The Window of Opportunity is Small

The Geneva Conference is scheduled in another two days, at which continuation of the international community’s financial assistance to Afghanistan is the main topic.

Last week, the international community outlined ten conditions for continued funding to Afghanistan. These conditions were shared with both the government and the Taliban. Eighty percent of the international community’s future financial assistance to Afghanistan is conditional on the fulfillment of these ten conditions. According to the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if the government and the Taliban fail to meet these conditions, this amount of international aid to Afghanistan may be cut off within two months.

Among them, an “immediate, comprehensive and permanent ceasefire” is the second condition. Failure to meet this or the nine other conditions will affect the international community’s decisions on Afghanistan. To put it more clearly, all ten of these conditions are interrelated and ignoring any one of them could change the international community’s decision to provide financial assistance to Afghanistan.

On the other hand, the ceasefire guarantees the continuation of peace talks. Without a ceasefire, it will be impossible to continue negotiations between the warring parties. Therefore, the ceasefire precedes the negotiations and is considered as the entry point towards the peace negotiations.

In addition to these cases, the second wave of coronavirus has arrived. The Ministry of Public Health announced yesterday that at least 13 people had died of coronavirus infection overnight. This shocking figure is a sign of the deteriorating health situation in the country.

The promising news from Doha is that representatives of the government and the Taliban made new progress at the end of last week. According to official sources in Doha, the negotiating parties agreed on the general procedure for the peace talks. However, there are still disagreements on some details in this general procedure. It is said that with the start of the new week, the problems in this area will be resolved and main negotiations will officially begin.

Agreeing on the general features of the peace negotiation process is considered a step forward in the peace process. Work is expected to begin on setting the agenda for the main talks as the two sides move past this stage.

It is not yet clear what specific issues each of the two sides wish to discuss and agree on as the main agenda for the talks. What is certain is that the international community has made immediate ceasefire one of its ten key conditions for continued financial assistance to Afghanistan. The government has said in the past that it is prioritizing the issue of a ceasefire and that this may be the first topic on the agenda for future talks with the Taliban.

The Taliban had previously placed ceasefire in second place, after political agreement on the “Afghanistan Roadmap” based on the Doha agreement. The group’s new position on this is not clear. This led to a stalemate in the peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Doha. Now that there has been talk of making progress on the negotiating table, the Taliban are thought to have backed down. It should be noted, however, that the Taliban see war as the only lever that they believe can secure the group’s interest at the negotiating table.

There is not much time left until the Geneva conference. An immediate ceasefire is one of the ten most important conditions set by the international community for continuing to provide financial assistance to Afghanistan. The Government-Taliban negotiating team is currently under a dire time constraint. The two sides have to meet more urgently in order to get funding from the international community. However, we know that deciding on the agenda for the peace talks in the time before the Geneva Conference is a difficult task. But to reassure the international community, there is no choice but to work quickly. 

Afghanistan has been in a devastating war for four decades. The help of the international community towards the reconstruction of this country cannot be ignored. Therefore, both the government and the Taliban have a responsibility to ensure that the conditions for continuation of this assistance are met. At the very least, they must take steps to fully convince the international community that their conditions will be met in the future. It is obvious that ignoring the financial assistance of the international community for Afghanistan’s development by failing to adhere to the conditions placed would be a wasted opportunity, representing a double injustice against the people of this country. At this historic opportunity, all parties must make responsible, forward-looking decisions.