CATF Reports Dec. 16, 2016, 11:08am

Qatar remains one of leading actors of the Afghan crisis. Eager to increase its strategic leverage across the Middle East by any means, the state sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood and top financier and political supporter of terrorist organization Hamas has knowingly backed extremists as “a force multiplier for regional influence” and acted as a broker for complex political negotiations, mostly with the tacit consent of the United States. The Afghan war, however, made a special case. The U.S. openly favored Qatar’s involvement as a U.S. longstanding ally, which the Taliban chose as a neutral venue for the establishment of their political arm in 2013.

Last week Taliban spokesman based in Qatar Sohail Shaheen crystallized three conditions towards the end of hostilities in Afghanistan, the first one being the official recognition of the Taliban political office opened in Doha. The Taliban also asked that names of several senior members were removed from the UN sanction list, and urged an unmediated dialogue with the U.S. – whose troops’ presence in Afghanistan Shaheen blamed as the primary cause of the war and its endurance – towards a peaceful solution of the Afghan war.  

As of December 2015, the U.S. has worked with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China in the framework of the “Quadrilateral Coordination Group” on a reconciliation process that strongly encouraged direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Similarly, the U.S. is not new to the Taliban’s requests for prisoners’ release and blacklist removal, a bargaining chip the group has consistently used over the past decade to leverage political opportunities in view of peace talks. According official recognition to a Taliban political office based in Qatar, however, may be a thorny issue. The U.S. never treated the unofficial political office the Taliban opened in Qatar as an expression of sovereign authority, yet U.S. authorities initially welcomed it as an important first step towards a political settlement of the hostilities in Afghanistan and strictly “for the purposes of negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban.” Mounting pressure from the Afghan government induced Qatari authorities to suspend activities at the unofficial facility. It remains to be seen how far the U.S. and Qatar will go in their efforts to work out a sustainable, “Afghan-owned” peace process.

From VOA:

“The “foreign occupation forces” are undermining the country’s sovereignty and freedom of its politics as well as the government, he [Sohail Shaheen] added.

“That is why there is need for America and its allies to come to the table for direct talks with the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) for negotiating an end to the occupation,” Shaheen said.

If peace is the objective of the other side, he asserted, then the Taliban must be allowed to open its “Political Office” in Qatar and names of its senior members be removed from the U.N. black list.

 “These obstacles in the way of establishing peace cannot be simply ignored,” Shaheen said, warning that “mere slogans and statements” (by the other side) would further complicate the issue rather than promoting Afghan peace.”

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