Kabul speaks with one voice

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Their agreement, under American pressure, closed a soap opera that seemed to be bogged down. Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, and Abdullah Abdullah, his rival and former chief executive, found common ground on Sunday, May 17, for power-sharing.

The two had declared themselves president of Afghanistan in February after the September 30, 2019 election which resulted in 16,500 complaints of irregularities. The two had even been sworn in on March 9 at side events. Washington, due to their feud, had announced an immediate reduction of a billion dollars in aid, and an additional billion in 2021 if the impasse continued.

This time, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo welcomed the deal, which is said to pave the way for peace talks in the country.

The agreement places Ashraf Ghani in the presidency, while Abdullah Abdullah will take the lead in groundbreaking peace talks with the Taliban. A former close friend of Commander Massoud, a great enemy of the Taliban factions, he was assigned the difficult task of forced negotiation.

A resurgence of violence

As Jean-Luc Racine, a CNRS researcher, recalls, the February 29 agreement between the Americans and the Taliban excluded the Afghan government from the game. “It’s very problematic, he stresses, the Taliban do not want to respect this government which they see as the puppet of a foreign power. “

The first difficulty awaits the negotiators over the prisoner exchange provided for in the February agreement. “The Afghan authorities were to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, recalls Jean-Luc Racine, while the Taliban were to release 1,000 Afghan hostages. ” However, this clause was rejected by Kabul.

For Zalmay Khalilzad, the American envoy, “The Taliban respect their commitments, which condition the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan” – do not attack the American forces, and no longer be a haven for international terrorist movements – even if the current level of violence, with almost daily attacks, “Violates the mind” of the treaty. Tuesday, May 12, the unclaimed attack on a maternity hospital, which left 24 victims including mothers and newborn babies, marked the spirits with its barbarity.

“What do the Taliban want? “

For Jean-Luc Racine, “The real question is: what do the Taliban want? “ He underlines their double discourse: affirming to have learned from their mistakes and no longer to be on such a hard line, while maintaining the vagueness on “the Islamic values” which they promote. “Let us not forget that the name they give themselves is always the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan “, He recalls.

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