Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Afghanistan Peace Talks, Concerns, the Way Forward

The US and Taliban have resumed peace talks in Doha, Qatar, to chalking out a deal on the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and negotiations with the government in Kabul.
Main Issues
According to the sources familiar with the ninth round of the talks, negotiations, which began on Thursday, are focused on three key issues: the mechanism of Taliban prisoners release; a decision on whether to keep US intelligence in Afghanistan after a peace deal; and at what level of leadership the peace deal between the two sides should be signed.
the US President has recently stated that some part of the US intelligence will remain in Afghanistan. It has turned into a matter of discussion for the Taliban and it has raised some concerns. Thus, in this round, they will again discuss the issues in detail, and then it requires to be shared with their leadership. At the same time, The Taliban will certainly raise conflicting issues that requires the US Especial Envoy, Mr. Khalilzad to share them after the end of the ninth round of the negotiations to be shared with the US leader ship and Afghan leadership. Taliban have repeatedly lauded out in the past an immediate pullout; while, the US negotiators have pressed for a withdrawal stretched over 18-24 months and then the Taliban softened their demand to nine to 12 months.
The Duel of Intra-Afghan Talks
Political analysts believe that the Intra-Afghan peace talks will be very tough and challenging; As a result, it will take more time that the US and the Taliban talks. They shall agree on a ceasefire during these talks. Then they shall discuss and make a decision about the type of the future political system of Afghanistan, reintegration of the Taliban fighters, transitional justice, minority groups and women rights and Afghan citizens’ basics rights.
Concerns at the international level
Both the US politicians and top military officers have raised concerns about a hasty withdrawal and miscalculated trust to the Taliban. Recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham warned President Donald Trump not to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan below 8,600, arguing that maintaining a military presence there is key to defending the American homeland. According to Sen. Lindsey Graham, if Trump doesn’t have a counter-terrorism force left behind, even if he’s got a deal with the Taliban — which he doubts, but Trump might — they don’t have the capability or will to protect the American homeland. He holds that the US shall keep around 8,600. Sen. Graham assumes that a peace deal with the Taliban is possible, but it would not be enough to fight the Islamic State terrorist group and al-Qaida in the region. In addition to this, Trump’s moves on Syria and Afghanistan prompted the resignation of Trump’s Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis. He was among the first combat leaders in Afghanistan, opposing a hasty withdrawal from both countries. Also, the former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, a retired Marine general, also opposed Trump’s impulses on both countries. Further, according to the Wall Street Journal, some in Congress question whether deal would secure U.S. against another 9/11, as critics say elections could hinder talks on country’s political future. These are very critical challenges that Afghan Withdrawal Plan faces. Lastly, the US and its allies must be very cautious not make the same mistake that the Soviet Union and international community made in 9190s.
Concerns at the National Level
Religious freedom, freedom of thought, freedom of Press, women rights, the rights of minorities and the basic rights of the Afghan citizens are at the stake in the Intra-Afghan talks. Now, it is a common concern that the Taliban may once more massacre other ethnic groups systematically as they did in the past. When the Taliban captured Kabul and some northern parts of the country, they systematically massacred Tajiks and burned their lands. They massacred Uzbeks in Faryab and Jawzjan and other Provinces in the north of Afghanistan. When they captured Maza-e  Sharif, On Aug. 8 and the days that followed, Taliban militiamen and their allies -- including militant Muslims from neighboring Pakistan -- methodically executed between 8,000 and 12,000 Hazaras in one of the deadliest mass killings of civilians in two decades of warfare in Afghanistan, according to interviews with witnesses who later fled to Pakistan and reports by international human rights investigators.
Supporting the ANSF by the US Can Prevent the Worst Scenario
When the withdrawal of Soviet combatant forces from Afghanistan began on 15 May ended on 15 February 1989 under the leadership of Colonel-General Boris Gromov, Mujahedin captured Kabul. Although, they had developed a roadmap for the future of the country, due to lack of Russian post withdrawal mechanism to ensure Afghan government can survive and prevent power vacuum in the country, different Mujahidin groups started fighting in Kabul and other provinces against the government and against each other. This civil war lasted nearly one decade and took hundred thousand lives and destroyed Kabul and other major cities. Based on this sad lesson, the US shall develop a sustainable mechanism to support the ANSF to prevent the collapse of the government and a new round of civil wars in the country. There were rumors that the US will cease support of the Afghan forces as part of any agreement, but Khalilzad cleared it that the SU was defending Afghan forces now and would do so after any agreement with the Talibs.
Afghan peace talks have raised many hopes and concerns both at the national and international levels. At the international level, it is feared that the US withdrawal will allow the Taliban to change Afghanistan to the safe haven of the terrorist groups once again. At the national level, people fear that a new round of civil war may resume in the country. However, it depends on vigilance of Afghans and the commitment of the US and its allies to prevent Afghanistan from changing to the safe haven of the terrorist groups once more to threaten the regional and international peace and stability.