Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Afghans Have Gloomy Outlook on Peace Talks

Afghanistan’s peace process has been highly rocky. Although Trump administration has put all its weight behind the negotiation, optimism for its fruition is decreasing. After wrapping up the sixth round of talks with the Taliban in Doha, the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad cited “steady but slow progress” in the talks.
Notwithstanding the political pundits’ roadmap proposal for peace talks, the conflict did not come to an end.
Former Balkh Governor Ata Mohammad Noor proposed the mechanism of US troop pullout and Taliban’s integration into the system. He urged for convening Loya Jirga (national assembly) with the participation of the Taliban or “pro-Taliban non-militant leaders”.
“President Ghani proposed a peace offer to the Taliban in February 2018. The offer included both a political framework consisting of a ceasefire and transformation of insurgents into a political party, and a legal framework consisting of lifting the sanctions and review of the current constitution,” according to Dr. Omar Sadr.
President Ghani’s Special Envoy and the High Peace Council (HPC) Secretariat Chief Mohammad Umer Daudzai suggested a three stage political settlement: Intra-Afghan talks, high-level talks between Kabul and Islamabad, and talks between the US and the Taliban leadership.
The Taliban, however, refused to participate in the assembly and denied the offer of people’s representatives for ceasefire. Turning down the public call for peace, it is widely believed that the Taliban are not independent in their decision, but they are following order from outside. Being highly frustrated with war, Afghans have repeatedly called on the Taliban for ceasefire and negotiation with Kabul government and a number of locals walked for weeks on their way to Kabul to support peace process, but the Taliban have been heedless to all.
Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation officially described the Afghan war as a conflict “contrary to the principles and formal teachings of Islam”. Afghan Ulema Council also condemned the Taliban’s terrorist activities and called their war against Islamic tenets. The two statements stripped the war of its religious justifications with the aim to bring Afghanistan one step closer to peace, but the Taliban did not stop the conflict.
With the hotly debated peace talks, Germany has offered to facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue on peace. The offer has been appreciated by President Ghani. Indonesia and Uzbekistan had also signaled for hosting Afghan peace talks, which suggests that regional stakeholders are ready to support Afghanistan in peace process.
To view Daudzai’s second suggestion, Kabul and Islamabad held talks on several occasions and reaffirmed their commitment for mutual cooperation and counter-terrorism, but still view each other with mistrust. Their talks and commitments did not lead to peace, either.
The talks between the Taliban and US representatives are feared to reach deadlock. If the two sides do not reach an agreement, the ongoing war in Afghanistan will surge up. Subsequently, Washington is most likely to intensify it attacks against the Taliban and their hideouts. The US will also put pressure on the countries sponsoring terrorists. That is, if the Taliban continue their offensive relentlessly and deny the demands of their interlocutors, they have to face the consequences.
Peace talks between the US and Taliban representatives are disappointing for Afghans for two reasons: First, the Afghan government has still been marginalized at the meeting. Despite the fact that the Kabul government generously offered to recognize the Taliban as political party and hold unconditional talks, Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and international allies could not persuade the Taliban to hold talks with the Kabul government.
Second, notwithstanding the ongoing peace talks, war and militancy have been escalated as the Taliban militant fighters intensified their attacks. This suggests that the Taliban are not genuine in the talks. Having said this, the talks paint a gloomy picture of a positive outcome.
The Taliban are recommended to declare ceasefire and sign an agreement with their interlocutors since all parties, the Taliban included, believe in military stalemate in Afghanistan and no parties will win the conflict. Thus, war will lead to casualties and destruction without bringing peace.
If the Taliban really fight for the interests of Afghan people, as they claim, and have their own authority for making decision, they have to accept the public demands for ceasefire.
It should be noted that if the Taliban fight against foreign troops, they have to lay down their arms after the withdrawal of the international troops, as the US agreed to pull out its forces, and return home as civilians. But the Taliban’s bargain for higher price at the peace table indicates that they are fighting a proxy war putting the national interests at stake.