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Predicting after the first round of formal talks between the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan [NRFA] led by Ahmad Massoud and the so called Islamic Emirate or the Taliban that the road to negotiations is long and strewn with obstacles may appear premature but given fundamentals of engagement between two armed groups with contrasting objectives this is inevitable.
The objective of the Taliban apparently is to neutralise resistance to their administration in Afghanistan which is expected to provide a higher degree of legitimacy internally as well as internationally.
The largest resistance movement so far is the NRFA symbolised by Taliban’s legacy opponent the late Ahmad Shah Massoud the Lion of Panjshir and Afghanistan’s National Hero.
Massoud the former defence minister in the Burhanuddin Rabbani regime continued to offer negotiations to the Taliban to form a partnership government in the 1990’s but the Taliban resisted the same and in turn eliminated him through a suicide attack just two days prior to 9/11.
In the non Taliban Afghanistan Massoud is hailed as a National hero. His son Ahmad Massoud is carrying forward his legacy however limitation of resources to fight the Taliban saw the Panjshir Valley the last bastion of resistance fall weeks after the Taliban took over Kabul. Today Massoud as head of the NRFA is willing to reconcile with the Taliban. In line with the same the first talks between the two sides took place in Tehran.
Multiple media reports from Afghanistan highlighted that the Islamic Emirate administration or the Taliban held high level talks with the 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 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 was present at the meeting.
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.
The demand placed by the NRFA to the Taliban as per the Tolonews is establishment of a transitional government in Afghanistan. Taliban asked the NRFA to return to Afghanistan. “Our proposal to them was clear and it was to form a transitional government. So, this government (transitional government) would work for the next government and the people would enjoy equal rights and freedom. In return, the Taliban’s proposal was surrender and the negotiations ended with no result,” the NRFA team member said.
The NRFA was represented by Ismail Khan, a former Jihadi leader, Mawlawi Habibullah Hesam, Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, a member of the Resistance Front, Hesamuddin Shams, the former governor of Badghis, and Abdul ZahirFaiz Zada, the former governor of Ghor were members of the Resistance Front’s negotiating team as per the Tolonews.
The Taliban has so far been unwilling to compromise and the assurance asking the NRFA to return to Afghanistan for deliberations is only a chimera. Some of the top leaders of the Afghan Republic are in Kabul – former President Hamid Karzai and former CEO Abdullah Abdullah, but Taliban has not held any talks on incorporating them in any form of a transition government.
This despite international pressure on an inclusive governance. Mullah Barader the First Acting Prime Minister of the Emirate has stated that the former leaders are corrupt and hence cannot be incorporated in the government.
Ahmad Massoud has not been part of the Republic government and thus does not have a tainted image.
Moreover NRFA claims it is a political military organization and not a sectarian political party and does not want to be associated with what they called the failed and corrupt former leaders in the country. Thus to that extent they may be acceptable to the Taliban.
The NRFA political vision outlined by Ali Nazary, head of foreign relations to Jason Criss Howk a US defence policy analyst publish on December 23 indicated that “Afghanistan seeks a federal system like the Swiss or the Americans an “do not believe that a 14th century emirate is the right fit for Afghans and reject radical Islamism”.
The call by the Taliban to surrender is anathema to Massoud and will never be accepted by the NRFA.
Under the circumstances it is not clear how the NRFA and the Taliban can have a meeting ground on a transitional and federal state post discussions in Tehran. Seeing the movement as a victor after two decades of fighting the global super power the United States, Taliban is unwilling to share power with other groups for now.
Thus only multiple meetings can lead to a reconciliation if at all.