Turkey emerges as possible peace-maker for Afghanistan

With the cancellation of this week’s planned peace talks for Afghanistan, Ankara has emerged as a possible peace-maker for the war-ravaged country.

Peace negotiations planned for Doha this week between Washington, Kabul, and the Taliban were abruptly cancelled on Tuesday, which means Turkey’s peace talks set for March could mark a turning point for the country.

“Turkey is an important country, which can positively influence regional themes,” Abdulhakim Mujahid, head of the Afghan Peace Council, told DW. “Both the Afghan government and the Taliban have friendly relations with Ankara.”

Some experts believe Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan supported the Afghan mujahideen, particularly the Hezb-e-Islami group, in the 1980s. Hezb-e-Islami, which fought against the Soviet Union, is now an Afghan government ally.

Kabul hopes its peace agreement with Hezb-e-Islami could serve as a blueprint for talks with the Taliban, but many Afghan officials fear that Pakistan could hijack the peace process once again to serve its own interests.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, who recently concluded a trip to Ankara, highlighted his country's role in the Abu Dhabi process that paved the way for talks between U.S. representatives and Taliban commanders.

Also on Tuesday, Afghan news outlet ToloNews revealed a leaked peace plan prepared by the U.S. think tank Rand Corporation. Under the deal, the Taliban would renounce all links to terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, while the United States and NATO would end their military missions and withdraw within 18 months.

Some analysts had muted hopes for the Turkey peace talks. Latif Arasch, a Kabul-based political analyst, thinks neither the Taliban nor Washington will participate in the Turkey talks, but that the summit could still mend ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For Bismillah Randschbar, an expert on Central Asia at the Afghan Center for Strategic Studies, the end of the conflict could still be a long ways off. "We can only hope for peace when there are synchronized efforts in a certain direction, when these efforts do not cancel each other out,” he told DW.