With the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan ahead and the country in a state of political chaos, experts say force will not bring the Taliban to the table.
The Taliban attacked a UN office in Kandahar at the end of October
The US’ Afghanistan strategy is now "fight, talk, build." All at once. The best way to persuade all parties to go to the table and to talk is "to continue the military pressure to make clear that waiting this out is not an option," said US special envoy to Afghanistan Elizabeth Jones at a conference in Berlin.
Some believe the Taliban receives support from Pakistan
The US government has tried to make contact with militant groups like the Haqqani network in the past. But the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani in September, which was allegedly carried out by the Taliban, was seen as a setback for reconciliation efforts. President Hamid Karzai had asked the head of the Afghan High Peace Council to conduct negotiations with the Taliban.
The US, UK and Germany – the coalition’s largest provider of troops – all fear that without further military force, the Taliban will simply lie low until the ISAF has completely withdrawn. Michael Steiner, Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan, says the country’s situation is not far along as it should be. "If we were to pack up and leave today, we wouldn’t have the political process."
There is a lot of talk of peace negotiations. But Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Pakistani expert on Afghanistan, says he has not yet seen much action behind the words. And he doubts the ISAF troops will be able to force the Taliban into talks.
The role of the US
The conference takes place 10 years after Afghanistan round-table talks in Bonn
Yusufzai has spoken to Taliban leaders on a number of occasions and believes they are willing to talk. "As far as I know as a journalist, Taliban are willing to talk to the Americans. And I think there have been some contacts. Because they say that the real power is America. They say Hamid Karzai has no power. They will not talk to him."
Sima Samar, an Afghan politician and chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission believes one of the main problems in getting the talks underway is that there is "lack of a united approach by the Afghan government and the international community." The situation is made worse by the fact that "everyone wants to talk with Taliban. So we don’t know who is talking with whom – at which level and for what reason."
A frame for the talks
"It is obvious that the conditions have not yet been created by anyone to start negotiations," says Tom Koenigs, former UN envoy for Afghanistan. He says it would make sense to get an order from the UN Security Council "to authorize all people who are to be involved." Then the talks could begin in an orderly manner, according to Koenigs.
Experts believe the Taliban will not conduct negotiations with force
The international community has tried time and time again to prevent Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, especially Pakistan, from getting involved in the country’s internal affairs. Now some of the militant groups are operate out of Pakistan, where they receive support from Pakistani intelligence.
Whether or not members of the Taliban will take part in the Bonn Conference on December 5 is uncertain, says Michael Steiner. But it is clear that there will be only one delegation from Afghanistan and that it should do its best to represent the interest of the Afghan people. "But the decision who will end up coming to Bonn is left with the Afghan government."
Author: Nina Werkhäuser / sb
Editor: Arun Chowdhury