An intra-Afghan conference was held in Moscow on February 5 and 6 at the invitation of Moscow-based Afghan community which was described by most experts as the largest contribution to the intra-Afghan dialogue.
The Moscow meeting is important because for the first time the Taliban have entered into negotiations with jihadist leaders and political parties and groups that had been at war for a long time. When the Taliban were in power in Kabul, the same groups that were present at the negotiation table in Moscow had launched the Northern Alliance and fought the Taliban. The Northern Alliance at that time consisted of Uzbeks, Hazaras and Tajiks, and these tribal elders were now sitting with the Taliban behind a table for the intra-Afghan talks.
Of course, the central government in Kabul was not present at the conference, but political and ethnic groups and leaders who were active during the jihadi period were participating. This adds to the importance of the Moscow conference. It is said that the Moscow confab was the first intra-Afghan talks in which all Afghan groups minus the ruling establishment and the National Unity government were present.
In the context of the Moscow conference, it seems that a declaration that could be endorsed by all sides is very important because it shows that the Taliban are prepared to sit at the negotiation table and, in the meantime accept the distribution of power and stop monopolism.
Of course, it cannot be stated that the Moscow conference will find a final political solution for peace in Afghanistan, but this confab is the beginning of a road that may face serious difficulties on its way. In any case, it seems that Russia has managed to bring the Taliban and other groups together at a table so that the sides could express their points of views and reach agreement on specific issues.
Meanwhile, the position of the Kabul government toward these talks was quite negative, because they had bypassed the government. The Afghan groups had bypassed the central government in the Abu Dhabi and Qatar talks as well.
The second round of Moscow talks is scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar, with the same groups attending. Of course, Moscow hopes to gradually encourage the Taliban to enter talks with the central government too.
In an overall assessment of the Moscow conference, it can be said that the meeting was more positive and fruitful compared to the meetings of Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
But as it was noted, there are some obstacles on the way of the Moscow talks, including three main hurdles. First of all, these intra-Afghan talks have been held at the initiative of Moscow and are considered to be the rival of the initiative Zalmay Khalilzad pursues on behalf of the United States.
Taking these events into account, competition between Moscow and Washington on Afghanistan may intensify. From this perspective, it is likely that the United States will prevent Russia from pursuing the initiative unless the Russians create the conditions that their initiative will be in parallel with the initiatives of Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
The second problem concerns the government of National Unity in Afghanistan; if the government does not enter into negotiations with the Taliban, and the Taliban do not negotiate with them, there will not be a real possibility of peace in Afghanistan. Indeed, the National Unity government, whether Ashraf Ghani is in power or whether elections are held and someone else takes office, should be present in the process of the peace talks, otherwise, they will not achieve any result. In general, it seems that the government, the army and the security forces would not let the government to be bypassed.
The third problem goes back to neighbouring countries; the views of these neighbours and countries that maintain a presence in Afghanistan cannot be ignored. Therefore, an initiative that is ultimately intended to be pursued in Afghanistan should be assigned to the United Nations and an international conference be set up in which the Afghan factions and the National Unity government, as well as neighboring countries and countries that are involved in Afghanistan and important global powers such as the US, Russia, China and the EU, would be present.
In that case, it might be possible to make arrangements for peace in Afghanistan with an international guarantee through the United Nations. If these conditions are fulfilled, one can hope that Afghanistan will maintain the necessary peace and stability.