Treffen in Kabul sondiert Friedensgespräche

Zum vierten Mal treffen sich Vertreter Pakistans, Afghanistans, der USA und Chinas, diesmal in Kabul, um nach Wegen zu suchen, die Taliban zu Friedensgesprächen zu bewegen. Aber noch schwören die wenigsten der Gewalt ab.

Taliban in Afghanistan (Foto: Getty Images)

Bei seiner Rede am Nationalfeiertag und zum Gedenken an den Abzug der sowjetischen Truppen am 14. Februar hatte Präsident Ashraf Ghani die islamistischen Taliban einmal mehr dazu aufgerufen, sich den Friedensbemühungen anzuschließen. “Ein weiteres Mal wende ich mich an die Taliban mit der Forderung, sie mögen in Gottes Namen, um des Volkes Willen und die Bemühungen der Mujaheddin-Führer respektierend, den Ruf des Friedens bejahen”, so Ashraf Ghani, der noch nicht müde geworden ist, an eine politische Lösung zu glauben. Continue reading

Afghanistan in 2015 – Withdrawing pledges to withdraw

2015 was a troubled year for Afghanistan. With the Taliban and IS achieving temporary success within the country, NATO was forced to revise its troop withdrawal plans.

An Afghan army soldier stands guard at the attack site at Kandahar airport, southern Afghanistan

The Afghan security forces were expected to assume full responsibility for defense and security within their country for the first time this year. At the end of 2014, NATO’s combat mission concluded, leaving its follow-up mission “Resolute Support” to merely observe, advise, and train the Afghan army. For this mission, more than 10,000 NATO troops remained in Afghanistan. 850 of the soldiers were provided by the German military.

While Afghan forces were taking the reins on ensuring peace and order within the country, initiatives for a peace process with the Taliban were being pushed forward. In the spring of 2015, it looked as though the peace talks were off to a good start, but these hopes were soon dashed.

Mullah Mohammed Omar FBI wanted picture

Fractured Taliban

The confirmation of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar ended the first fragile successes of the initial peace talks. It was said that Omar – who supposedly died in 2013 – campaigned for the talks and supported them as long as they involved the conclusion of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. After the Afghan government announced his death – and the Taliban confirmed it – in July of 2015, the basis for the peace negotiations fell apart.

The new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, rejected a rapprochement between the parties. Despite numerous rumors about an internal rift in the Taliban – some of its fighters supposedly refused to recognize Mansour as their leader – the militant group proved its strength by increasing the number of attacks.

According to a semi-annual report from the UN, the number of casualties reached a new peak in 2015. Around 5,000 civilians died as a result of the violence in the first half of the year.

“The fact that the Taliban was able to weather so many challenges this year – particularly a difficult leadership transition – will give it confidence for the next year,” argued Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center.

“At the end of the day, the Taliban still has two things working in its favor: a continued relationship with Pakistan, which will afford it sanctuary; and an Afghan government perceived as weak and ineffective, which could help spark recruitment,” the analyst told DW.

The fall of Kunduz

Taliban fighters pose for a photo next to a UN vehicle which they used in Kunduz, Afghanistan after taking parts of the city

Despite many previous signs of a deteriorating security situation in the country, the fall of the provincial capital of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan signalled a turning point in the eyes of NATO.

For a few days (from September 28 until October 13), parts of this strategically-located city were in the hands of the Taliban. Images of fleeing Afghan security forces were seen around the world. The Taliban took triumphant selfies with locals in Kunduz and patrolled the streets in state police cars. According to the UN, around 850 people were killed. The fall of Kunduz was a serious blow to the morale of the Afghan military and the police.

With the temporary fall of Kunduz, it became obvious that Afghanistan is not in the position to defend itself. “I’m quite sure that the fall of Kunduz, as well as the growing threat of IS in Afghanistan, figured prominently in President Obama’s decision to halt the US troop withdrawal,” Kugelman told DW.

For its part, the German government wants to increase the number of troops it stations in Afghanistan to 980 next year. For Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, this figure is by no means sufficient.

“To only slightly increase the number of soldiers in Afghanistan and to only do a little more than what had been done before is inadequate. It fails to address the real problems.” In addition to massive problems on the security front, the country is also afflicted by a raft of social, economic and institutional challenges, Ruttig said.

Afghan refugees

A consequence of this precarious state of affairs is the exodus of huge numbers of Afghans seeking better lives elsewhere. In 2015, over 140,000 Afghans fled to Europe, a majority of them to Germany.

According to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, more than 31,000 refugees from Afghanistan were registered in November, alone. After the Syrians, the Afghans are now the second largest group of asylum seekers.

“We are doing everything in our power so that Afghans do not believe it is necessary to leave the country,” Sayed Zafar Hashemi, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, recently told DW. In an interview with DW’s Conflict Zone, President Ghani said the refugees in Europe wouldn’t become more than “dishwashers.” He emphasized, that it is not possible for refugees to economically rise in Europe and the only chance for a career lies in Afghanistan.

