An independent think-tank

The peace nobody believed in

Safdar Sial, Marco Mezzera

Marco Mezzera is a political analyst and mediation expert with a geographical focus on Asia. In his last position as Senior Adviser at NOREF Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution, he managed, among others, the “Philippines” and the “Military Dialogues” programs, and in-house Track II mediation efforts. Prior to joining NOREF, he worked as a research fellow with the Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael”, where he focused on the political economy of democratization and governance in post-conflict and fragile contexts. During that period, he focused predominantly on Pakistan’s various governance challenges. Previously, as a research associate, he spent five years in Southeast Asia working for a regional policy research and advocacy organization. He holds a MSc in Development Studies from Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and has co-authored four books and written several articles and policy reports.


Safdar Hussain, nom de plume Safdar Sial, is Joint Director at Pak Institute for Peace Studies and Associate Editor of “Conflict and Peace Studies” journal. He has also co-authored “Dynamics of Taliban Insurgency in FATA” and “Radicalization in Pakistan.”




The fundamentals of a peace process

Where it all started

On the various efforts to promote intra-Afghan talks

Pakistan’s involvement in facilitating peace negotiations

Void negotiations

Current prospects

Opportunities for a political dialogue



The fundamentals of a peace process

At the onset of every peace process, the parties to a conflict must have addressed the fundamental question of which strategy they will ultimately prioritise in the pursuit of their goals. By agreeing to engage in negotiations, often after a protracted armed conflict and possibly following a stalemate, they appear to indicate that the quest for a political settlement through talks has become, at that particular conjuncture, their chosen strategy out of the conflict.

However, as many mediators and peace facilitators know, this is an assumption which unfortunately is often removed from the truth. Parties can have a misleading way to go about prioritising different strategies, depending on the direction of events, and they often have a tendency not to necessarily follow up on their declarations of intents. Every single move becomes part of a bigger game, at the end of which only victory over the other parties matters.

For those standing outside the inner circle of these parties, either as mediators or as engaged observers, the only option left is that of second-guessing the real intentions of those parties. Like in a strategy game, the parties’ moves will adapt to the developments of the context in which they operate, such as for example specific military results on the ground or shifting international support networks and alliances. And their end-objectives will similarly follow and adapt to those contextual evolutions.

In such a bluffing environment, it is somehow logical to expect that none of the parties will ever reveal what their end goal, at any specific moment, may be. This realisation is important, because while on the surface they may profess the unshakable intention to stay on the course, as declared at the start of the negotiations, their positions and interests may get adjusted along the way, and with them also the ultimate goal justifying their engagement in the first place.

For a peace process to run its proper course it is essential that the parties’ genuine commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict becomes and remains their unequivocable strategic priority throughout the entire duration of the peace process. Strategic shifts, especially if not openly declared, will inevitably and irremediably damage the sustainability and credibility of the peace process.

The so-called Afghan peace process, which started with the appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation on September 21, 2018,[1] and terminated with the seemingly effortless conquest of Kabul by the Taliban on August 15, 2021, is unfortunately a striking example of the fragility (if not meaninglessness) of such peace processes, when the parties embrace them only halfheartedly or as a decoy.

Where it all started

The foundational weakness of the Afghan peace process that was launched under the Trump administration has its origin in the 2001 Bonn process. Due to the view in Washington that the Taliban was one and the same as the hated Al-Qaeda network and the military campaign that had targeted both in Afghanistan since the beginning of October 2001 had relegated the Taliban to the realm of political irrelevance, the talks that led to the Bonn Agreement of December 5, 2001, intentionally excluded the Taliban and their associates. This course of action was taken despite later evidence that the Taliban leadership had been in contact with Hamid Khan Karzai, who would become president three years later, to discuss possible arrangements for a peaceful political transition (Rubin, 2021; Doucet, 2021).

