Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, August 7th, 2020

Painting a Gloomy Picture of Peace Talks

The war on terror was launched in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attack on World Trade Center complex in New York City. US forces took a military action as a backlash against the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies. The operation was very serious that the Taliban could hardly find sanctuaries inside the country. The Tora Bora, which was allegedly used as Taliban’s sanctuary, was under heavy bombardments. Ultimately, the Taliban were overthrown by the American-led invasion of Afghanistan.
It was only the start of the story. The Taliban reactionaries resurfaced with radically religious beliefs to launch jihad against the foreign troops in Afghanistan. They regrouped as an insurgency movement to the American-backed Karzai administration and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Militancy broke out seriously leading to human casualties – including Afghan civilians – and the country was moved towards higher instability.
The hope of Afghan people, who were imaging Afghanistan as utopian country after the fall of Taliban’s regime, crumbled. They were largely falling victim to terrorist acts.
To establish a democratic government, the first presidential election was conducted in 2004. Large number of people participated and the ballot boxes were filled to bring democracy in the country. But was democracy established?
Indeed, ballots could not dominate bullet. The nascent democracy was being threatened by Taliban and Al-Qaeda armed militants. Terror persisted continuously and the graph of casualty tolls mounted day by day.
Afghan government decided to hold negotiation with the Taliban militants as a strategic mechanism to end terrorism. President Karzai has long called on the Taliban to join the peace process. In late 2008 he even offered to provide security for the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Omar, if he agreed to peace talks – this was not incentive enough.
The High Peace Council was established in 2010 and tasked with contacting the Taliban and convincing them to join the peace process. The members of High Peace Council (HPC) were making efforts days and nights in pursuit of bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. However, all efforts and energies met failure repeatedly. In spite of the government’s efforts focused on reintegrating Taliban fighters, they did not have a reconciliation strategy.
Finally, the head of Afghan High Peace Council, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated at his home in Kabul on 20 September 2011, by two men posing as Taliban representatives. The suicide bomber claimed to be a Taliban commander and said he wanted to “discuss peace” with Professor Rabbani. Four other members of HPC were also killed in the blast. The Quetta Shura was blamed for the incident by Afghan officials.
This incident enraged Afghan officials, especially Afghan then President Hamid Karzai and drew severe condemnations. But their anger did not last long.
On June 18, 2013, Taliban opened an office as the first move towards peace deal after 12-years of fighting, but it enraged Afghan President by styling itself as an unofficial embassy for a government-in-exile. Karzai raised his concerns about the peace process not being Afghan-led. He suspended plans for Afghan officials to meet the Taliban in Qatar. His concerns were so great that the then US Secretary of State John Kerry had to promise that the Taliban flag and their sign reading “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” would be removed. But the flag remained, albeit on a shorter flagpole.
The then US President Barack Obama signaled for peace talks with the Taliban.
This issue stirred up tension between Kabul and Washington. The Afghan government reacted to the move saying it contradicted the security guarantees the US had given it.
However, Trump administration began talks with the Taliban leadership to end 18 years of conflict through negotiations.
With the latest round of peace talks held between the Taliban and the US representatives in Qatar’s capital, the Taliban have signaled positively for intra-Afghan dialogue. However, the positive outcome of the upcoming dialogue is still doubted by Afghan people.
The fact is that the Taliban’s intensified attacks against Afghan combatants and non-combatants have left little room for optimism. Ordinary people believe that if the Taliban were genuine in the talks, they would mitigate their insurgency, especially targeting civilians.
Despite the ongoing peace talks, terrorism still remains a serious threat for Afghanistan. Afghan people are losing their lives as ever in roadside bombings and suicide attacks carried out by Taliban militants. The Taliban have constantly turned down the public and state’s demands for declaring ceasefire. Hence, Afghans still paint a gloomy picture of peace talks.