According to Osman, the war in Afghanistan is often portrayed as being more complicated than it actually is. "The conflict in Afghanistan is simpler than the multi-factional wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. Almost every battle in Afghanistan involves the Taliban fighting the government forces,  which makes insurgency almost synonymous with the Taliban," he says.

IS gaining power and influence in the Hindu Kush

But while virtually nothing is known about al-Qaida's current presence in the Hindu Kush, the Afghan "Islamic State" cell has been gaining in power and influence in recent months and years and has been carrying out devastating attacks in Kabul and elsewhere. The Taliban, who have always pursued a largely nationalist agenda, are also fighting IS in Afghanistan. 

This and other points beg the question as to how likely the war in Afghanistan is really to end after a pull-out of international troops. At present, most of the combat fighting involves Taliban fighters and Afghan soldiers. About two weeks ago, in the province of Wardak, near Kabul, alone, over 100 soldiers were killed in a single Taliban attack.

Moscow also involved

However, the negotiations with the Americans were not the only ones to take place in recent weeks. Only a short time after the round of negotiations in Doha, a Taliban delegation arrived in Moscow, where it met with high-ranking Afghan politicians and warlords, headed by the former Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

When facing the press, Karzai stood alongside Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the Taliban's lead negotiator and spoke of an "historic moment". The scene took place at the President Hotel in Moscow, which belongs to the Kremlin. Once again, representatives of the government in Kabul were not in attendance. Instead, it looked as if all those who had been driven away or deprived of power by President Ghani had come together in an attempt to regain a grip on power and influence. 

Significance of "inner-Afghan" dialogue

This could well happen if, in the wake of a peace deal, an interim government is formed to replace Ghani's administration. Such a step would also pose a threat both to the presidential elections that are due to take place in July and to Ghani's re-election. However, Washington has repeatedly emphasised how important "inner-Afghan dialogue" is.

"There is still hope that the government in Kabul will participate in the next round of talks in Qatar. Participation in Moscow would have been important too. Kabul must not resist this and has to acknowledge that there is a difference between the Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan," says Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, a political analyst and Taliban expert from Kabul, who attended the talks in Moscow.

According to reports, the Moscow conference was organised by exiled Afghans in Russia.

Emran Feroz

© 2019

Translated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan

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