“The only way to overcome the current stalemate is to form an interim government,” said Jafar Mahdavi, a former lawmaker involved in the peace process. The Taliban will not accept Ghana’s rule and will not join his government.
Ghani has repeatedly insisted that he remain in office throughout his five-year term and conclude peace talks.
But a new round of talks, which have made little progress since early September, stalled this week as two of the top Taliban negotiators failed to return to talks in Qatar after a visit to Pakistan for consultations.
A spokesman for the group in Doha, Qatar̵
Baradar, the founder of the Taliban, spent eight years in prison in Pakistan, but was released in 2018 at the request of the United States to participate in the peace process.
Pakistan’s role in the peace talks has suddenly taken on new meaning in recent weeks. The country has long said it supports the talks and strives for a stable Afghanistan. But it has also hosted fleeing Taliban leaders for years and has sheltered violent anti-Afghan militias operating along the long porous border between neighboring Muslim countries.
Complicating matters for the Afghan government is that Friday’s deadline for US troops in Afghanistan be reduced from 5,000 to about 2,500. That was the main demand of the fighters, who signed a separate deal with US officials in February.
Reducing the armed forces could cause the Afghan government to lose much of its remaining leverage in the talks. Ghani’s position was already weakened when he agreed to release about 5,000 imprisoned Taliban fighters under US pressure to seal the February pact.
Pentagon officials said Tuesday that the downsizing is expected to continue as planned, although it is widely opposed in Congress. A recent defense policy bill prohibits the US government from using funds to pay for them, without a “comprehensive interagency risk and impact assessment” of leaving a minimal US military presence in the country.
Another stumbling block in the negotiations is the continuing high level of Taliban attacks. Recently, a series of unsolved targeted killings, including shootings and car bombs, have killed dozens of civil and democratic activists, journalists, government officials and others. Afghan authorities blamed the Taliban for the attacks, and US military officials made the same accusation last week.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Afghan peace, paid a whirlwind visit to the region last week, holding meetings in Pakistan and Qatar, as well as in Kabul, in a bid to ensure the survival of the US-Taliban agreement and urging a ceasefire. across the country to accompany the Doha talks.
Khalilzad met with various political leaders and diplomats here, but Ghani refused to see him. The president, like many Afghans, felt betrayed by the generous terms of the deal he brokered with the rebels. They now believe Khalilzad is pushing too hard for a quick solution to the problem among Afghans, especially amid reports in local media that he is promoting an interim government. Last week, Khalilzad called on both sides to reduce violence, but did not blame the Taliban for the recent targeted attacks.
The head of the US diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, Ross Wilson, said in a statement on Twitter on Wednesday that the United States is not pushing for a new government.
“We have not advocated and the United States is not advocating for an interim government,” he wrote. “The outcome of the peace talks in Afghanistan depends on the Afghans, and we believe that these results should reflect the aspirations and aspirations of the Afghan people.”
Abdullah Abdullah, head of the government’s Peace and Reconciliation Council, has said for months that he would be open to forming an interim government if it would help the prospects for peace. Abdullah was Ghani’s biggest rival for the presidency in the last two elections.
“We need to be flexible in our thoughts,” Abdullah said at an international virtual conference last year. “Nothing should stop us from reaching a lasting, lasting and acceptable peace for all Afghans, including the Taliban.”
Some Afghan officials and experts have called for the caretaker government to be used only as a last resort.
“Creating an interim government now would be premature and irresponsible,” said David Moradian, director of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies. “This would mean dismantling the current government and the members would have no real power to reach an agreement. There will definitely be a struggle among them. This may be a possible outcome of the negotiations, but it cannot be in the first place. “
But concerns remain about what a caretaker government would mean for the democratic gains made after the Taliban were ousted.
“The people of Afghanistan do not support an interim government because there is no guarantee that its formation can end the war in the country,” said Mohammad Khalid Momand, a member of parliament. “Afghans do not want to lose their achievements in the last 18 years.”
Sharif Hassan contributed to this report.