It is also important to note that one of the key international backers of the Taliban since their inception in 1994, Pakistan, had also been sidelined at the Bonn process. At that point, the U.S. was primarily interested in avenging the September 11 terrorist attacks, in preventing Afghanistan from becoming again a launching pad for such actions, and most likely also in signaling to allies and potential geopolitical rivals alike its intention to underpin with military power its growing ambitions towards an America-led unipolar world (Bello, 2021).

The Taliban, however, had not been annihilated. The U.S.-supported Northern Alliance had seemingly managed to take over two-thirds of the country by late November 2001, but the Taliban maintained a relevant, although not always visible, presence in the countryside. From there, they started biding their time and carefully reorganising their ranks. By 2004, the Taliban mobilisation had already become evident. And this was all happening while the U.S. had decided to rely on an illegitimate government made of a hand-picked president and several former warlords that had been “appointed to many provincial and district governorships and to key positions in the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National police (ANP)” (Vendrell, 2012).

In the years that followed, the U.S. remained trapped in this mindset that excluded a priori any possibility of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. The U.S. was not prepared to consider talking with the Taliban, because they had first betrayed America by sheltering Osama bin Laden and subsequently had dared to withstand its military might by engaging in a consuming war of attrition. Or, as was put convincingly by Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney at the beginning of 2012, “the right course for America is not to negotiate with the Taliban while the Taliban are killing our soldiers… The right course is to recognise that they are the enemy of the United States” (Charles, 2012).

The Obama administration, however, after deciding in December 2009 for an unprecedented albeit inconclusive troop surge, and after having further escalated a relentless campaign of drone strikes (many of which were operated from a secret base in Pakistan’s Balochistan Balochistan), carefully started considering the possibility of ‘negotiations’ with the Taliban. The political willingness of even contemplating such an option was without doubt strongly linked to President Barack Obama’s announcement in May 2014 of a plan for a full withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016 (Holland, 2014). Initial attempts to establish some lines of communication with the Taliban outside of Afghanistan had already started in 2010, when some senior Taliban leaders had been stationed in Doha, Qatar.

This new course of action by the Obama administration was already centered on the need to start planning for an ordered withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces and should not be considered as a genuine shift in strategic priorities. Peace, or rather an agreement that could lower the intensity of the fighting on the ground, was considered as a necessary condition for an honorable-looking disentanglement from Afghanistan.

These tepid efforts never led to anything substantial in terms of peace negotiations. The only concrete development in that direction was the official opening by the Taliban of a political office in Doha in June 2013. However, the strong objections by the Afghan government to the Taliban presenting themselves as the legitimate representatives of a parallel Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s government in exile, forced the closure of the office just a month later. The way the U.S. handled this issue, triggering the adverse reaction of an allied government that was supposed to be part of any attempt at negotiations, revealed how the U.S. saw a resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan, including through political negotiations, as its exclusive prerogative. Apparently, it did not contemplate the need to involve national or regional stakeholders in any such attempt.

Qatar, Germany, and later Norway were the only countries that the U.S. trusted in facilitating this specific diplomatic track. These same countries would also play a key role in accompanying U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad in his peace efforts from 2018 onwards.

Once it became clear that the U.S. was acting in an exclusionary way in his quest for a political settlement of the Afghan conflict, a flurry of separate diplomatic initiatives appeared. Among them were also initiatives aiming at promoting an intra-Afghans dialogue. Key international players, with the U.S. at their forefront and the UN as a willing messenger, kept underscoring the importance of such an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned dialogue. The history of this conflict and its numerous botched attempts to initiate a political process reveal however how those same international actors, and primarily the U.S., never fully committed to it or believed in its importance to achieve a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. The focus of the U.S. and NATO intervention was initially counterterrorism, and later the desperate need to extricate themselves from a conflict that was slowly but inexorably swallowing them. Aware of this reality and of the fact that any attempt at intra-Afghan talks would be merely a sideshow as long as the U.S. would maintain its military presence in the country and its predominant role as funder and protector of the Afghan government, the Taliban never really bought into those offers and kept their focus steadily fixed on the U.S.

