Germany has intensified its mediation efforts in the Afghan conflict with special talks reportedly underway in Berlin. DW speaks to political scientist Jochen Hippler about the possible outcome and Afghanistan's future.
As the Taliban plan to open a liaison office in the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, special talks are said to be taking place in the German capital between the various conflicting parties in Afghanistan. Jochen Hippler from the University Duisburg-Essen spoke to Deutsche Welle about the situation.
Deutsche Welle: It would seem that official and unofficial Taliban members are currently doing the rounds in Berlin. Is the German capital becoming a center for peace talks with the Taliban?
Jochen Hippler: In the past few years, Germany has tried to use its contacts in the region to play a positive role. The fact that the Taliban are now opening a liaison office in Qatar also has to do with Berlin's negotiations.
In 2007, the head of the SPD at the time, Kurt Beck, came under fire when he suggested opening talks with "moderate Taliban." What has caused the change of policy?
The political actors in Europe and the USA have understood that the conflict in Afghanistan cannot be solved with military means. Moreover, they have understood that President Hamid Karzai cannot bring peace to his country alone. He is not an acceptable partner to all sides. Berlin had no choice but to follow an unorthodox path. This means trying to enter direct talks with the hard core of the Taliban and also with their opponents, the Northern Alliance. So against this backdrop, Berlin had no other choice but to take an unorthodox path. This means Germany also has a great interest in bringing its soldiers back safe and sound from Afghanistan.
Is this changed policy also the reason why representatives of the Northern Alliance, such as General Rashid Dostum, who is accused of human rights violations and war crimes, are now in Berlin?
That's the dilemma. The situation in Afghanistan is such that war criminals, warlords, people responsible for the worst possible crimes, can be found in the government and outside of it in positions of power. The conflict cannot be solved through talks if these people are not spoken to. That's why one cannot afford to be picky.
If the Germans were to come to an agreement with the Taliban, to what extent might it be considered binding by the Afghans or the Americans?
Not at all. My impression is that Berlin can play an important role when it comes to bringing together conflicting parties and movements so they can talk with each other. But I don't think Germany wants to negotiate in the name of Pakistan, the US or the Afghan government. That would never work.
It is known that Islamabad has a great influence on the Taliban movement. Shouldn't the US or even Berlin talk directly with the Pakistani government to push the Taliban into giving way?
No, the conflict in Afghanistan can only be solved in Afghanistan. Afghanistan needs a strong, well-functioning government - one that is accepted by the population. Such a government could talk to all the conflicting parties in Afghanistan and to important actors abroad. But in Afghanistan the situation today is completely different. The government is weak, corrupt and not accepted by its own population. And since the Taliban assume that they will emerge victorious sooner or later, they are not that interested in peace talks.
So why are they sending representatives to Berlin?
Because the Taliban need international recognition. If their representatives are accepted as negotiating partners then they are showing the world that a solution in Afghanistan is not possible without them. The Afghan government's tactics are similar. Karzai wants to show he is independent from the US with his peace initiative. But this weak government cannot bring peace. Talks are useful but they won't solve the conflict. A strong government is needed in Kabul.
Interviewer: Ratbil Shamel / act
Editor: Darren Mara