Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Regional Stakeholders Should Play Positive Role in Peace Process

Some regional stakeholders have capitalized on Afghan peace process. After the talks between the Taliban and US representatives were called off, Moscow and Tehran have hosted the Taliban delegations without consultation with the Afghan government.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the political office of Taliban had said a Taliban delegation led by deputy political chief of Taliban Abdul Salam Hanafi visited Tehran on 16th of September to meet with the top officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran.
Earlier, the Taliban delegation had visited Moscow to negotiate with the Russian officials in the wake of US-Taliban peace talks cancellation. Shaheen claimed that Russia supported Taliban’s stance regarding the peace deal and withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan as per the peace agreement.
The Afghan government has urged regional stakeholders to support “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led” peace process and push the Taliban to hold direct talks with the Ghani administration. Hosting Taliban delegations to simply capitalize on the peace process rather than pushing for real peace and urging the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government will not be acceptable to Afghan nation or state. That is, regional stakeholders are expected to broker peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leadership or else hosting Taliban representatives will legitimize the terrorist group.
It is believed that hosting Taliban representatives will not generate a positive outcome. If regional stakeholders seek to play their role sincerely, they have to host, at least, two negotiating sides so that they could discuss the issue and consult with the Afghan government. For instance, although Moscow hosted Taliban delegations on several occasions, no positive outcome is tangible so far.
The trip of Taliban delegations after the peace talks cancellation suggests that the Taliban try for resumption of peace talks. The Taliban will regret their mistakes and fear they will miss the opportunities of talks with Trump administration. Now except for Kabul and Washington, neither Russia nor Tehran will try sincerely for peace process. However, Kabul and Washington expected Islamabad to play more active role in the process. Although Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan promised, in his meeting with Trump, to personally meet with the Taliban to back Afghan peace process, he yet to put his weight behind the process. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s silence despite the cancellation of the talks indicates that she is not very interested to support the process as it was promised on several occasions.
Regional stakeholders have to play their role actively and constructively since Afghanistan’s peace issues have effect on regional stability. Capitalizing on the peace process will not only put an adverse effect on Afghanistan but will also destabilize the region through triggering political rivalries.
Now as talks are cancelled, it will be effective if the Trump administration intensifies its attacks against the Taliban militants. In other words, both Kabul and Washington should put military pressure on the Taliban so that they come to the negotiating table with reasonable demands. If the Taliban haggle over higher price through intensifying their attacks, it is now time for Kabul and Washington to follow the same policy. If military deal is not the solution, it will be effective. The Taliban are likely to come to the table with fewer demands if they are pressured in the battlefields. Resuming peace talks without a strong military pressure will not bear the desired result.
There is no clarity whether or not talks are resumed. Trump’s decision to fire his hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton has added a further complication, and some in Washington fear the election will make it harder for talks to be revived before next year’s US presidential election.
Before the cancellation of peace talks, Afghan ordinary people and some officials were not confident if presidential elections were held. Now elections are confirmed and Afghans are no more in limbo.
If talks are resumed, Afghan officials say US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s format of holding separate negotiations with the Taliban leadership as a preliminary step to later talks between Afghan participants in the conflict cannot be repeated.
Instead, the government will press for a sequence that would see a ceasefire followed by direct talks with the Taliban, leading to credible security guarantees. Only then would US troops be withdrawn.
Reducing violence should be set as a precondition for peace talks resumption. Both Kabul and Washington should urge the Taliban that if they want the talks to be resumed, they have to reduce violence and stop killing civilians.