The Afghan president Hamid Karzai has inaugurated a peace council, which has been appointed to open a dialogue with the Taliban and other insurgents. The peace talks come at a time when the country is in tatters.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai prays with members of Afghanistan's peace council
The news about the peace talks between Karzai's government and the Taliban has come as no surprise to the people in Afghanistan. There have been such talks before. But the population has its serious doubts about their outcome, as does Sayfuddin Sayhun, who teaches politics and economics at the University of Kabul.
"I am convinced that the Afghan people will bear the cost of these negotiations with the Taliban," he said. "Their basic rights will be sacrificed. This is not a solution for us."
There are rumors that Taliban leader Mullah Omar could be given asylum by Saudi Arabia
The fact that the US media have been reporting on these high-level talks could be a sign that the Obama administration is taking the route of diplomacy after a series of more or less successful offensives in southern Afghanistan.
"The Taliban need to be weakened before talks"
However, Assadullah Walwagi, a military expert in Kabul, thinks they are premature: "It won’t bring the Afghan government much to negotiate from its position of weakness. The Taliban should be weakened before talks with them take place."
In contrast to previous talks of this nature, Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the Quetta Shura seem to have agreed to take part in the negotiations this time. However, with both sides having seemingly opted for discretion, there is little information seeping out.
President Karzai is becoming increasingly unpopular
Sources from the Taliban side reportedly say there is talk of them being given posts in a future Afghan government. Moreover, the withdrawal of US and NATO troops on an agreed timeline is on the cards.
But General Zaher Azimi from the Afghan ministry of defense said that this was not open for debate: "First of all, it has to be made clear that there is no talk of a complete withdrawal. We're talking about the Afghan security forces taking responsibility for security from 2014 but there will still be foreign soldiers in Afghanistan after 2014."
Pakistan is decisive factor
Three conditions that Karzai’s government seems to be set on are – one, no more violence; two, no more links to the al Qaeda; and three, the recognition of the Afghan constitution and government.
Although Saudi Arabia has been invited to the table to mediate, observers say Pakistan will make or break any deal.
Afghan troops are supposed to take responsibility for their country's security from 2014
"The fact that the Afghan government is negotiating with the Taliban is hardly a new development," points out Omar Sharifi from the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies.
"There have already been several rounds of talks. But they will only result in something useful if the regional powers, especially Pakistan, support them. Moreover, there have to be international guarantees that the results are implemented. Otherwise, there is no point in holding such talks."
According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, the Pakistani secret services have been pressuring the Afghan Taliban to shun peace talks. Instead, Taliban sources say they have been advised to step up their attacks, even on civilians, to intimidate people.
Author: Martin Gerner / act
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein