The Third Doha Meeting: Faint Hopes for Afghanistan – Hasht-e Subh – Hasht-e Subh Daily

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The people of Afghanistan have become accustomed to regional and international conferences about their country over the past half-century, often anticipating their failure to resolve the nation’s crises. Based on repeated experiences, except for rare instances like the Bonn Conference following September 11, most meetings and discussions related to Afghanistan have proven futile, especially those managed by the United Nations. One of the most unsuccessful examples was the UN’s efforts during the final days of Dr. Najibullah’s government, which led to the onset of civil wars and the destruction of Kabul. The UN could not even prevent the assassination of the then-president, who had sought refuge in their office, nor take subsequent action to punish the perpetrators. Currently, the prospect of the third Doha meeting does not inspire any hope among the weary and disillusioned people of Afghanistan, and there is no interest in following its developments.

The failure of these meetings stems from both internal and external factors. Domestically, the absence of movements with plans to rescue the country from its prolonged crisis and the simultaneous ability to mobilize the masses plays a crucial role. Weak and impoverished political and social parties have lost their credibility among the people because they are unfamiliar with the basics of political work, which involves dialogue and finding common ground for resolving issues. In traditional societies like Afghanistan, influential figures with broad popular acceptance can sometimes fill the void left by the absence of modern and organized parties, facilitating a consensus among political forces. However, currently, we do not see the presence or activity of such individuals. Broad popular acceptance, coupled with the potential for national mobilization, demands the courage to step forward, negotiate, exert pressure, and inspire hope, qualities that are not observed even among the most renowned figures today. When the internal political scene of a country is entrenched in lethargy and collapse, international conferences also fail to achieve anything, as they do not find strong domestic partners to implement their plans.

The absence of a national agenda in Afghanistan’s political landscape has led to the fragmentation of political forces, resulting in their dependency on various nearby and distant countries. This fragmentation is so profound that it has affected not only anti-Taliban forces, including political parties and civil groups but also the ranks of the Taliban, who are ostensibly the most unified group in the current scenario. The Taliban are now divided into factions such as pro-Iranian Taliban, pro-Pakistani Taliban, Taliban in favor of engagement with the West, Taliban allied with al-Qaeda, and other smaller groups. What has so far prevented severe internal division among them is the substantial material benefits they receive from both external and internal sources, which would significantly diminish if internal conflicts were to erupt.

On the international level, the success of meetings and discussions requires a relative alignment among influential regional and international countries. This was somewhat achieved during the Bonn Conference, where the United States, Europe, Russia, Iran, and other influential countries agreed on establishing a new administration in Afghanistan that could represent the country’s diversity, maintain good relations with regional and global nations, and adhere to international norms and conventions. Currently, such alignment is absent among these countries concerning Afghanistan. Each country is focused on leveraging the existing political groups within Afghanistan to its advantage and to harm its rivals. For many of these countries, Afghanistan has lost its identity as a nation-state and is seen as a battleground for future proxy wars. Consequently, the dominance of an extremist armed group in the country is not a major concern for many of these nations, and the establishment of a conventional political system that would ensure the country’s stability and development is not of importance to them.

The upcoming meeting in Doha fails to inspire hope among the people of Afghanistan because it lacks signs of addressing the fundamental issues and finding solutions. This meeting, like previous Doha meetings concerning Afghanistan, has been a source of anxiety rather than hope from the beginning. For millions of citizens of Afghanistan, the name Doha, unlike Bonn which led to the formation of a relatively all-inclusive system, is associated with the beginning of a process that culminated in the collapse of a government and the uncertainty of a nation. Every time news of a new dialogue emerges it brings with it a new wave of concern.

The greatest concern among citizens of Afghanistan, both inside and outside the country, regarding the Doha meetings is that these discussions might pave the way for legitimizing the Taliban and normalizing the rule of an extremist armed group. This includes presenting gender apartheid, ethnic discrimination, and political monopoly as acceptable, while atrocities such as human rights violations, the absence of a system based on the will of the people, disregard for international conventions, and the deprivation of women’s education and activities are normalized. Citizens of Afghanistan are deeply worried that their fate might be decided behind closed doors, far from their eyes and ears, forcing them to sacrifice thousands of their children to escape it. They view Doha with anxiety and fear, associating it with the loss of freedom, suppression of free speech, the collapse of education, the exodus of intellectuals, the dominance of armed forces, rejection of arts, opposition to modernity, defiance of the world, and the use of religion to oppress defenseless people.

In this context, many people of Afghanistan wonder if there will ever come a day when the name “Doha” will not symbolize collective psychological torment and news of collapse and regression to the dark ages. Will there ever be a day when a Doha meeting marks the end of one of the darkest chapters in the country’s history and the beginning of a new chapter where governance emerges from the people’s will, not from the will of the gun, and Afghanistan becomes a home for all its citizens once again?

You can read the Persian version of this editorial note here:

نشست سوم دوحه و امیدهای اندک | روزنامه ۸صبح 

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