At present, peace talks on Afghanistan are being pursued on the two fronts of Moscow and Doha. Moscow talks are being followed by China, Russia, Pakistan, Central Asia, the Afghan government and Iran, and the Doha talks are being pursued by the United States. Of course, since the main players in both processes are the same, any of the trends that follow will be welcomed by the actors. That is not to say that if a peace process was pursued by the United States, the rest would be against it. In fact, although there may be rivalries between China and the United States, first-class players inside Afghanistan and regional actors are willing to resolve the Afghan dilemma through negotiations.
Of course, because of the prolongation of the war and the disputes and conflicts between the parties involved in the war, including the Taliban, the central government and some other forces that may be outside the government but clashing with the Taliban and having concerns about the state (Like Mr. Mohaqiq and General Dostum), we see pressures on these groups from outside and inside. So, these people are gradually reaching the conclusion that the option of war is costly and they should move towards peace.
In the Doha peace process, talks are held between the Afghan government and the Taliban, but in the peace process in Moscow, the debate is between different Afghan and Taliban groups. So this is the key difference between the two peace processes.
Therefore, in line with the Moscow process followed by Russia and China, the Taliban are not prepared to enter into negotiations with the Kabul government. In general, there are a number of serious issues in the Doha process that are managed by the US, as well as in the Moscow peace process; first, the US and the Taliban are negotiating bilaterally and there is no seat for the central government in the talks.
Therefore, the Kabul government has complained that the United States is holding negotiations without the central government and move ahead without informing the government. After this objection, it has been attempted to involve the Afghan government in the talks.
Therefore, in the Doha process, there are three forces: the Afghan government, the Taliban and party movements, and representatives of parties and groups, especially jihadist groups. Meanwhile, in the Moscow process only parties and groups active in the Afghan crisis are present and the Afghan government has no representation. Therefore, it is likely that the Moscow process will also try to admit representation from the government.
Currently, the biggest challenge for the Moscow and Doha peace talks is that the Taliban believe the Afghan government is a puppet state and not legitimate. Also, since the Afghan presidential election is ahead, they have accepted a person like Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as one who may be in power only in the next few months or, as far as the Taliban are concerned, this person is now a candidate and not the head of state. Therefore, the Taliban say that this person does not have the prestige and legitimacy to negotiate.
So the question of how the government would handle the peace talks is still unclear. That is, whether the government will negotiate with the Taliban as an independent organ or tripartite negotiations (including the government, other party groups plus the Taliban).
In fact, the Taliban tactic is that they have agreed to enter negotiations as a group with other effective groups in Afghanistan; the government’s idea is that any negotiations without a government presence are illegitimate, and the government will prevent it from being implemented.
In the current situation, it seems that the Taliban are moving in the direction of accepting some government representatives. However, these representatives attend the talks in the name of the government but are mainly from among the elders of Afghanistan called Loya Jirga.
In the meantime, regarding the future of the two trends in Moscow and Doha, we can say that the Doha process is more active now, but the Taliban themselves are more likely to follow the Moscow process.
Of course, it should be noted that the agenda of the Moscow and Doha peace talks is almost the same, and now the most important issue is who holds the upper hand.
Ultimately, with the US-led program for Afghanistan, there are two Taliban-led strategies available for Donald Trump on Afghanistan and South Asia: One is that the group will join the peace process and enter the political process in Afghanistan as a political force. Otherwise, it may encounter military confrontation. It seems that Washington is currently pursuing both the negotiation process for peace and war to force the Taliban make peace.