On the various efforts to promote intra-Afghan talks

Among the more recent and ephemeral attempts at national negotiations, it is worth remembering the Kabul Process, which was launched in 2017 by President Ashraf Ghani. The Process centered around the offer of a peace deal to the Taliban in return for a cessation of the hostilities. The deal included an amnesty for Taliban fighters, the recognition of the Taliban as a political party, amendments to the constitution, and the lifting of sanctions against Taliban leaders (Arif, 2018). The Process soon collapsed, as the Taliban were not prepared to negotiate with a government that they considered as a puppet of the U.S. and with no credible independent military capacity. The Taliban considered the U.S. as their main enemy in the conflict. Any talks would need to be with the U.S. In addition, they knew that time was on their side, as the U.S. had made clear that it wanted to exit the conflict sooner than later.

Key international actors that did not want to leave the fate of Afghanistan solely in the hands of the U.S. and its allies, also became increasingly engaged in diplomatic efforts. China and Russia have certainly been the two regional powers that have tried the hardest to offer alternative negotiated ways out of the conflict.

China, for instance, already in 2015 “hosted secret talks between representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government in Urumqi, the capital city of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region”(Sun, 2021). This initial attempt was followed by regular contacts and meetings with representatives of the Taliban’s political office in Doha. Beijing conjured the last of these interactions in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the talks between the U.S. and the Taliban in September 2019. China’s proposal was to organise a two-day intra-Afghan conference in Beijing at the end of October (Al Jazeera, 2019). After two postponements, the event was eventually cancelled due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In what appeared as a revival of “great-power competition” on the Afghan chessboard, but probably also out of concerns for the way the U.S. was leading the negotiation efforts with the Taliban, in November 2018, barely one month after the official appointment of Ambassador Khalilzad as the new U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Russia organised consultations in Moscow to discuss a possible settlement of the Afghan conflict. This initiative was part of the so-called “Moscow Format”, which had originated in December 2016 as a platform for consultations between Russia, China, and Pakistan (Aliyev, 2020). Representatives of the Taliban and members of the Afghanistan’s High Peace Council attended the November 2018 meeting. The initiative was significant because it represented an attempt to facilitate direct talks between the Taliban and official delegates from Afghanistan. However, the Taliban, while agreeing to attend the event, made it very clear that the real negotiations had to take place with the U.S and not with the Afghan state. On its part, the U.S. accepted the invitation to attend, but only as an observer. The meeting was particularly significant because besides trying to offer a separate track for intra-Afghan talks, it also proposed a relevant international accompaniment. About a dozen countries attended it, and among them key regional players such as China, Pakistan, Iran, India and five Central Asian states, which had been left out of the U.S.-led process (BBC, 2018).

Russia maintained its active role in the Afghanistan peace process also after the U.S. and the Taliban eventually concluded their peace deal on February 29, 2020. On March 18, 2021 it convened a one-day conference in Moscow to try to blow new life into the process, in the face of worrying signals that the Taliban were waiting for the U.S. and NATO forces to depart, so that they could remove the Ghani government through a full-scale military offensive. By then, the U.S. had fully embraced Russia’s role as an additional facilitator of intra-Afghan negotiations. Ambassador Khalilzad took part in the event together with representatives from China and Pakistan. In light of the fast approaching deadline for the withdrawal of its remaining 2,500 soldiers, agreed as part of the deal with the Taliban and set for May 1, 2021, it was clear that the U.S. was desperately looking for progress in the talks to justify its exit after twenty years of military intervention.

