September 12, 2020 will go down in history when the Afghan government and the Taliban sat together for the first time at a negotiating table to end more than two decades of conflict. Despite the story of the moment, many are the unknowns and challenges that both parties must face before finally sealing the peace.
First, the talks are six months behind the schedule that the Taliban originally agreed with the United States in connection with their February 29 peace deal in Doha. The reluctance of the Afghan government to release the 5,000 Taliban prisoners envisaged in the roadmap was the first stumbling block, which was also exacerbated by problems at the political level in Kabul, especially when building up the negotiating team.
As Andrew Watkins, an analyst with the International Crisis Group (ICG) points out, both the government and the Taliban have shown signs that they are in no rush to begin talks, but have faced continued pressure from the United States to who are apparently most interested in starting the conversations. A process which, if successful, would support his plans for the full withdrawal of his troops in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, the discussions begin without a pre-agreed agenda or structure, as both parties did not want to maintain previous contacts. According to sources close to planning the negotiations that the Crisis Group has spoken to, both parties begin the dialogue with conflicting views.