Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

Public Concern over Prolonged Peace Talks Continues

Concern about the outcome of peace talks between the US and Taliban representatives continues. Although one doubts if the two sides reach an agreement, the consequence of the peace accord is unpredictable.
It is most likely that the US troop pullout will ensue the peace agreement, if signed between the Washington and Taliban negotiating teams, but Afghans and international political pundits still view the Taliban with deep mistrust. The intensification of the Taliban’s offensive and their refusal to hold direct talks with the Kabul government compound the public concern and distrust.
Gates, who served under George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2006 to 2011, said that the reason behind the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the Afghan government is to take over Afghanistan. He confirmed that the Afghan war might also end like the Vietnam war – which ended with the US pullout and subsequent communist takeover of the country – if the US troops were to withdraw.  
Afghans hoped that convening Loya Jirga, Grand Assembly, would contribute to the peace process as their representatives called on the Taliban to stop war and violence and hold direct talks with the Afghan government. However, the Taliban turned a deaf ear to the public voice calling it “obstacle for ending occupation” and was “sabotaging the authentic peace process”. Thus, Afghans felt more disappointed and lost their relative trust in the Taliban, who have repeatedly turned down the public demand for peace and dialogue. Meanwhile, President Ghani’s repeated calls for peace have been drowned out by the sound of incessant fighting across the country.
Afghans fear that the Taliban will hold and carry their fundamental ideology back to Afghanistan in case of signing a peace agreement with their US interlocutors.
In a commentary titled “The Global War on Terrorism Has Failed. Here’s How to Win”, Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, said, “The U.S.-led global war on terrorism has failed–and that is because it has focused on eliminating terrorists and their networks, not on defeating the jihadi ideology that inspires suicide attacks”.
With the strong existence of the “jihadi ideology” across the region, the public concern is justifiable. Notwithstanding the ongoing talks between the Taliban and the United States, the Taliban leadership has not taken a single step towards peace. Therefore, the gap between the Taliban and Afghans has grown wider.
The escalated militancy on the one hand, and the prolonged peace talks, which led to nowhere, on the other hand suggest the Taliban’s lukewarm response to peace and stability. The question is that do the Taliban really want to take the control of Afghanistan?
The Taliban are not able to take over Afghanistan, but they may lead the country to further destruction. All parties, including the Taliban, agree on military stalemate. Hence, the Taliban cannot, either, win the war. Regarding peace accord, the Afghan government and nation will not accept the Taliban’s preconditions for peace unless they are reasonable and lead to sustainable peace and prosperity in the country without harming almost two decades of democratic achievements.
The main concern is that the US troop pullout may create a political vacuum in the country, which will be capitalized on by militant groups, the Taliban included. 
There are two main issues in the talks. For the one, Washington is seeking an honorable withdrawal. Second, the Taliban are seeking not to put the legitimacy of their “jihad” under question through signing an ambiguous peace agreement.
After all, it is believed that since the Taliban are a militant group rather than a political party, they are not familiar with diplomatic mechanism. The Taliban have been operating as a militant group without any legal restrictions. They are largely involved in violation of human rights and humanitarian law. Placing restriction on their activities through peace pact may seem hard to them. For example, currently the Taliban are collecting taxes illegally from different sources such as truck drivers and narcotic drug in areas under their control. Signing peace agreement will put an end to years of their illegal activities, illegal self-interests, and disarmament of their rank-and-file. In short, since the Taliban leaders are enjoying their luxury life and comfort zones outside the country, far from the pain of war victims and suffering of their militant fighters, they may not be concerned enough whether or not a peace agreement is signed. All the Taliban members, including their leaders and fighters, are recommended to sign a peace agreement so as to live a violence-free life. They should understand that war is in the interests of no parties.