Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Seeking Higher Price – A Blow to Peace Talks

After the peace talks between the Taliban and United States representatives had been called off by US President Donald Trump, militancy continues unabated. The Taliban leadership seems disappointed after holding nine rounds of peace talks with their US interlocutors and continue their militancy to show that their militant fighters are not demoralized by Trump’s decision. But their attacks against non-combatants and infrastructures suggest that they have been undermined seeking to put pressure on the Afghan government through carrying out indiscriminate attacks.
At the negotiating table, the Taliban confessed with their US interlocutors that they would not win through war. It is self-evident that the Taliban have also sustained heavy casualties in the conflict, especially in recent years. Their suicide bombings and attacks against women and children do not only indicate the Taliban’s radical ideology but also their weakness.
To signal that the Taliban support talks, their delegation visited Moscow this week as part of regular meetings with Russian officials, which have continued parallel to the American talks with the militant groups brokered by Qatar.
Meanwhile, top Taliban negotiator Abbas Stanikzai is cited as saying, “Our stance is that there is no solution to the conflict except negotiations and except peace on the table.” He added, “We hope that Mr. Trump rethinks his announcement and comes back to where we were.”
Whatever the reason was behind canceling the peace talks, the Taliban have consistently broken the rule of talks. In the draft agreement between the Taliban and US representatives, the Taliban sought to impose their unilateral demands without declaring ceasefire, which was in the agenda of negotiations.
In a commentary titled “Political Reconciliation: Prospects”, Dr. Zeng Xiangyu, a lecturer in Institute of South Asia Studies at Sichuan University, said that “the prospects for political reconciliation in Afghanistan is largely unpromising, despite some progresses have been made. Political reconciliation would die out, if military means could succeed in settling Afghan issue, no matter who wins the game. However, this is an unlikely scenario.” He added, “The prevailing side, if conflict intensified, will definitely bargain for a much higher price. However, since the present price offer made by each side is too high to be accepted as perceived by the other side, higher price would of course hardly be accepted unless it is made by someone in an overwhelmingly advantageous position.” The second possible he mentioned was that “both sides fall in a deadlock where each side expects a breakthrough by a coup de grace”.
The Taliban have constantly broken the rule of talks and intensified their attacks to gain higher price at the negotiating table. However, they did not consider that pushing for higher price would not be acceptable to Afghan people and would simply generate further fear and hatred among people. That is, although Afghan representatives had no seat around the table, Afghans are one of the main sides of the talks. There will be no agreement if Afghans or their representatives do not sign the deal.
Although Russia hosted the Taliban delegation this week, it will not lead to peace. The Afghan government does not seem optimistic about the role of Russia and views it with doubt. If Russia seeks to broker talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, it has to support “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led” peace process rather than hosting the Taliban delegation whenever they want without the consent of the Afghan government. In other words, if Russia hosts the Taliban delegation repeatedly, it will be construed as both legitimatizing the Taliban and continuing their political rivalries with the United States – the fact that Moscow is aware of.
If the talks resume between the Taliban and US representatives, three issues should be considered: First, a “comprehensive ceasefire” must be an inevitable part of the agenda. No agreement should be signed unless the Taliban agree to declare ceasefire. Second, the concern of Afghan people have to be heeded seriously and their representatives should participate in the negotiations. Third, all struggles should be made so that the agreement is a win-win situation.
The Taliban should understand that targeting civilians and infrastructures will not be a solution at all. They have to observe the rule of war and stop violating humanitarian law.
Meanwhile, if the Taliban genuinely seek peace in Afghanistan, they have to be reasonable at the table and prove their sincerity through respecting the rights and freedoms of civilians. In short, intensifying attacks against civilians, mainly women and children, will be a strong blow to the peace process.