out to former Afghan president Hamid Karzai and Russian diplomats in Kabul as possible mediators to fulfil their pledge to form an “inclusive” government.
As chaos persisted at Kabul airport on Saturday (August 21), a senior Taliban political leadership member visited Dmitry Zhirnov, Russia’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, to ask Russia to tell fighters in the Panjshir Valley that the Taliban hope to reach a political agreement. The diplomat says the Taliban claim they don’t want bloodshed in the region.
Russia’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, has said the Kremlin recognition of a Taliban government would be based “on the conduct of the new authorities.”
The Panjshir Valley north of Kabul -- a stronghold of the Northern Alliance militias allied with the U.S. during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan -- is the only area that hasn’t fallen to the Taliban.
￼Ahmad Massoud, leader of Afghan resistance in the Panjshir, responded on Sunday, saying he hoped to hold peace talks with the Taliban. His forces were ready to fight if the insurgents tried to invade the valley.
Other players in the quest for a peaceful outcome include former Northern Alliance’s Dr Abdullah, a close associate of Massoud’s father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, one of the foremost leaders of Afghanistan’s anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s.
On Saturday, Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kabul. Baradar represented the Taliban in talks in Qatar with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, culminating in the February 2020 deal to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan.
Born in southern Afghanistan in 1968, Baradar -- a Pashtun from the same Popalzai Durrani tribe as former Afghan president Karzai -- was involved in backchannel peace negotiations with Karzai after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. In 2009, Baradar was again engaged in talks with Karzai until Baradar’s arrest and imprisonment by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
However, any attempt by the new government to be “inclusive” will face opposition from Taliban hard-liners that even Karzai and Baradar will be hard-pressed to overcome.