Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Afghans Unlikely to Trust Taliban

The Taliban leadership is seeking international recognition through holding dialogue with the United States and contacting regional stakeholders in Afghan peace process, but holding out against negotiating with the Kabul government. After US-Taliban talks were called off by US President Donald Trump, the Taliban delegations traveled to some regional states to have their support in resumption of peace talks.
The Taliban’s bargain for higher price at the table with its US interlocutors and persistence on Washington’s troop pullout further suggests that the Taliban pursues international recognition more than peace.
Although China is reportedly hosting a meeting between the Taliban and Afghan delegation, including Afghan government officials, the Taliban have not stated directly whether or not it will start formal talks with the Kabul government. Earlier this year, Russia hosted meetings between the Taliban and Afghan political leaders and officials, which could not lead to the start of formal talks between Kabul and the Taliban.
For the resumption of peace talks, the United States is likely to have set preconditions and unwilling to re-start it from where they were stalled. In a phone conversation with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Trump has reiterated the need for ceasefire and inclusion of the Kabul government in the talks as preconditions for peace.
Backdoor talks between the Taliban and US representatives, which were already stalled, are unlikely to result in peace and stability unless the Afghan government is included in the process. Since Kabul is one of the main and most significant sides in the conflict, it will carry increasing weight in the peace process. After all, the Kabul government has not only insisted on its own inclusion in the talks but also that of regional stakeholders and urged them for playing more active and constructive role. It is believed that including influential actors in the talks will act as a catalyst in the process. Regional stakeholders and global powers have to put pressure over the Taliban leadership to accept preconditions from other side if they persist on selling their own preconditions.
NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative Nicholas Kay has said in his recent statement that “until there is a complete peace agreement” there would be “no comprehensive withdrawal” and a “comprehensive peace agreement would be the product of the intra-Afghan negotiation”. He warned the Taliban that it would not win and Afghan forces were strong and capable.
This melodrama has created misperception and mistrust, even among the people left with deep scars from the war. The people of Afghanistan, who suffered severely in the wake of the Taliban’s terrorist attacks and suicide bombings, have lost their trust in the Taliban’s sincere intention for talks, mainly as the group denied their constant demands for ceasefire and reduction of violence.
Meanwhile, Afghan ordinary people do not support “comprehensive withdrawal” fearing that the Taliban would not fulfill their promise in case of reaching an agreement with its interlocutors. In a meeting in Russia earlier this year, the Taliban promised with Afghan political leaders to reduce violence against civilians, but it did not fulfill its promise. To this end, the return of the Islamic Emirate is still a worrisome issue for the people of Afghanistan. So comprehensive withdrawal will be approved by the public if the Taliban and reach a peace agreement with the US and Kabul government and integrate into the system. In short, the Taliban should prove that they negotiate with good intention and would not resort to their fundamental ideology in case of returning to Afghanistan. According to general belief, a hasty withdrawal is most likely to create a vacuum, which will have a huge bearing on Afghan people.
Apparently, the US military is not supportive of a hasty withdrawal, either. NATO officials reiterated supporting the Afghan government, on several occasions, and not withdrawing from Afghanistan unless peace and stability is established. This sends a clear message to the Taliban group and its supporters that they are unable to win through war and violence.
Overall, the Taliban outfit should stop seeking international recognition since it has been recognized as a party for talks. It should start formal negotiations with the Kabul administration and reduce violence in a gesture of goodwill if the group is really sincere in the talks and concerned about civilian casualties. The Taliban should note that a hasty withdrawal will be approved neither by Afghan people nor by Trump administration.