Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, August 15th, 2020

Failure of Integration Mechanism

The Kabul government has called on the Taliban to reduce violence and integrate into the Afghan political system. Formation of an all-inclusive political umbrella with the participation of the Taliban or at least “pro-Taliban non-militant leaders” was proposed. So far, however, the Taliban has turned down the offer and seeks to reach a negotiated settlement with the United States first. After the withdrawal of US forces, the Taliban leadership said it would negotiate with the Afghan government.
Between 2003 and 2016, there were four main Afghan reintegration programs: the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Program (DDR, 2003 – 2005); the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups program (DIAG, 2005 – 2001); Program Tahkim-e Sulh (PTS or Strengthening Peace Program, 2005 – 2011); and the Afghanistan Peace Reintegration Program (APRP, 2010 – 2016). A fifth program is ongoing, focused on reintegration commitments made when Hezb-i-Islami – headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – settled a peace with the Afghan government in September 2016.
Many features evident in the failures of past reintegration efforts remain relevant to the contemporary reality in Afghanistan today, from the lack of a comprehensive peace agreement to short-sighted policy decisions and a lack of economic opportunity.
In the more recent, and ongoing, case of reintegration efforts regarding Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) fighters even when there is an agreement in place, has reportedly stalled. There are multiple causes of the stall, including “changes in the recruitment and retirement of security forces and opposition from other factions,” according to a report released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in September.
Political analysts believe that there is a disagreement between the Taliban political office and its military commanders. The Taliban is unlikely to succeed in persuading its military commanders and militant fighters to be disarmed and integrated into the system.
At the negotiating table with its US interlocutors, the Taliban persisted on troop withdrawal and said that talks with the Afghan government will come after signing a peace agreement with Washington. It seems that the Taliban is seeking to declare victory after the withdrawal of US forces and justify its terrorist activities for its fighters.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai also called on the Taliban to integrate into the government through participating in 2014 presidential elections, but that did not happen.
There seems two main reasons behind the Taliban’s denial to negotiate with the Afghan government and integrate into the system. First, it is highly difficult for the Taliban leadership to justify years of its terrorist activities for its fighters ideologically. The Taliban tries to show that it has been fighting against foreign troops, therefore, talks with US to end the “occupation”. Second, the Taliban is not independent in their decision-making. Any countries which harbor and finance the Taliban members seek to capitalize on Afghan peace process and gain concessions from the Taliban interlocutors and the international community. It is understandable since a number of Taliban high-ranking figures, who decided to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, were assassinated.
If the Taliban intends to reach an agreement with the Afghan government, it has to declare ceasefire, disarm its fighters, and integrate into the system. 
But the Taliban has complicated the peace process to a great extent by playing foul game and bargaining irrationally over higher price at the negotiating table. The group also intensified its attacks against Afghan soldiers and civilians to gain concessions at the table. Simultaneously, the Taliban has turned down each offer from the Afghan government and nation. For instance, a Loya Jirga was held before the presidential elections, in which the Afghan representatives called on the Taliban to reduce violence and negotiate directly with the Afghan government. Meanwhile, Helmand Peace Marchers urged the Taliban to declare truce and reduce violence. However, the Taliban turned a deaf ear to all the Afghan demands.
The Taliban should note that peace will not emerge through intensification of war and terrorist activities. The more the group intensifies its attacks, the more it will be hated by the public. If the Taliban seeks peace, it has to come to the table with clear and reasonable demands and genuine intention. 
With the postponement and prolongation of peace process, the Taliban group will miss the current opportunity. On the other hand, the Taliban fighters will be exhausted with an endless conflict. Furthermore, its supportive sources will face economic challenges. So it is the best time for the Taliban to pursue a negotiated settlement or else it will regret its decision.