High level diplomats from four countries concerned with the welfare of the region and representatives from the Taliban met over the weekend to discuss the ongoing peace process in the country.
The four countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States — have met twice before, making preparations for a proccess of peace and reconciliation for Afghanistan.
Known as the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG), these countries have been working to organize multilateral peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban fighters and warlords.
The task is, obviously, an immense one, but the various representatives to the group are optimistic: the group is hopeful that a date for the peace talks will be set by the end of February of this year.
Yet deciding a date for the talks is only the first in a long line of arduous steps.
Afghanistan has been incredibly unstable, with a weak central government, since the late 1970s.
At that time, the area became the staging ground between the U.S.S.R, who supported the communist central government, and the U.S., who armed and trained the mujahideen to oppose the Soviet-backed government.
These Islamic freedom fighters would eventually succeed, with American aid, in driving out the Soviets.
Despite this victory, Afghanistan never returned to a stable, peaceful existence, languishing in civil war or unrest for decades, and indeed the country remains in conflict to this day.
After the U.S. intervened in the country in 2001 following 9/11, the Taliban was slowly pressed back into a few mountainous regions where it entrenched itself thoroughly.
After the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2014, however, the Taliban had a resurgence.
The group quickly emerged from the mountains and swept across the country. Now the militant group controls or contests more territory than it has since the American-led intervention,
As the Islamist terrorists apply increasing amounts of pressure to the central government, Kabul is getting commensurately more eager to end the fighting.
The central Afghan government has been placing more and more of its hopes on the peace talks, which have the impressive backing of both the U,S, and China.
Pakistan, a one-time supporter of the Taliban and quite possibly still a financier of the organization, is also supporting the talks.
Although China and the U.S. are the most powerful of the group of four, it’s Pakistan’s involvement which might add the most weight to the process.
The U.S., of course, has been a recent and continuing enemy of the Taliban, and only recently ceased direct hostilities with the group.
China, though not a direct enemy of the Taliban itself, regularly oppressed its Muslim minoriy. In particular, Beijing has been engaging in a violent and oppressive regime agains the Uyghurs living in its eastern regions.
The U.S. and China are both invested in preventing the success of Islamist revelotiouns or insurgencies, which obviousl makes them dubious negotion partners for the Taliban.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is a strongly Islamic country with existing friendly ties to the Taliban. This combination of cultural and religious similarities to the Taliban make Pakistan an ideal partner in this endeavor.
The most recent meeting between the group of countries was aimed at developing a coherent and effective “roadmap” to compromise and peace.
“The Group explored ways for holding early direct peace talks between the authorized representatives of the Afghan Government and Taliban groups,” said the group in a press release.
They added that, “The first step is to formulate a roadmap, the second is to invite the armed opposition to the negotiating table and the last step is the implementation of the peace plan.”
The trick being, of course, managing to succesfully “invite the armed opposition.” Although the QCG has outlined a plan towards reconciliation, there’s still no guarantee that he Taliban will bite, or are even interested in attending peace talks.
The Taliban was previously engaging the Afghan government in talks in 2014 and 2015, but the death of its founder Mullah Mohammad Omar resulted in the talks collapsing.
Though this is the third meeting of the QCG with the stated goal of achieving peace in the country, the Taliban still has yet to attend one meeting.
Whether this bodes ill for the process, or is just a emporary issue is anyone’s guess, but the QCG representatives remain poisitive that they can bring the Taliban to the table.
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said that he expects to find, “groups among the Taliban who might be willing to talk and give up violence.”