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Oslo talks 2022

Although the focus of international attention is on Eastern Europe, some are following the official but closed discussions of representatives of the US, France, UK, Germany, Italy, the EU and Norway that opened a few weeks ago with Taliban representatives outside Oslo. The freezing of billions of dollars’ worth of Afghan central bank assets by the US and the suspension of funds by international financial institutions have led to the collapse of the Afghan economy. The Nordic country has been leading the mediation process with Afghanistan in recent years and has been chosen to host the talks.

The US envoy explained that no progress had been made yet by the Taliban for establishing a new government in Afghanistan. Taliban representatives arrived in Oslo after visiting Russia, Iran, Qatar, Pakistan, China and Turkmenistan in an attempt to advance their international legitimacy. However, the Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stated that the host state does not recognize the Taliban and emphasized that the talks “do not legitimize or recognize the Taliban”.

Oslo’s main goal is to present an outline for official communication channels following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, but more importantly, to thaw funds for the Taliban in exchange for fulfilling Western conditions. In this respect former Afghan Minister who is living in Oslo as a political refugee, said Leniency towards the Taliban will prove disastrous.

Although Norway has not made a significant difference in the international mission in Afghanistan, its contribution to the fighting in Afghanistan has placed Norway as a loyal ally of the United States. A total of 9000 Norwegian soldiers participated in various NATO missions. Officially, Norwegian government had three goals for its involvement in Afghanistan: strengthening the alliance with the United States and NATO; engaging against international terrorism and advancing Afghanistan for a better future.

Afghanistan has become one of the most dependent countries in the world on humanitarian aid and is a country tainted with deep corruption. So much so that international aid seems hopeless. Nevertheless, international aid provided by Norway to the nation has yielded results as it has provided a place for Norway as a mediator. Talks between Western and Taliban representatives in Oslo are once again promoting Norway’s image as a key mediator after 20 years of hostilities in the Taliban state.

For the Norwegians, humanitarian aid can preserve communication channels for the political participants and especially strengthen their influence. Despite being part of a military alliance that has operated for more than a decade in the Afghanistan. Norway itself spent about 3.16$ billion during this period: 1.83$ billion for military purposes and $ 1.33 billion for civilian purposes.

With a mixture of funds for military and civilian purposes it was the Norwegian government that communicated with the Taliban to advance negotiations between them and the West. In 2007, Norway paved the way for talks with the Taliban, in consultation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. At the same time, Norway worked to influence Washington, which agreed to indirect negotiations with the Taliban. Norway was quick to promote dialogue between the parties and held high-level meetings with the Taliban leadership to convey messages between the Taliban and the United States. Norway’s mediation efforts were also reflected in its participation in the Istanbul Protocol that promoted a diplomatic channel between different countries operating in Afghanistan. This involvement as a mediator became essential in the establishment of a communication channel between the Karzai government and the Taliban leadership, and later between the Taliban and the US. In 2013 Norway led the talks between the Taliban and the US on the establishment of a Taliban office in Doha, Qatar.

Now that the current discussions of the on-going conflict are approaching practical solutions, the Norwegians views this time as a window of opportunity to advance their position as experienced negotiators. It should be remembered that the Norwegian peace diplomacy engagement has changed significantly since its previous involvement in the Middle East. Norway’s peace processes have developed into a well-planned, strategic approach that is based on an in-depth examination of interests and not just on the activities of individuals. Consequently, key Foreign Ministry officials were and still are key players in Norwegian diplomacy in Afghanistan. More fundamentally, Norwegian peace diplomacy has led to an increase in its status and reputation and so has its access to US decision-makers.

At the present time it is hoped that Norwegian mediation will end in decisions that will preserve Afghanistan’s civic achievements in human rights. More importantly, it is hoped that decisions will be made which will lead to Afghanistan’s prosperity and not to the loss of stability in an area that would endanger the achievements of recent decades.

About the Author
Nir Levitan is a Ph.D. from Bar-Ilan University's Graduate Program in Conflict Resolution, Management and Negotiation. Currently, he is a research fellow at the Center for Cold War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark
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