Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, deputy head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, represents Taliban in Tehran talks. There is no information about the delegates on the other side of the table.
“Iran is ready to assist the dialogue process between the existing factions in Afghanistan to resolve the current conflicts and crises in that country,” Zarif said according to Reuters quoting form local media.
Conflict escalation and an ensuing refugee catastrophe could instigate serious security and social challenges for Iran with its long border with Afghanistan. Besides, Iran and Afghanistan have strong religious links and a shared history. Tehran talks occurs in a country that hosts 3 million Afghan citizens for more than a decade.
Taliban has made achievements in advancing in northern regions of Afghanistan. Thousands of civilians abandoned their homes as a result of recent developments in the country following the US withdrawal.
In the absence of supports from NATO troops and US forces, government forces made little success in keeping the lands. In some cases, Taliban even forced the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) out of the country.
US President Joe Biden ordered the full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in April. According to US Centcom, the departure is almost 90% complete more than two months before the last deadline.
Tehran talk coincides the withdrawal of US troops in one side, and military advancements of Taliban forces on the other. Failure of all other negotiations to reach a peace deal represents a third side to the present condition.
The talks between Taliban and the government is not unprecedented in recent years. In a most recent one, Qatar hosted several rounds of talks between the two sides to facilitate a peace deal.
The US, on the other side, held direct talks with Taliban during the past months. The aim was to reach a deal again; the result was disappointing again.
Besides, following two decades of occupation and intervention in local affairs of Afghanistan, US announced full withdrawal without prior preparations. As part of a goal to entirely depart Afghanistan by September 11, the United States has returned Bagram Airfield, its major military facility, to the Afghan government.
The US abrupt decision put Afghan government on the weak side and secured the failure of all peace negotiations. Abandoned in the fight with Taliban, Afghan government, with a bankrupt military, has no choice but to retreat.
Tehran talks steps on the same route using different means and strategies. While similar in essence, Tehran talks between Taliban and Afghan government is totally different with others in practice.
The US, Qatar or any other actor who have sought to broker a peace deal has had one-sided benefits. Ranging from economic motivations to military presence in the region, Afghanistan has been more a victim of these processes than a to-be-survivor.
Tehran talks, however, combines the benefits of two neighboring nations into a shared strategy. The outcome may end the long years of unrest inside Afghanistan and improve the security and immigrant challenges in its ties with Iran.
The US negotiation with Taliban ignored a main leg to the talks; the Afghan government. The US conduct in the past two decades, in fact, undermined the Afghan government and its apparatus.
Tehran talks, however, hosts the high-level delegates on both side. Iran acts as a facilitator in primary stages and a broker in the next.
A look at the role of US and Iran in regional conflicts over the past decade is also illuminating. The US intervention in Syria and Iraq facilitated the emergence and consolidation of terrorist groups like ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra. Iran, on the other side, had an active involvement in supporting the local governments against these militias.
Tehran Talks promises the realization of what seemed impossible so far. The Withdrawal of US forces, though intensifying the confrontations, may be an opportunity for regional nations to address and resolve the long-time hostilities.