Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Inclusive Team Crucial to Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks

The ninth round of talks between the Taliban and US representatives have been wrapped up in Doha, Qatar’s capital, but the Taliban militants have intensified their attacks against the Afghan government, which raises the public doubt about their bona fide intention for peace.
After an agreement signed between the two sides, the Afghan government will enter the peace talks with the Taliban, who have still held out against negotiations with the Ghani administration. US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said in his latest tweet, “We are at the threshold of an agreement that will reduce violence and open the door for Afghans to sit together to negotiate an honorable and sustainable peace and unified, sovereign Afghanistan that does not threaten the United States, its allies, or any other country.” He added, “Ultimately, war will only end when all sides agree it must end. All Afghans must come together in intra-Afghan negotiations to achieve a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire. I am confident we are on the only practical path to reducing violence and achieving peace.”
Concerning Taliban’s massive attacks on Kunduz province, Khalilzad said he had discussed the issue at the table and called on the Taliban not to carry out such large-scale attacks.
Considering Khalilzad’s statements, he urges an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue as he says that all Afghans had to come together at the table with the Taliban. It is believed that he constantly paid heed to the concern aired by Afghan women and urged the presence of their representatives in Afghan negotiating team as he met with women activists and officials in Kabul. Khalilzad is taking a trip to Kabul to report the talks with Afghan officials.
Indeed, the Afghan negotiating team should not be selective but inclusive. The women representatives and those of civil society and minority groups should be included in the team.
Peace talks, which have been a pyrrhic victory for Afghans, are still a controversial issue with many ifs, ands, and buts. The Taliban still have not been persuaded to stop their escalated militancy or reduce violence. However, with the agreement reached between the US-Taliban officials, Afghans view the peace process with optimism since they are sure of the US’ seriousness about talks. The main concern is that the content of the agreement is not clear to Afghan people and they fear if the agreement will only focus on the US’ interests.
It is believed that the talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government will be also time-consuming. Perhaps, the presence of international observers in the talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban will catalyze the process. Thus, regional and global stakeholders should continue their support in the talks.
Khalilzad pointed out that intra-Afghan dialogue should lead to “comprehensive ceasefire”, which suggests that the agreement between the US and the Taliban will not put an end to the Taliban militancy although he said that it would “reduce violence”. Nevertheless, one will view the Taliban’s commitment for reducing violence with doubt and mistrust. That is, the Taliban vowed with an Afghan unofficial negotiating team that they would reduce violence and seek not to target civilians, but they did not fulfill their commitment.
With this in mind, regional and global stakeholders have to pressure the Taliban to reduce violence so that they could prove their sincerity in the talks.
It is self-explanatory that Afghans generally view the Taliban with fear and mistrust. On the other hand, the Taliban have shown neither their goodwill nor their moderated ideology. Perhaps the Taliban’s mindset may have been moderated, but their rank and file militants still practice upon harsh ideology and treat Afghan civilians with cruelty.
To start negotiations with the Taliban representatives, Afghan officials should bury their differences and form and inclusive negotiating team agreed by all high-level officials and political parties.
But it is a bit disappointing for Afghans since the US-Taliban agreement could not lead to ceasefire. The US failed to pressure the Taliban to stop violence. It is believed that if the US included the Kabul government in the talks, ceasefire would have been declared by reaching an agreement. In short, a trilateral agreement – consists of the US, Afghanistan and the Taliban – would have been more productive. 
Now as the talks between the Taliban and the Kabul government are likely to take place, Afghan officials, heads of political factions, tribal elders, and civil society activists have to put all their weight behind the talks so as to end the 18-year conflict. In short, forming an inclusive negotiating team will be crucial to the talks.