Pakistan’s involvement in facilitating peace negotiations

Among the several peace initiatives that followed the opening of the Taliban’s political office in Doha, those promoted by Pakistan deserve a special mention. Ever since the U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan in October 2001, Pakistan’s role in the ensuing conflict has given rise to widespread speculation and allegations. Its history of close support to the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s, followed allegedly by a similarly intimate relation with the Taliban since their appearance in 1994, has severely undermined the international community’s trust in Pakistan as a reliable partner in its efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. It obviously did not help to realise that the Taliban leadership, in retreat from the 2001 U.S. intervention, had established their rahbari shura, or leadership council, in the city of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. During the following years many more instances emerged of Pakistan’s suspiciously close relation with the Taliban, and especially with the Haqqani network. A defining moment in this respect was also the discovery in May 2011 that the most wanted terrorist in the world, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding for years in Abbottabad, in a compound situated scarcely a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy.

Regardless of whether all the accusations that Pakistan’s military has been supporting the Taliban both logistically and materially are substantiated,[2] during the last two decades the country has undoubtedly found itself at the center of a complicated balancing act between the need for domestic stability, and the self-constructed necessity to influence strategic events in neighboring Afghanistan. While the latter need may have induced the military leadership in Pakistan to support the Afghan Taliban in their resurgence and eventual takeover of the country, at the same time the need for domestic stability must have encouraged Pakistan to look for a decisive conclusion of the conflict in Afghanistan that would also be as controlled as possible. Not only to avoid another huge inflow of refugees,[3] but also to contain the potential spillover of ethno-religious violence into its Pashtun-dominated border areas with Afghanistan.

Therefore, while Pakistan has been allegedly arming and supporting the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, it has also tried to make use of its strategic proximity to the movement by exhorting it to engage in various peace initiatives. In July 2015, for instance, barely two months after the aforementioned Urumqi talks in China, which Pakistan had also helped facilitate, “Pakistan hosted the first direct formal contacts between the Taliban and Afghan government representatives, including the deputy foreign minister” (ICG, 2021). Held in the hill resort of Murree, just outside Pakistan’s federal capital Islamabad, the meeting also saw the participation of Chinese and U.S. officials as observers. A follow-up to this round of talks was supposed to take place at the end of the month, but the revelation by the Afghan government of the death of Mullah Omar two years earlier, and the subsequent repositioning of the Taliban leadership, induced the latter to withdraw its participation. Other observers have imputed the collapse of that Pakistan-led process to divisions that emerged between the political office in Doha and the rest of the Taliban leadership, especially those based in Pakistan. The Taliban representatives in Doha allegedly resented Pakistan’s forcing and manipulation of the situation and claimed their strategic independence in deciding when and how to engage in any peace talks with the Kabul government (Osman, 2015).

Despite all the controversies that they raised, the Murree talks signaled the first clear and direct intervention of Pakistan into the peace process. Its position as a key potential actor in facilitating the Taliban’s engagement in such process was further strengthened about a year later, when Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada was elected as the new leader of the Taliban, following the killing of Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour in a U.S. drone strike on May 21, 2016. In the Taliban leadership’s restructuring that followed, Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada appointed Sirajuddin Haqqani[4] as one of his two deputies. That move formally endorsed the entrance of the Haqqani network, one of Pakistan’s alleged main assets in Afghanistan, into the Taliban leadership, thereby making any attempt at a negotiated solution to the conflict inseparable from the Haqqanis’ participation in it. Following the same move, Pakistan expected a decrease in international pressure to distance itself from the Haqqani network. At the same time, Islamabad anticipated an increase in its capacity to control political developments within the Taliban movement, especially concerning the latter’s participation in peace negotiations.

Pakistan’s efforts to play a facilitating role in a negotiated track may have also had the goal of encouraging the international acceptance of the Taliban as a legitimate political entity. Recent statements of Imran Khan and other key representatives of his government, inviting the international community to recognise and engage with the Taliban government in Kabul, appear to confirm such hypothesis (See for instance: Lalzoy, 2021; Dawn, 2021). By pursuing this approach, Pakistan hopes that it will have a government next door that listens to its indications, but that also enjoys a minimum degree of international tolerance, if not acceptance. In addition, with a religiously conservative government in power in Afghanistan, Pakistan hopes that the space for India’s hostile maneuvering will be strongly reduced.

