Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Prospect for Fruitful Talks in Upcoming Qatari Meeting

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is preparing for next round of talks with the Taliban leadership in Doha. He concluded the seventh round of talks citing it the “most productive”.
Amidst the latest round of US-Taliban negotiations, at least 60 Afghan delegates met with 17 members of the Taliban in an intra-Afghan dialogue conference in Doha, co-hosted by Qatar and Germany. Issuing a resolution, the two sides agreed to reduce violence by stopping attacks on public infrastructures and civilians.
Since peace talks are a give-and-take process, the US-Taliban negotiators are urged to accept mutual prerequisites to end the 18 years of conflict in Afghanistan. In other words, the Taliban should not simply seek to impose their own demands without accepting those of their US interlocutors. Their push for US and NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan without declaring ceasefire is not rational. For example, the names of the Taliban negotiators were removed from the UN blacklist and a number of their prisoners were released from Afghanistan’s prisons to catalyze the peace process, but the Taliban have accepted no demands from the negotiating side. If the Taliban seek a win-win result, they have to pursue give-and-take process and observe the rule of dialogue. In the talks, the agreement should come in a package including all issues and have to be finalized. A hasty withdrawal is unlikely to result in peace.
The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the United States and allies do not seek a leave deal by entering into negotiations with the Taliban political leaders. Adding that NATO is very involved in peace efforts, he said, “Because we went to Afghanistan together, we are going to make decisions on our future posture together, and when the time is right, we’ll also leave together.” He also said, “We hope Khalilzad will succeed. This is not a leave deal we are seeking, but a peace deal, meaning that it has to secure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorists.” He reiterated securing intra-Afghan dialogue and maintaining the gains NATO and the US made saying “we have invested heavily, blood and treasure, in Afghanistan for many years.”
The peace talks are the last glimmer of hope for Afghan people, who have been highly frustrated with conflict. Since Afghans have sustained heavy casualties in the wake of the Taliban’s indiscriminate attacks, they pray for end of conflict and hope that the talks will come to fruition in near future. But the prolonged process and Taliban’s intensified attacks left little room for public optimism.
Afghanistan has changed into a sacrificial lamb and the blood of Afghan soldiers and civilians is shed on daily basis. The Taliban chose to continue hit-and-run policy despite the ongoing peace talks. Human fatalities are the main concern as a result of the active engagement of Taliban militants in violation of humanitarian law. They show no respect to civilians’ life. This issue prompted people to lose their trust in fruitful talks. So, describing the last round of peace talks as the most productive does not make sense for Afghans unless it puts direct positive effect on their daily life. Afghan people expect the negotiating sides to reach an agreement sooner so that civilians could no more fall victims to the Taliban’s terrorist attacks and suicide bombings.
The eighth round of talks, to be held soon in Qatar, will be one step closer to truce and peace. The two sides are likely to agree on some major issues. To bring the country closer to peace, the Taliban have to accept to hold direct talks with the Afghan government. Reaching an agreement is highly difficult unless the government is engaged in the talks.
The US seeks to reach an agreement before Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential election, in turn, the US-Taliban talks are held at brief intervals. If the two sides reach an agreement before the election, the level of public participation will be high in the election, as President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani said it will be held at any cost.
Haggling too much at the table will be frustrating. The two sides should start transcribing their agreement and finalize the issue. If talks continue, the Taliban must at least reduce violence and stop targeting civilians to show that they really seek peace not concessions. Since military deal has been proved abortive and negotiations are a win-win situation, the Taliban and their US and Afghan interlocutors should resolve their tension through dialogue and put an end to the conflict.