Afghanistan’s hard-line Islamist Taliban movement sees a historic opportunity for peace in the country following its latest round of talks with U.S. officials and representatives of the Afghan government, civil society and various political factions.
A July 10 statement on the Taliban’s Voice For Jihad website said this month’s deliberations in the Qatari capital, Doha, show that all sides involved in the Afghan conflict are committed to a peaceful resolution through negotiations.
“The multidimensional consensus is a historic opportunity. If utilized properly, it can help resolve the conflict in a way that is acceptable to all sides,” the statement titled Weekly Comment noted. “Ultimately, it will grant the gift of peace and relieve all sides of the losses associated with fighting.”
The statement represents a more conciliatory tone than the standard Taliban rhetoric, which emphasizes a jihad or holy war against the “foreign occupation” by the United States and its allies while branding the Afghan government as a U.S. puppet.
“History tells us that wars don’t end with more fighting,” the statement said. “Instead, war ends with talks and agreements.”
The statement comes two days after the Taliban and a delegation representing Afghan society agreed on a road map for a future political settlement at the end of two-day talks in Qatar late on July 8.
In what is seen as a major step toward ending Afghanistan's nearly 40-year war, the Taliban and intra-Afghan delegates agreed to assure Afghan women their fundamental rights in "political, social, economic, educational, [and] cultural affairs … in accordance with the values of Islam," according to the English version of the joint statement, which was released by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on July 9.
There were, however, discrepancies between the English version of the resolution and those released in the Pashto and Dari languages.
“I understand there is some confusion about translations of the declarations from the intra-Afghan conference for peace,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter, noting that “unofficial translated” copies of the document can be found on the Afghan High Peace Council’s website.
Earlier, Khalilzad characterized the latest round of U.S.-Taliban peace talks as the "most productive" ever, telling Radio Free Afghanistan that “a lot of progress” had been made.
Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said that both sides had agreed that “in a short time” there would be direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
The Afghanistan-born U.S. diplomat said a final political settlement required a deal that satisfies both the Afghan government and the Taliban. “The past 40 years of war in Afghanistan have shown that attempts by groups to force their ideas on others only result in further conflict,” he noted.
The Taliban acknowledged that the negotiations going forward will be difficult. Its statement called on all sides to show “seriousness” in taking consequential steps toward peace.
“We must remember that the masses suffering because of the ongoing fighting expect this,” the statement concluded.