When negotiations kicked off between Khalilzad and Taliban, the initial points of contention were items of agenda. The Taliban insisted on two talking points – end of occupation and guarantees that threats will not emerge from Afghanistan.
But the Americans countered with additional proposals, the two mentioned above, third being talks with the Kabul administration and fourth a ceasefire.
This proposition was well received and flaunted by the Kabul administration and pro-regime media.
But the policy of the Taliban from the opening was that intra-Afghan talks, ceasefire, future governance modalities and other issues are a part of internal discussions, that shall be resolved through debates among Afghans after an agreement is reached on the foreign aspect of the Afghan issue.
Later, Khalilzad apparently seemed to agree that only two issues shall be held under discussions, but the conclusion actually showed that both Khalilzad and the Taliban adjusted and compromised on one issue each with slight posturing – ceasefire was removed from talking points on Taliban insistence and talks with all Afghan parties was accepted over talks with Afghan government, meaning ceasefire shall not be discussed with Khalilzad but be part of the agenda during intra-Afghan talks.
The negotiations extended in this format, finally culminating in an agreement, although Kabul made its habitually contradictory remarks day and night throughout the process in spite the fact it entirely agreed with and supported the American efforts.
It was from this point onwards and on the basis of the Doha agreement that Kabul agreed to the exchange six thousand prisoners, and although it hampered the process, nonetheless the agreement was adhered to even though every time they released a batch of hundred or two, they would call on the Taliban to begin talks immediately.
Additionally, the Kabul negotiation delegation was also selected in line with the conditions specified in the Doha agreement, an inclusive representative team made up of all Afghan sides and not a mere regime delegation.
In conclusion, Kabul has also acquiesced to the Doha agreement so far, pleasure and bitterness about withdrawal of foreign forces notwithstanding, which is an entirely different story.
If the demand of the Taliban that talks with the US only revolve around two core issues was accepted from the outset and they were not pressurized into consenting on four issues, a demand that was recurrently relayed to the United States by Kabul, then today, Kabul would have the legal authority to reject this agreement as a basis for the current negotiations phase, not only deflecting all blame but also forcing the hand of the Taliban into signing a completely new agreement for intra-Afghan talks. However, now that the Doha agreement which contains the clause of intra-Afghan talks has already been signed and endorsed by the United States, UN Security Council, Islamic conference, envoys of thirty-six nations, by Kabul, regional countries and everyone else, it therefore becomes vital that this agreement lays the foundations for future phases. Thus, I believe it becomes one hundred percent legally binding on Kabul to accept this agreement as the basis for negotiations.
If not, then let them resolve this conundrum among themselves, and with the United States and international community. Will the Taliban have to agree to a completely new agreement for intra-Afghan talks or not? If not, then on what basis are these talks going to move forward? This will then depend on Taliban volition, because after all it is Kabul that is trying to extract itself from the Doha deal!
The current contradictory statements by Kabul delegation, with one espousing making the decision of consultative jirga a basis for talks, and another labeling the security agreement and subsequent joint declaration as such, then these arguments are flawed because:
Firstly, the security agreement, consultative jirga and all other such actions were unequivocally and categorically rejected by the Taliban from the very beginning and never accepted as a basis, unlike Kabul that has endorsed and accepted the Doha agreement.
Secondly, the consultative jirga was assembled by Kabul to decide the fate of four hundred detainees, with Ashraf Ghani insisting that he possesses not the authority of their release and such decisions have to be made by the grand assembly. They neither warned the United States nor did they notify the Taliban that this jirga is assembled due to our rejection of the Doha agreement as a foundational roadmap.
Thirdly, designating the security agreement or the latter joint declaration as the basis for talks is also spurious reasoning because the security agreement has already been nullified by America through agreeing to the withdrawal of its forces in a peace treaty with the Taliban, therefore attempts of making that agreement or its updated version through a joint declaration is not only illogical but also absurd.
It is on these grounds that the Doha agreement must serve as the basis for intra-Afghan negotiations, which would not only strengthen international support because of the already present endorsement of this forum, but it would also prevent any need for attaining international and regional consensus from anew, a monumental task that could take years. Therefore, this is the only framework to make the upcoming process straightforward and bring enduring peace to our beloved homeland.