May 4, 2018
ISLAMABAD — Indonesia will host Islamic scholars from Afghanistan and Pakistan on May 11 for trilateral talks aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Afghan war.
An Afghan presidential aide, Akram Khpalwak, revealed the date Friday night following meetings with leaders in Jakarta.
President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, perceived as a neutral actor in Afghanistan, proposed the trilateral religious meeting in January.
“Renowned scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia will participate in this conference, discussing peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Khpalwak said in a series of tweets.
A 20-member delegation of Afghan Ulema (Muslim scholars) will attend Trilateral Ulema Conference on Friday, he added, and praised Indonesia’s “sincere efforts in Afghan peace process.”
Goal is ‘mutual agreement’
Indonesian leaders say they hope the discussions will result in “a mutual agreement, or a fatwa (edict),” persuading the Taliban to end its violent campaign and enter into peace negotiations with the Afghan government. They also expect insurgent officials to attend the conference.
But the Taliban has already rejected the proposed conference and urged Islamic scholars not to attend it.
In a statement issued in March, the insurgent group alleged the gathering was being arranged to “legitimize the presence of infidel invaders” in Afghanistan, a reference to U.S.-led international troops in the country. It said the “deceptive” effort is aimed at presenting “the sacred jihad” against the foreign “occupation” as “unlawful.”
“Do not afford an opportunity to the invading infidels in Afghanistan to misuse your name and participation in this conference as means of attaining their malicious objective,” the statement warned.
Pakistan welcomes meeting
About 87 percent of Indonesia’s estimated population of 260 million people are Muslims, making it the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.
Afghan officials have sought the support of Indonesian Islamic scholars to rally against the Taliban’s religious justification of their war as being against the “foreign infidels and their hirelings.”
Pakistan, which is accused of covertly helping the Taliban, has welcomed and supported the Indonesian trilateral meeting.
Islamabad denies any links with the insurgents and maintains peace in the neighboring country is key to Pakistan’s own stability.
Taliban rejects invitation
The Taliban has refused to stop fighting and hold peace talks with the Kabul government until all foreign forces leave Afghanistan.
The Islamist insurgency currently controls or contests nearly half of the country’s 407 districts and has intensified battlefield attacks in recent weeks. Afghan forces, backed by U.S. airpower and military trainers, have also stepped up counter insurgency operations around the country.
There are fears of record bloodshed in Afghanistan this year. Hostilities have already claimed nearly 1,000 civilian lives in the first four months of 2018.