For Alexey Yusupov, director of the Freidrich Ebert Foundation in Kabul, this trend towards fleeing Afghanistan originated from tactically circulated misinformation from human smugglers and lenders. “It is not only about rhetoric, but it is also about concretely and actively tackling these networks,” Yusupov told DW. Until now, these measures have failed as more and more people continue to flee Afghanistan. “People need to realize that they can change their living conditions for the better, so that they will stay,” he asserted.

The Afghan government has developed programs which will try to tackle this issue in the coming year. One example is a project called “Jobs for Peace,” an initiative supported by Germany, which will create jobs in Afghanistan. Only time will tell whether or not the feeling of hopelessness can be averted in 2016.

Klare Worte von Islamabad gefordert

Noch im Mai sah es nach einem neuen Kapitel in den schwer belasteten Beziehungen zwischen Afghanistan und Pakistan aus. Die jüngste Anschlagsserie der Taliban hat das vorerst beendet.

Pakistans Premier Sharif mit afghanischem Präsidenten Ghani in Kabul im Mai (Foto: Reuters)

Nach einer Serie von Bombenanschlägen in Kabul mit über 50 Toten und Hunderten Verletzten am vergangenen Freitag und weiteren Anschlägen in mehreren Provinzen Afghanistans, sieht es für die Zukunft der sogenannten “Friedensgespräche” mit den Taliban düster aus. Das gilt damit auch für die Aussichten einer Stabilisierung Afghanistans und dem gemeinsamen Ansatz mit Pakistan, die Aufstandsbewegung einzudämmen.

Am Donnerstag hat sich eine hochrangige Delegation der afghanischen Regierung mit den Chefs der Ressorts Äußeres, Verteidigung und Sicherheit auf den Weg nach Islamabad gemacht. Die dortige Führung soll bei den eintägigen Gesprächen zu “konkreten Maßnahmen” gegen die Taliban aufgefordert werden, hieß es von Seiten Kabuls. Continue reading

Can the high-level talks lead to peace in Afghanistan?

Masood Saifullah, Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi

Afghan officials and Taliban representatives have met in Islamabad for talks. But experts say such negotiations can only lead to peace if those involved are recognized by the Taliban leadership.

Taliban Kämpfer Symbolbild

An Afghan government delegation met with Taliban representatives on Tuesday, July 8, in Pakistan following a series of informal talks between the two warring sides in various countries. The meeting, held at Muree – a hilly resort near Pakistani capital, Islamabad – is not an official start of peace negotiations but it is the first time such an encounter has been confirmed by the Afghan, Pakistani and US governments. Continue reading

Secret Taliban peace talks in China criticized

Once again, secret talks with Taliban representatives are said to have taken place – this time in China. Given the string of deadly attacks in their country, Afghans have reacted to the alleged meeting with skepticism.

Former Taliban fighters are photographed holding weapons before they hand them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad on February 8, 2015
(Photo: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images)

According to some Afghan and Western media outlets, an Afghan peace delegation and former officials of the Taliban regime held secret talks last week in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi. The Afghan delegation was reportedly headed by Masoom Stanekzai, secretary of the Afghan government’s High Peace Council, who has also been nominated as defense minister by President Ashraf Ghani.

Talks about talks

According to some reports, three representatives of the Taliban – Mullah Abdul Jalil, Mullah Abdul Razaq and Mullah Hassan Rahmani – participated in the negotiations. Also present were officials of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI), who reportedly facilitated the talks. Continue reading

Kabul will mit Taliban verhandeln

Die Regierung Karsai sucht das Gespräch mit den Taliban, um zu einer sogenannten “politischen Lösung” zu kommen. Die Taliban bestreiten, dass es Gespräche gebe – auf Druck Pakistans, wie Beobachter meinen.

Shakib Mustaghni Afghanistan Außenministerium (Foto: DW)

Während sich die NATO-Truppen zum Abzug aus Afghanistan bereitmachen, mehren sich Berichte über Versuche Kabuls, mit den Taliban in Verhandlungen einzutreten. So ist nach Angaben der Kabuler Regierung vor einigen Tagen eine Delegation des Hohen Friedensrats nach Dubai (VAE) gereist, um mit ehemaligen und aktiven Talibanführern eine “politische Lösung” für den Konflikt in Afghanistan zu diskutieren. “Es ist ein wichtiger und positiver Schritt für den Friedensprozess der Islamischen Republik Afghanistans”, so Ahmad Shakib Mustaghni, Sprecher des afghanischen Außenministeriums (s. Artikelbild).

Bereits seit 2001 habe es Versuche gegeben, mit den Taliban zu verhandeln, sagt Jochen Hippler, Politikwissenschaftler an der Universität Duisburg-Essen. In den folgenden Jahren sei es mehrmals zu informellen Kontakten zwischen den USA beziehungsweise Kabul und den Extremisten gekommen, aber: “Es war nie wirklich klar, mit wem man redet, und es ist noch weniger klar, was dabei herausgekommen ist. Insofern würde ich nicht vor Aufregung die Luft anhalten wollen”, sagt Hippler mit Bick auf die jüngsten Meldungen über Gespräche zwischen Kabul und den Taliban. Continue reading