Tomas Niklasson, the European Union’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan, warned on Wednesday of an uptick in violence in Afghanistan and emphasised the need of the warring parties making progress in their Doha talks.“We could, unfortunately, see an increased level of violence over the next few weeks and months,” Mr Niklasson said while talking to News Agency Dawn at the end of his visit to Islamabad.
Since the beginning of the American pullout on May 1, violence in Afghanistan has increased. The situation appears to be particularly dire as a result of the deadlock in Doha talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Since the beginning of their talks in September, the two parties have made little progress.
The talks were thrown into disarray after President Joe Biden announced in April that the US will withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September 11, ending one of America’s longest overseas military operations. President Biden’s choice, like his predecessor Donald Trump’s decision to exclude the Afghan government from the Taliban’s February 2020 accord, is seen to have taken away the Taliban’s motivation to talk. The insurgents already see themselves as victorious.
The special envoy pointed out that the Taliban have in Doha talks not presented any proposal on “how they would like to see future governance or a roadmap or list of subjects they would like to discuss”.
The two sides were discussing “recalibration of order and sequence of talks’ sessions” in their meeting held on Tuesday, according to a Taliban spokesman.
Mr Niklasson raised concerns that the fight could become more “violent and complicated” as a result of the involvement of additional “actors,” not only as a result of the departure of foreign forces from Afghanistan, but also as the two sides test their military might on the battlefield.
“This could lead to complications both on the ground and if and when the negotiations start,” he said.
The envoy said that EU had in talks with both sides emphasised the urgency to move forward. “We need to move from process to substance,” he maintained.
He believed it was up to the Taliban to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process. He recalled that the Taliban had stated that they would not seize Kabul by force, that they were dedicated to a diplomatic conclusion of the conflict, and that they did not believe in using force.
“They need to show that they mean what they say. … The first step would be to reduce violence rather than increasing it. That would send a signal that they are really interested in cooperating with EU and others,” he asserted.
Responding to a question about Pakistan’s role in the process, Mr Niklasson said he noticed “acute awareness” among the Pakistani leaders about the “time being short”.
“Pakistan has done a lot, whether they have done enough is a question that historians will answer,” he said, adding that it was the result that would ultimately count. “So far we see very little in terms of Taliban coming forward to negotiate,” he observed.
In a statement, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the next few months were critical for Afghanistan because the situation might worsen or improve.
He emphasised the importance of Afghan leaders working together to find a political solution to the war, especially given the fragile situation.
Mr Qureshi cautioned that if a situation equal to that of the 1990s arose, or if a civil war erupted, Afghans would suffer far more.
He stated that Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed that their soils would not be used against one other or by a third party.