The lucrative "geo-politics" of hosting Afghan peace talks: What will Doha, Istanbul get?

Written By: Sidhant Sibal WION
New Delhi Published: Apr 12, 2021, 04:40 PM(IST)

US troops in Afghanistan Photograph:( AFP )

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The lucrative geopolitics of hosting Afghan peace talks mean, getting international prestige and certain trade-offs

Istanbul is all set to host the talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. While the date is  Friday the 16th of April, no announcement has come so far given anything can happen anytime when it comes to the Afghan peace process. Taliban is eager to cross the 1st of May deadline for withdrawal of American troops. While it is given that the US troops won't be able to withdraw by then, the Taliban is hoping to gain leverage, a kind of moral upper hand. 

An Afghan govt source told WION, "they are keen on condition-based withdrawal, not a time-bound withdrawal". A condition, on the Taliban to reduce violence, something that continues to remain high.

But what did Doha gain from hosting the talks on Afghan Peace Process? The lucrative geopolitics of hosting Afghan peace talks mean, getting international prestige and certain trade-offs. 

Earlier this year, Qatar was able to normalise ties with four Arab countries--Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt--at the famous Al Ula summit. The four Arab states had cut ties with the oil-rich state of Qatar way back in 2017. The outcome in practical terms was the end of a three and half-year-old blockade against Qatar, and reopening of land and sea routes.

Qatar, last year, was a busy place. It not only hosted the signing of the Taliban-US peace pact, but also in September hosted the start of intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan govt and Taliban. America's reduced role in Afghanistan, which can pave way for its troops to leave, is Washington's priority, and while that still hasn't happened, Qatar was able to bring the various factions together. And this helped Qatar normalise ties with its neighbours in the long term.

Now, it's Turkey that is set to host such talks. Turkey, which has been having tiff of some kind with both Russia and the US, will be able to get back some lost ground.

And with hosting such talks, moral leadership and economics are not far behind. In fact, hosting big-ticket talks amid the economic downturn is something that can be politically fruitful.  The US, under its new proposal to the Afghan president, suggested talks in Turkey between the Afghan government and the Taliban and later six-country talks under United Nations umbrella. 

Interestingly, it was not only Turkey which has been keen to host Afghan peace talks. Uzbekistan and Indonesia have been in the fray as well. 

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