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Uncertain Afghan endgame  

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THE global coronavirus crisis has understandably overshadowed the international endorsement earlier this month of the Doha agreement between the US and the Afghan Taliban.

On March 10 the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution welcoming the US-Taliban agreement as a significant step “towards ending the war and opening the door to intra-Afghan negotiations”. This marked an important development as it conferred international legitimacy on the agreement signed in Qatar on Feb 29. But other developments have been far more consequential for the peace process, already at a standstill following a series of setbacks.

The inability to start intra-Afghan talks slated for March 10, deadlock over the prisoners’ release issue and the rival inauguration ceremonies of the Afghan president on March 9 — all underline how fraught the post-Doha situation has turned out to be. This raises serious questions about the future of the peace process as envisaged by the Doha accord.

While considering the ramifications of these developments it is important to keep in view the limits of the Doha agreement. This is indicated by its purposively vague nature in some respects and the obvious fact that it excluded the Afghan government with whom Washington signed a separate declaration.

The crux of the Doha agreement is Washington’s commitment to a total but phased withdrawal in return for the Taliban’s commitment to prevent Afghanistan’s soil from being used by terrorists and agreeing to intra-Afghan talks. The rest consists of aspirational goals and timelines, with the Afghan parties left with the responsibility to negotiate a ceasefire and a political........

© Dawn

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