Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Bloodshed amidst Peace Talks

The death toll of Afghan civilians and soldiers has been counted in national and international reports, terrorist attacks have been denounced strongly, much has been said and hoped for truce with the Taliban, and harsh rhetoric was exchanged between heads of states over Afghanistan’s conflict, but insurgency still takes its toll on Afghan people as warring factions, mainly the Taliban, have intensified their attacks against Afghan nation and state.
Afghan clerics denounced the ongoing killings and acts of terror on multiple occasions and called them against Islamic tenets, but they came under several terrorist attacks and the Tuesday was the deadliest of its kind.
Following the Tuesday’s attack on Afghan clerics, who had gathered in a hall to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujaheed tweeted forthwith that an attack was carried out on “apostate clerics” in Kabul in which “more than 50 enemies of Islamic Emirate and Jihadi beliefs were killed and tens of others were wounded”. But later, he removed his tweet denying the responsibility after the implied claim.
The attack came after US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held its second round of meeting with the Taliban’s representatives in Qatar, Russia hosted “Moscow Summit” with the presence of Taliban’s delegates, and Pakistan released some of the Taliban’s high-level officials from its prison to facilitate talks. Despite all this, the Taliban have refused to back down from its hardline stance and capitalized on the negotiations ushered in with the US envoy.
In terms of ideology, the Taliban are practicing upon a radical ideology stemmed from the amalgamation of Wahhabi, Salafi and Deobandi. A large number of their recruits, who have been trained in madrasas in certain neighboring and regional countries, are simply mercenaries rather than ideologues and do not know the very basic or primary tenets of Islam, even some, unlike common individuals, do not know their daily prayers. Hence, the Taliban are an insurgent group with recruits from different backgrounds who only know pulling the trigger. Islamic clerics have found the Taliban’s practices against Islamic tenets and denounced them strongly.
Although the Taliban claim presence of foreign troops the main reason behind the conflict, the bulk of their targets are innocent Afghan civilians, including women and children, who have nothing to do with the conflict. To cut the long story short, the Taliban’s practices are not only against religious principles but also against humane values, moral standard and international instruments.
Despite the Taliban’s radical ideology, Kabul government has persistently sought to hold talks with the Taliban’s leadership to settle the conflict, as political pundits have recommended, and urged regional stakeholders to advocate “Afghan-led” and “Afghan-owned” peace process. But the Taliban have turned down Kabul’s olive branch calling it a “puppet government”. 
Considering the Taliban’s indiscriminate and intensified attacks, the international community has to put pressure on this group to sit around the table with Kabul government and resolve the issue through negotiations. That is to say, the Taliban should be pressured to stop violating humanitarian law and spilling the blood of non-combatants. I have pointed out in my past commentaries if the Taliban are genuine in talks with the US envoy or any other sides, they have to stop their acts of terror or at least stop killing civilians. Worst, the Taliban even have not promised to stop their insurgency if the US pulls out its troops from Afghanistan. Thus, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel in spite of the ongoing talks between US envoy and the Taliban.
The US should not only consider the pullout of its troops from Afghanistan after paying heavy sacrifices but also the establishment of sustainable peace in the country. Accepting the Taliban’s preconditions one after another, without making them accept a single precondition such as stopping civilians’ killings, is highly naïve of their interlocutors. Hence, much pressure should be put on the Taliban.
Moreover, regional supporters of peace talks have to play their role more actively to stabilize both Afghanistan and the region. It is believed that regional stakeholders have not put necessary pressure on the Taliban. Many have talked of supporting Afghanistan’s peace process for years, but there is still no tangible result.
Kabul government is supposed to have a specific definition of the Taliban so as to adopt a clearer strategy rather than being in a dilemma whether to push for talks or intensify military deal. Kabul has to use all its ground and air forces, without hesitation, to combat the Taliban unless both sides reach a political consensus.
Afghan clerics must continue their fatwa and religious and cultural activities against the Taliban’s ideology and practices and mobilize the Islamic clergy to issue fatwa against all terrorist acts and that of the Taliban. A seasonal and sporadic struggles will be less effective. Thus, all clergy, whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, etc., are responsible to campaign against terrorist acts, which are in conflict with Islamic principles.