Pakistan’s putative interests in supporting a political settlement in Afghanistan are deeply problematic from a peacebuilding perspective. The imposition of third parties’ agendas on conflict actors at the negotiating table risks deviating the focus of the talks towards less central issues for the peace process. The negotiating parties may end up discussing matters that are less fundamental to the sustainability of a peace agreement and to their own priorities. In such cases, war by proxies often becomes peace by proxies.

Void negotiations

In retrospect, it is now evident that all the peace initiatives listed above, and several more not mentioned in this paper, were just corollaries of the U.S.-Taliban negotiation. Ever since October 2001, and the resurgence of the Taliban just a few years later, it became clear that only these two actors could deliver an end of sorts to the conflict. For all the debates about the need for the peace process to be inclusive, Afghan-owned, and regionally endorsed, eventually neither the U.S. nor the Taliban would allow other players to determine its outcome. The stakes for the two parties had become increasingly high, as the years went by. To the point that their objectives had become proportionately simple: an ‘honorable’ exit from the conflict for the U.S., and the return to power in Afghanistan for the Taliban, whether or not through a political transition. All the other elements of the negotiations played a secondary role, either as smokescreens to conceal the real positions of the parties, or as classical bargaining chips.

The appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation needs to be placed in such a context. By then the U.S. had matured and internalised its decision to disentangle itself from Afghanistan and from its failed grand plan of nation-building, while the Taliban had fully embraced armed conflict as the only strategy to achieve its final objective. External events would occasionally determine sudden interruptions in the talks. For example, at the beginning of September 2019 President Trump decided to cancel peace talks with the Taliban, including a secret meeting with their “major leaders” in Camp David, after the insurgent group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that had killed an American soldier and 11 other people (Stewart, 2019). However, efforts to reestablish contacts would immediately follow such breakdowns in the talks, often through the facilitating services of other countries.

The agreement signed by the U.S. and the Taliban on February 29, 2020 needs also to be seen from this perspective. The U.S., with the obliging support of Qatar, Norway and Germany, continued arguing for the importance of an intra-Afghan peace process, which was meant to follow the negotiations that Washington was frantically trying to conclude with the Taliban. However, it is striking how the government of Kabul was never put in control over the conditions and modalities of such a national process. The U.S. was basically concocting a complex plan to bring peace back to Afghanistan without providing the sitting government with a proportionate decision-making power. For instance, the U.S.-Taliban agreement committed both parties to release respectively 5,000 and 1,000 prisoners by March 10, 2020. Already the day after the signing of the deal, President Ghani protested against this commitment, because “a prisoner release was not a promise the United States could make” (NPR, 2020). He said that any such decision should have been first negotiated between the U.S. and the Afghan government. In other words, Ghani claimed the sovereign right to decide when and on which conditions to release Taliban prisoners that were kept in Afghan jails. This element of the agreement would indeed remain a thorny issue in the months that followed.

The main reason that Washington adduced for this peculiar negotiating behavior was the Taliban’s declared insistence to separate a deal with the U.S. from one among Afghan parties. While the dilemma for Khalilzad and his entourage was evident, it was equally clear that a decision to prioritize their own process with the Taliban would imply a much weaker position for the Afghan government in any negotiation it may have with the Taliban. The Afghan state’s extreme level of dependency on the U.S., especially concerning matters of defense and public security, was very evident and was definitely not lost on the Taliban. They knew well that once they would obtain a commitment from the U.S. to withdraw its forces, it would only be a matter of time before they could run the Afghan government over and dictate their own terms to a new Afghanistan.

