The fourth meeting of quadrilateral talks will be held on 23 February 2016 in Kabul. After the third meeting of the quadrilateral meetings, direct talks with the Taliban are expected to occur at the end of this month.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left on two-day visit to Qatar on Wednesday 10 February; on the other hand, Pakistani media released news that regarding Taliban’s Political Office members visit to Pakistan during the third quadrilateral meeting which was held in Islamabad on 6th February. Thus some people in Kabul and Islamabad are optimistic about the initiation of face-to-face talks with the Taliban.
What are the differences between the Murree talks and the quadrilateral meetings? Which factors are necessary for its success? And whether the face-to-face talks with the Taliban will initiate? These are the questions which will be analyzed here.
From Murree talks to the Quadrilateral meetings
Ashraf Ghani’s efforts for peace began from the Murree talks and continued with the quadrilateral meetings. Murree talks started after Ashraf Ghani’s risky outreach to Pakistan and his total reliance on Pakistan for peace talks, but it came to a halt after the disclosure of the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Six months later, due to the international and regional efforts, the quadrilateral meetings were started. Unlike the Murree talks, the commitments of the two sides in the quadrilateral meetings are guaranteed by the two super powers of the world (the United States of America and China).
Quadrilateral peace talks
The first quadrilateral meeting was held in December 2015 where the Quadrilateral Cooperation Group (QCG) was formed, later the group held its first quadrilateral meeting on 11 January 2016 in Islamabad, the second on 18 January in Kabul and the third on 6 February in Islamabad and its fourth meeting is expected to be held on 23 February in Kabul.
In the first quadrilateral meeting all sides reached a consensus to end the war and referred the war as it is inflicting “senseless violence” on the Afghan people and breeding “insecurity in the region”. In this meeting the face-to-face talk between the Afghan government and the Taliban was reiterated and the strategies for peace talks were also decided upon. 
The second quadrilateral meeting was mostly focused on building a road map to start face-to-face Talks with the Taliban. However the detailed information about the road map is not shared with the media. 
In the third quadrilateral meeting, the QCG agreed that Afghans would lead the peace process and the peace process would be Afghan owned process while the other countries’ role is solely limited to facilitate the process.
The Taliban and the quadrilateral peace talks
After the second quadrilateral meeting, the Taliban declared their position about the peace process in the Pugwash Conference and presented their preconditions as follows:
- The establishment of an official address for them.
- Releasing the prisoners.
- Removing the travel bans from their leaders.
- Ending “poisonous propaganda” against them.
Although Ashraf Ghani showed green light to the Taliban in the Pugwash Conference but his government is yet to take feasible steps to start face to face talks with the Taliban.
The place where the face to face talk with the Taliban occurs is also of a great importance, but it seems that the Afghan Taliban would not agree to hold such talks neither in Afghanistan nor in Pakistan. If these talks are going to be held in China then the issue of the Taliban’s travel bans come forward to which the Afghan government and the United States should consider a solution. There is also the possibility of such talks to be held in Qatar but this option may not be accepted by the Afghan government.
The Afghan Taliban may show willingness for face to face talks with the Afghan government only if the QCG contact their Political Office in Qatar. Although the place where the face to face talks with the Taliban occurs is yet to be decided; but if the Taliban’s representatives in Qatar are to participate in these talks there is a strong probability of these talks to be held in Qatar or somewhere other than Afghanistan and Pakistan. For the Taliban the advantage of holding such talks in places other than these places is the removal of the travel bans of their leaders.
The factors for the success of the quadrilateral meetings
The following are the factors, which are necessary for the success of the quadrilateral meetings:
- The issue of the Taliban’s representatives: The success of quadrilateral talks depends on who do represent Taliban. If Taliban’s representatives in Qatar or main members of the its Leadership Council do not participate in the talks and since according to ground realities, Taliban’s Mansoor group is the most powerful and the only group that can represent the Taliban as a whole, if this group do not participate in the talks, then the outcomes of the talks would be fruitless as it happened during Karzai’s presidency.
- The talks should not take place under pressures: it is the second important factor for the success of the peace talks because the talks which occur under pressures will only have temporary outcomes and will be useless in the long run. As in the Murree talks which despite the participation of the senior officials of the Taliban did not draw specific conclusions and ended with the intensified war in the country and the collapse of Kunduz because the talks had occurred under pressures and as the Taliban referred to it on the basis of “fraud”.
- The talks should not aim at dividing the Taliban into groups: if the quadrilateral meetings aimed at talking with those who are willing to talk and then placing them in the governmental offices in order to suppress and isolate the remaining portion of the Taliban this strategy will also have temporary results because the Afghan government has implemented this strategy several times in the past which have not had promising outcomes yet.
- Afghan interests must be secured more than others: beside the two afghan sides (the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban) three non-Afghan sides are also participating the talks; so if the interests of other sides were more secured than the Afghans it will negatively affect the long term peace in the country.
- The parties must reach a “win-win” solution: it is also important that all sides feel as they have won in the negotiations. Neither should consider that they are on a losing ground.
 Read the joint press release of the QCG on the webpage of the Afghan Foreign Ministry:
 the joint press release of the second quadrilateral meeting states:
The roadmap aims to set specific measures that are necessary for creating a conducive environment for the commencement of Afghan led, Afghan owned peace talks between representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and representatives of Taliban groups aimed at reduction of violence and establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region
to read full text of the press release click the link below: