With the US mission in Afghanistan ending on August 31 and no respite in sight to the Afghan Taliban’s military advance, Russia has announced a meeting of the Troika Plus in Doha in the second week of August. Earlier this month a joint declaration issued after intra-Afghan talks in Doha said the Afghan government and the Taliban affirmed the goal of a negotiated and inclusive settlement and vowed to protect the civilian infrastructure, prevent civilian casualties and cooperate on humanitarian assistance. Doubts remain, however, if, left to themselves, the two sides would stick to the agreement.
On Thursday Russian Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov outlined his government’s position on the primary goals of the Afghan settlement. These include achievement of a ceasefire, resumption of inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue, formation of an interim coalition government with tasks to carry out constitutional reform and preparation for a general election in a short period. While President Ghani has resisted the proposal of an interim coalition government, saying elections must take place before he will step aside, the Taliban have rejected a ceasefire and said they would not directly join an interim government.
Both sides need to realize their limitations. The pro-US elements in the Afghan government have to understand that the USA has completed its mission with President Joe Biden vowing not to send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan. As far as preservation of human rights and democracy are concerned, the USA has often sacrificed principles in fulfilment of its strategic interests.
The Taliban have to realize that they can get legitimacy and international support only through a negotiated settlement that leads to the formation of an inclusive government, rather than control over Kabul through military means. As long as the Afghan troops maintain their morale with military and financial support from outside, a window of opportunity will remain open for a negotiated settlement.
The Troika Plus meeting can play a crucial role in bringing peace to Afghanistan and in addressing the apprehensions of the countries in the region. The joint pressure by the US, Russia, China with full support from Pakistan would be a formidable force. Much would depend on whether the Troika Plus can speak with one voice till the Afghan government and the Taliban agree to sign on the dotted line.