Updated: Jan 12
Photo Credit Wikipedia Commons
Multiple media reports from Afghanistan highlighted that the Islamic Emirate administration or the Taliban have held high level talks with the leaders of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) in Tehran, Iran and both sides agreed to reconcile differences in what can be seen as a preliminary engagement.
The so called Islamic Emirate delegation in Iran led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met with a delegation led by Ismail Khan, former Mujahideen leader who holds sway in western Herat province. In the past, Khan has also been a minister in the Hamid Karzai cabinet but was sidelined by the Ghani administration. It is not clear if Ahmad Massoud, leader of the NRFA and son of the legendary Ahmad Shah Massoud a national hero in Afghanistan was present during the negotiations.
Khaama Press quoting a Twitter post by Deputy Minister of Information and Culture and Spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed the meeting.
"Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan tries to make the situation of Afghanistan safe and conducive for everyone so that there is no opportunity for people to oppose IEA." Reads the Twitter post as per Khaama Press.
However NRF denied meeting between acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Motaqi and the head of the NRF in Iran. Spokesperson of NRF Sibghatullah Ahmadi told Hasht-e-Sub (Afghan newspaper) that no meeting between the two has been conducted in Tehran as per Khaama Press.
In a preliminary meeting supporters of Ahmad Massoud, and Taliban representatives held their first talks on January 05 in Parwan province to seek an alternative to fighting as per Tolonews.
The NRFA delegation was led by Almas Zahid, a former Mujahideen commander, and a six-member Taliban delegation was led by Mohammad Mohsin Hashimi, the Taliban's deputy leader of intelligence.
Tolonews quotes Mohammad Alam Ezedyar, wrote on his Facebook page, "After three hours of discussion, it was decided that both delegations will share the message with their leadership and resume the negotiations to reach a durable peace in the country. It was also decided that the parties should not attack each other until the second round of negotiations," wrote Ezedyar.
Leader of the NRFA Ahmad Massoud in an interview with the BBC is quoted to have said that they were seeking an inclusive and acceptable government. "We are negotiating with the Taliban. So far, several countries--like Canada--has said it will not recognize an exclusive government. If that happens the people will continue to suffer," Massoud said as per Tolonews.
Basic Differences Continue
Despite the discussions and agreement in Iran, the contours of which are not yet known, there are differences between the two groups.
The NRFA is seeking an inclusive government while the Taliban was focusing on the security of Panjshir. Whether this issue has been resolved in Tehran is not known so far.
"The Panjshir delegation was more focused on the overall structure of the governance system. Since there were big differences between the two sides' demands, both sides decided to take the messages to their leaders," said Anamullah Samangani, a member of the cultural commission of the Taliban as per the Tolonews.
Iran has been insisting that there should be an inclusive administration in Kabul but how far this would mean that some in the Tajik and Hazara leadership will be included in the key positions remains to be seen though some Ambassadors may be appointed to give a semblance of inclusiveness.
Despite the hype over the meeting in Afghanistan, talks appear to be only the first in a series of negotiations that are expected to be held in the future.
Much will depend on whether the Taliban accepts participation of NRFA and Tajik leaders in governance. At present only nomination of Ismail Khan’s representative as the Ambassador in Iran has been agreed upon as per Khaama Press.
It is not clear if other leaders who are also a part of the Tajik leadership such as Amrullah Saleh who was a close confidant of Ahmad Shah Masooud and Bismillah Khan the defence minister at the time of fall of Kabul are also agreeable to pursue negotiations as a route to reconciliation.
More over approach of Jamiat Islami Afghanistan led by Sirajuddin Rabbani and former CEO Dr Abdullah Abdullah may also need consideration.
Thus, many imponderables have emerged from the meet in Tehran and this appears to be a limited agreement in the nature of a ceasefire.