Afghan peace talks: Second Taliban term in Afghanistan?

The United States-brokered Intra-Afghan Peace Talks continue in Doha, the capital of Qatar. For the first time, the talks are being held directly between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The negotiations focus on the structure and polity of the "New Afghanistan" that could be formed after the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by May 2021. The withdrawal of American soldiers was one of President Donald Trump's 2016 pre-election promises, and the Trump Administration is trying to keep the Afghan process in the spotlight ahead of the November presidential election.

Despite the peace-making efforts, there are serious disagreements between the parties. First, the Taliban demands that the new legal system be in line with Islamic Sharia, whereas the Afghan government defends the existing system. Moreover, one of the key topics is the structure of a possible new transitional government. At present, the Taliban have an upper hand, both politically and militarily; thus, it can be predicted that the Taliban will become a more gainful side at the end of the process. Otherwise, they still have the option to go on with the insurgency. In contrast, The United States does not intend to continue its longest war ever. As the Taliban are trying to earn as much as possible from the talks, a new Taliban era in Afghanistan may not seem far away.

Many are hopeful that the Taliban have learned from the mistakes of the 1996-2001 period and the same mistakes will not be repeated. Several issues such as repressive attitudes towards religious and ethnic minorities and women's rights are among the main concerns. Besides, the Taliban are asked to adopt a more centralized structure and prevent armed groups from networking in Afghanistan. Finding solutions to these issues will have a direct impact on the Taliban`s integration to the international political system and relations with other countries during their probable second term in Afghanistan.