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Wed May 15, 2019, 03:11 PM

Who is Remote-Controlling the Afghan Taliban - Qatar, Saudi or Pakistan?

Does Qatar hold more sway over the Afghan Taliban than any other country like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or the UAE? As the sixth round of the Taliban-US peace talks ended in Qatar without any major breakthrough, the question remains what is holding the two sides to negotiate and how is the eventual breakthrough possible?

Another frequent question is whether Pakistan has enough influence over the Taliban, to push them towards a peace deal with the US as well as agree to direct talks with the Afghan government? Or does the small Gulf state of Qatar, the venue of the Taliban-US talks that began in July 2018, and the place where the Taliban Political Commission is based since 2010, enjoys more clout to persuade the Taliban?


For years it was presumed that Pakistan, due to its old links with the Afghan Taliban, had more influence than any other country on the hardline armed group. Primarily because a number of Taliban leaders had fled to Pakistan after losing power in Afghanistan following the post-9/11 US invasion. It was believed that Islamabad was capable of influencing Taliban decision-making.

On its part, Pakistan conceded it has contacts with the Taliban just like certain other countries. However, Pakistan maintained that its influence on the group was limited, contrary to the widely held belief by Afghanistan, the US and their allies that it could order the Taliban to make war or opt for peace.

For the first time on March 1, 2016, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, in his candid comments at the Washington-based think-tank, The Council on Foreign Relations, admitted that Islamabad has some influence on the Taliban as its leadership along with their families live in Pakistan, and receive medical facilities. Until then, Pakistan had consistently denied the presence of the Taliban leadership in the country. To reinforce his point, Aziz recalled that Pakistan had pressured the Taliban leaders to participate in the first-ever direct peace talks with the Afghan government in Murree on July 7, 2015.


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