Current prospects

With the sham of the intra-Afghan talks now relegated to the realm of those things that could have happened, but that were actually never meant to happen, Afghanistan is left with a new, harsh reality, which in many of its citizens has recalled the ghosts of the previous Taliban government, between 1996 and 2001.

The Taliban, on their turn, despite a much better departure position than twenty-five years ago, as they now appear to control the entire territory of the country, seem to have realised that in order to guarantee some degree of durability to their regime, they cannot afford to function in complete isolation, both internationally and domestically. Their openness, during the last few years, to engage in a political process of negotiations, next to the more accustomed strategy of guerrilla warfare, has been a clear sign of their increased level of sophistication when dealing with the complex conflict situation in Afghanistan. Their negotiating strategy, skillfully alternating threats of reprisals with promises of concessions, has also revealed how familiar they, and especially their representatives in the political office in Doha, have become with the priorities and the narratives of the international community. In addition, their apparent ease in shifting from one potential key regional player to the other, allegedly in search of support for a political solution to the conflict, have also made evident their increased understanding of the new leverages offered to them by geopolitical competition.

This trend has set forth also in the aftermath of their takeover of the country. Their aspiration to obtain a certain degree of international recognition, sanctions relief and financial support, has transpired from their initial commitments to a process of state building that would be inclusive and respectful of women’s rights (Nossiter, 2021). The Taliban have also revealed a remarkable aptitude to replicate the international community’s language concerning governance matters. In his remarks on September 7, 2021, following the announcement of a caretaker government, the chief Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, declared: “This is an acting cabinet appointed to handle current affairs, and we are preparing the foundations of government and state-building… In the near future, the role of the people’s participation and the shuras will be developed” (Aikins & Huylebroek, 2021). These promises have so far proven to be empty. Even after a third round of government appointments, at the beginning of October 2021, no woman and only a handful of representatives of the country’s ethnic minorities appeared in the total line-up (ABC News, 2021).

Such a deviation from the initial commitments has been ascribed, among others, to the predominance of hardliners among the Taliban. This could indeed provide part of the explanation. But the possibility of the Taliban engaging in a hard bargaining game should not be discarded. They seem to know all too well how high certain priorities are on the political agenda of key Western countries. And they also realise that these countries will keep pursuing these priorities especially in light of their debacle of  August 15, 2021. The West desperately needs to be able to at least pretend that 20 years of military presence and state-building efforts in Afghanistan have not gone completely to waste. For the Taliban, however, it is also a matter of honour. Having emerged as the absolute winners of the conflict, it makes no sense for them to listen to the diktats of remote Western governments. Concessions would need to be negotiated among peers. At the same time, it is a crucial component of the Taliban’s new “governance” game to show to the Afghan population that they are fully in control and determined to enforce their conservative view of society. The desperate financial situation in which Afghanistan currently finds itself, with predictions of up to 98% of the population facing universal poverty by the middle of 2022 (The Associated Press, 2021), may eventually persuade the Taliban leadership to engage in (cosmetic) corrections to their governance model. But during the initial phase of the transition, their attention will be focused on consolidating their power and maintaining the momentum that originated from their successful military campaign.

Opportunities for a political dialogue

Eventually, the Taliban know that they will need to transform themselves from a formidable guerrilla warfare machine into a functional governing entity. The necessary skills among them to carry out such a shift are probably not over-abundant. They will forcefully need to look somewhere else for help, and perhaps to ask for external support. Such a conjuncture could present the opportunity to try to convince the Taliban to open a dialogue channel with the international community about the need to find a sustainable balance between their strict religious ideology and the fundamental rights of a population aspiring to a safe and dignified future.

Afghanistan is not the same country they ‘left’ in 2001. While at the beginning of their previous period in power they had been partly welcomed as the only (armed) actor capable of ending the cycle of brutal violence unleashed upon the country by competing warlords, today the country and its population have advanced. Especially in urban areas, Afghans have grown accustomed to basic liberties and rights that may not be easily compatible with the harsh enforcement of Sharia law.

