Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Paradoxes of Negotiations: Golden Lessons for Afghanistan

Negotiations is part of any conflict resolution; no party may deny negotiations, but there may be different approaches to negotiations by the warring parties based on their power in terms of the power balance between the parties. Amazingly, according to the conflict studies, since the early 19190s the majority of armed conflicts around the world have been ended through dialogue, negotiation and compromise. This trend, in terms of conflict resolution is in stark contrast to the dominance of military victories as conflict resolvers before that time. According to the military tradition before that, the military strategists held that, any warring party who enjoyed more power would win the war. While this change in conflict resolution may indeed be welcomed, negotiation is not clear-cut, or in indeed as favorable, a means of terminating conflict as it may look. As  a matter of fact, dialogue between warring parties often does not directly bring peace closer, and negotiated settlements gave verified less stable and less long-lasting than military triumphs. In this article I will assess some of the paradoxes of negotiation and by doing so it will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the efficacy of this measure as an approach to counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.
Negotiations Can Spur Violent Motives
A government may choose to negotiate with terrorist groups in order to find a solution to end a conflict, to postpone an imminent defeat, or to force a way out of what I. William Zartman terms it “mutually hurting stalemate”. It is self explanatory, the majority of struggles to counterterrorism aim to put the state and its security forces in a stronger position using the opportunities of the negotiation or even a temporary ceasefire. Further, negotiations with terrorist groups damage the legitimacy of the governments at the regional and international level. The violent attack of the Taliban on Ghazni city is a clear example of the paradox of negotiation with the terrorist groups. Taliban and their regional and beyond regional supports have assessed the situation from different angles. The government of Afghanistan is pushing peace talks using all national, regional and international apparatuses. Some political analysts argue that, as the United States has asked the Afghan government to pull back the ANSF from the remote areas and the direct talks of the United States with Taliban just has emboldened the group to increase its operations in different parts of Afghanistan and especially in Ghanzni province.
Peace Process Can Spawn more violence
As pointed out about the Taliban, insurgencies are rarely monolithic in nature.  In other words, members of terrorist groups have opposing perspectives on the aims that they pursue to achieve, the ideal ways of doing so, and the extent to which concessions can be made without betraying the final goals. Therefore, negotiations are virtually never seen as a positive development by all subgroups of the insurgent or terrorist organizations. This issue applies to the Afghan Taliban as well. There have been frequent reports on internal division between the Taliban leaders on whether to join to the peace talks with or not. This has lead to the formation of splinter subgroups of the Taliban who view talks as a betrayal of principles of their movement.
Negotiated settlements are of limited durability
According to Adurey Cronin, the International security analyst, several general insights into the strategic effectiveness of negotiations can be deduced on the basis of historical experience. First, she finds that there is a direct correlation between the duration of a conflict and the likeliness of dialogue being opened, though negotiations only occur in roughly 20 percent of armed conflicts. Second, negotiations seldom lead to clear cut and uncontested results, instead taking the form of peace processes that can drag o for years. Third, even when negotiations are used as a method of conflict resolution, violent methods are usually pursued parallel to dialogue.
Negotiations are a means of reaching to an agreement to put an end to conflicts in a way that both parties have gains and a sense of victory. In the current world, negotiations are unavoidable and shape much of our day to day interactions with the more encompassing socio-political events that affect our lives. In terms of negotiations with the insurgent groups, what counts is that, the Afghan government and its international allies should not pursue the peace talks in a way that the Taliban think the Afghan government and its international allies has no other option but the talks. Because this approach not only does not end to peace but encourages the terrorist groups to intensify their attacks and add new demands in the conditions they set for such talks.