The United Nations Security Council has a travel ban placed on Taliban officials for quite some time now. However, despite the ban being in place, the same officials have pooped up in several places and seem to have been able to travel without any problems. They have been in meetings held in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran. Although the leaders have been able to travel to certain countries without encountering issues, their movement hasn’t been sitting well with the US-backed Afghan government.

The latter went ahead and wrote a letter to the UNSC complaining why the officials were able to travel without any problems, yet they were banned. Furthermore, the Afghan government isn’t happy that its neighboring countries are facilitating the travel arrangements of leaders of an insurgent group. For the Taliban, this led to them calling off a meeting they were supposed to attend in Pakistan. They cited travel restrictions among other issues as what led to them not attending the peace talks. However, if Zalmay Khalilzad tweet is anything to go by, the leaders might get the ban lifted and be able to participate in peace talks and bring to an end a 17-year war. Zalmay Khalilzad is the special US representative for the Afghanistan Reconciliation, and he said;

“For this war to come to an end, we must have the Taliban representatives present on the peace talk table. Furthermore, to help fast track the whole process, an all-inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue is vital and must take place. For the Taliban to be present, we must explore all options and secure UN travel waivers for the leaders.”

Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted the above on Friday after the meeting with his counterpart from the Russia Zamir Kabulov. The meeting was held in Ankara in Russia on Friday. Per Khalilzad tweet, the two have agreed to work and find an amicable solution to help lift the ban from the UN. Besides that, their successful meeting on Friday 20rd 2019 had some suggestions for parties involved in the peace talks. Apart from leading the current meeting, Zalmay Khalilzad has also been at the center of two other peace talk meetings held before in Qatar and Doha. While the current meeting has come to an end, the Taliban leaders have scheduled another meeting in Qatar today the 25th of February 2019. In the Ankara meeting, Khalilzad also met with Abdul Rashid Dostum Afghan political General.

Solutions from the Ankara Meeting

Apart from making decisions in unison towards working together in getting waivers from the UN on travel restrictions, they also urged the Afghan government to create a unified and inclusive team that will double up as the national negotiating team. According to their view, the latter team should be made up of Afghan citizens together with the Afghan government. Furthermore, the peace envoys from Russia and the US also agreed that any final decision made should ensure that Afghan grounds should never be used to harbor international terrorists. Moreover, the Ankara meeting also focused on the formation of a regional framework to help prevent spoilers and aid in achieving peace.

Next Meetings

For the next meeting, the parties will meet in Doha Qatar on Monday 25th of February 2019. Although the meeting is already set, Mr. Khalizad went to Islamabad to reach out to the Pakistanis to help urge the Taliban to attend the meeting. Pakistan has been a key ally to the Taliban and has been at the forefront of encouraging them to participate in the peace talks. Their Doha office is led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Barada who was in captivity in Pakistan but was set free on the 25th of October 2018 to help in coordinating the peace talks. With the peace talks underway, it’s reassuring to see different countries are at the forefront of ensuring there is peace in Afghanistan. For Russia, it’s another time they are the forefront having facilitated the last peace meeting. Although they were driven out of Afghanistan in 1989, they are among the countries leading in the peace talks. Besides Russia, Qatar and Pakistan have also played vital roles in helping bring an end to the war. For the latter, it has housed leaders of the Taliban on various occasions. Reports have also emerged that some of the senior Taliban leaders are living in Pakistan.

On the other hand, the former is where the Taliban have their offices headquartered and can coordinate their meetings officially from their office. Although Pakistan and Qatar are helping Taliban in different ways, their actions have created a conflict between them and Afghanistan. For instance, the letter sent to the UN shows Afghan officials complaining that if the insurgent leaders meet in Pakistan, it will show that world leaders have officially recognized them, yet they are a terrorist group.