But even if the Taliban may not have changed inherently from those that took over Kabul in 1996, they seem to have accepted a reality that is wider and more complex than the religious and patriarchal conservatism of the rural areas where most of them originate. They know they are in command and they will play with this factor to their advantage, but to date they have avoided shutting all the doors to the outside world.

The international donor community needs to use wisely the little space that they have left open. Patronising behavior will not work with the Taliban. Nor a blunt competition with other regional players less concerned about democratic values and human rights. A flexible and open-minded approach is needed, ready to play hardball when necessary, while being prepared to offer much needed help when the welfare of the Afghan population is at risk.

In such a politically sensitive environment, it would be probably wise to rely on supranational institutions like the UN. The Security Council should support to the best of its ability the recently renewed mandate[5] of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and it should consider resolutions on conditions and modalities for sanctions relief. At the same time, UN assistance and shuttle diplomacy would work only if combined with complementing international, regional and national arrangements and guarantees. Finally, the international community should strive to find creative ways to support Afghan civil society and grass-roots initiatives, which can reach out to the population without necessarily having to pass through the corridors of power in Kabul.



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Aikins, Matthieu and J. Huylebroek. 2021. “Taliban appoint stalwarts to top government posts.” The New York Times, September 7th. <>

Al Jazeera. 2019. “China invites Taliban, Afghan officials for two-day talks.” October 23rd. <>

Aliyev, Nurlan. 2020. “How Russia views Afghanistan today”. War on the Rocks, October 19th.

Arif, Samim. 2018. “A way forward for Afghanistan after the 2nd Kabul process conference.” The Diplomat, March 7th. <>

BBC. 2018: ʺAfghanistan war: Taliban attend landmark peace talks in Russia.ʺ November 9th. <>

Bello, Walden. 2021. ʺSeptember 11 and the debacle of ‘nation-building’ in Iraq and Afghanistan.ʺ Foreign Policy in Focus, September 10th. <>

Charles, Deborah. 2012. ʺRomney says U.S. should not negotiate with Taliban.ʺ Reuters, January 17th. <>

Dawn. 2021. “Qureshi again urges world to engage with ‘new reality’ in Afghanistan.” September 28th. <>

Doucet, Lyse. 2021. “A wish for Afghanistan – The envoy.” BBC World Service. September 1st.

Holland, Steve. 2014. ʺObama plans to end U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by 2016.ʺ Reuters, May 27th. <>

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Lalzoy, Najibullah. 2021. “Sooner or later, US will have to recognize Taliban: PM Khan.” The Khaama Press News Agency, October 3rd.

Nossiter, Adam, C. Gall and J. E. Barnes. 2021. “The Taliban’s leaders: Worldly and ‘inclusive’ or ruthless ideologues?” The New York Times. August 17th. <>

NPR. 2020. “Afghan president rejects timing of prisoner swap proposed in U.S.-Taliban peace deal.” March 1st. <>

Osman, Borhan. 2015. “The Murree process: Divisive peace talks further complicated by Mullah Omar’s death.” Afghanistan Analysts Network, August 5th. <>

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Stewart, Phil and J. Lange. 2019. “Trump says he cancelled peace talks with Taliban over attack.” Reuters, September 7th. <>

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Vendrell, Francesc. 2012. “What went wrong after Bonn.” Middle East Institute, April 18th. <>


[1] See biography of Zalmay Khalilzad at the United States Department of State website:  <>

[2] The last of these accusations was thrown on the occasion of the conquest by the Taliban of the last resistance pocket in the Panjshir Valley, at the beginning of September.

[3] This danger has been partially taken care of by the construction of a fence along the 2640 km long border, which was due to be completed by the end of June 2021.

[4] Nominated Minister of Interior in the caretaker government that the Taliban announced on 7th September 2021.

[5] The mandate was extended on 17 September 2021, by UN Security Council Resolution 2596 (2021).