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

Peace Talks Remain Ambiguous

The backdoor talks between the Taliban and US representatives in Qatar’s capital have led to worries and contradictory reports. The content of the draft agreement, which is likely to be signed between the two sides, is unclear to the public.
The ambiguity of the agreement has generated concern for a number of individuals and groups. Afghan officials seem concerned about the outcome of the talks. Their marginalization in the talks is infuriating. Above all, with the upcoming presidential elections, a number of individuals still doubt if elections are conducted since it was said earlier that the Taliban and their US interlocutors supported an interim government. However, Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani held his ground and insisted that elections would be conducted. Presidential candidates, including Ghani, continue their presidential campaigns.
Afghan women are worried and fear if the return of the Islamic Emirate curtail their freedoms. Women also feel themselves sidelined in the talks. Generally speaking, almost all Afghan women air their concern when they hear about the return of the Islamic Emirate. Women politicians and activists find their positions more vulnerable to the Taliban’s parochial mindset despite the fact that the Taliban claimed their mindset had been moderated.
Meanwhile, some political pundits are not optimistic about the outcome of the peace talks, or at least, believe that the 18-year conflict will not be ended through holding nine rounds of talks between the Taliban and US representatives. A political analyst Habiba Danish is cited as saying, “You know that the war in Afghanistan is not the war between the Afghan government and four Taliban fighters. Powerful, regional and beyond regional states are involved in this war. So we cannot expect an eighteen or nineteen year-long war to be settled in nine rounds of talks”.
With the spread of rumors and disinformation, US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted that “no one should be intimidated or fooled by propaganda! Let me be clear: We will defend Afghan forces now and after any agreement with the Talibs. All sides agree Afghanistan’s future will be determined in intra-Afghan negotiations”. He also denied discussing about an “interim government”, which was reported by some media outlets. 
As US and Taliban negotiators push to wrap up talks aimed at securing the withdrawal of foreign forces, disagreement remains about whether a pact will mean an end to the insurgents’ fight with the Kabul government. US side has been pressing the Taliban to agree to peace talks with the Afghan government and ceasefire, but the Taliban seem to continue their fight against Ghani administration.
Meanwhile, it is said that the recent remarks by US President Donald Trump – who said that Washington was not rushing to pull out the American forces from the country – has slowed down the US-Taliban negotiations on finalizing a peace agreement.
With this in mind, although the ninth round of talks is said to finalize the agreement, the Taliban still haggle over hasty withdrawal of foreign forces.
A foreign analyst said, “The Afghanistan conflict is fiendishly complex, and such conflict are rarely resolved by high-speed, fast-track negotiations. Indeed, ‘peace accords’ in Afghanistan have a poor record of producing the results for which their architects had hoped”. He also said that the 1988 Geneva Accords on Afghanistan did not lead to peace in Afghanistan.
Overall, the backdoor talks have made people pessimistic and worried about the outcome. Meanwhile, there are many worrisome and unconfirmed reports about the peace issue. If the content of the agreement is not released to the media or the public, false assumptions and mistrust will continue at national and regional level.
Bearing the brunt of militancy, Afghans are in limbo and highly frustrated with the conflict. They are hesitant about the presidential elections and peace agreement. Some prefer talks to the elections and vice versa.
People are not sure whether the Taliban will declare ceasefire after striking a peace deal with their US interlocutors. They are also concerned about a hasty withdrawal of foreign forces. The main cause for concern is that people are kept in dark. They have no idea about the content of the agreement, especially as the Afghan government has been kept sidelined.
Simultaneously, Afghans fear that the Taliban will try to disrupt the elections and hamper their participation through targeting polling stations, as the Taliban have threatened so. Thus, casting their votes will jeopardize their lives and they are not even sure if their votes will make changes in the country. If the content of the US-Taliban agreement is not released to the public, there will be many ifs, ands, and buts.